[Says] Tricia Johnson, 31, from Philadelphia, "When I first went out publicly with my current boyfriend, I wanted to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t what it looks like! I’m not really straight!’ In my heart, I was starting to wonder who and what I actually was. I felt totally out at sea.”Particularly after making a bigger deal of coming out than I was comfortable with while FoxyJ and I were separated, I find myself feeling very self-conscious of the wedding band on my finger lately. What will my friends think? Will they assume I've joined the ex-gay camp? Will they think I've become (or gone back to being) a repressed closet freak? Or will they think I just pretended to be gay in some insane attempt to get attention?
“I felt like a traitor,” says Daniel Wright, 32, from Los Angeles. “I thought, ‘I am going to lose my friends, and I’m going to lose my community.’ It was like coming out all over again.” And it may indeed be hard for your gay friends to accept your new relationship. Dr. Schecter says, “In general, the gay and lesbian community is a minority community. It fights hard to be treated equally. There is strength in numbers, and any potential loss of a member of the community is threatening.” There might also be a perception that a person who enters a heterosexual relationship has taken the “easy way out.”When Foxy and I got back together, I was especially nervous about telling my gay friends. Despite my fears, though, I'm happy to say that every one of them responded with love and encouragement. My friends, regardless of their orientation or political values, are happy so long as I'm happy. Perhaps I'd do well to follow their example in the way I perceive myself.
Telling family members about your new relationship can have complications of its own, particularly if they were not accepting of your gay identity. Samantha Lewis, 37, from Providence, RI, says, “The religious members of my family were ecstatic. They never fully accepted me for who I was. It was just another slap in the face.”I felt this too after announcing Foxy's and my reunification. I was wary of overly-zealous expressions of congratulations because, happy as I was to be back with my wife, I read the well-meaning felicitations of my more conservative family and friends as signs that they had been waiting on the edges of their seats for me to come to the light and realize I'd never be happy as a gay man. This turned what should have felt like feelings of victory into feelings of defeat. I can't honestly blame the family or friends who were sincerely happy for me, though--it's me who chooses to interpret everything as judgment, who sets up a false binary wherein one of us is the victor and the other defeated.
As a gay person in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, you might struggle to find an appropriate label. Does this mean that you’re straight or bisexual? Can you be dismissed as a “hasbian” or “yestergay”? In the end, your identity is something that only you can define. Dr. Schecter says, “There are people who retain lesbian identity while in a committed relationship with a man. Others do not. Identity is shaped by individual meaning.” Your current situation also does not invalidate your past relationships or mean that you are or were “going through a phase.” Tricia Johnson says, “I struggled for so long with what to call myself. Eventually I thought why do I have to have a label? My experience is more complex than a single word.”Labels? Me? Never. Say what you want to about the inadequacy of labels, but it's a natural human tendency to name things and to group together things that have shared qualities. It also happens to be a natural human tendency upon which my chosen career is based. What do you do, then, when there is no name, when all the available names seem to describe things that share some of your qualities, but not all of them? Either you reject the human tendency to label as futile and destructive, or you make a new label. I've opted for the latter approach. While transorientation may never catch on outside the realm of this blog, I maintain that it's a healthy step in my process of navigating largely uncharted territory, and I suspect that some of my fellow travelers described in this MSN article would benefit from a similar addition to their ideological lexicon.
At any rate, it's good, as always, to be reminded that FoxyJ and I are not alone in this.