I remember feeling vulnerable as a child and blaming myself for what was happening.
Today is National Coming Out Day. To celebrate, I thought that I'd share my own coming-out story with all of you. Everyone's coming-out story is different. Mine is not necessarily representative of mainstream LGBTQ culture, but it’s a coming out story nevertheless. It is a difficult story for me to tell for many reasons – but it’s part of the healing process.
Until I met my husband, I didn't know what a healthy romantic relationship was like. I had spent the previous eight years in an unhealthy relationship with a woman old enough to be my mother.
She was an aunt I had admired as a child, and when I was a young teenager, she started to molest me. I didn't understand that it was wrong or how to stop it. A few years prior--when I was about eleven--I had been molested by a female neighbor and I had never gotten the courage to tell my parents about it. Nor had I told them about my previous experiences of being molested by men, all close family friends and relatives.
I remember feeling vulnerable as a child and blaming myself for what was happening. So, when I was fourteen and my aunt began her advances towards me, I felt just as vulnerable and helpless as I did at the age of 11. It would be years before I realized how unhealthy that relationship was.
From the beginning, I was honest with my husband about my past. He was gentle and understanding, and he never held it against me. When people talk about someone coming out of the closet after being married for years, they often talk about that person living a lie.
That's not how it was for me. I was happy with my husband. Fifteen years and two sons later, he was still a man I respected and admired.
Leaving my husband was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was not a decision I took lightly.
I didn't want to hurt him or my boys. I wrestled with feelings of selfishness for a very long time. But I had fallen in love with someone who was not my husband and that changed things irrevocably. My husband could tell something was wrong and the last few months of our marriage were strained because of it, but it still took a lot of courage for me to choose to leave him.
For me, coming out was less about admitting that I could be as attracted to women as to men than it was about admitting, after fifteen years, that I was not in love with my husband. Nobody in my family had even been divorced: I was the first. Telling my siblings I would be leaving my husband felt like an admission of failure.
Telling my husband and my children was even worse.
The truth was startlingly simple. I was in love with a woman. If I had stayed married to my husband, after realizing my love for another woman, I’d be living a lie I wasn’t prepared to live.
I couldn't have been the wife my husband needed or deserved nor the nurturing mother my sons needed. I would have been teaching my sons values I didn't believe in.
By being honest under these difficult circumstances, I taught my sons that they did not, under any circumstances, have to do things they weren't comfortable with, irrespective of the authority figure in front of them.
I raised them to be critical thinkers and to challenge authority in a respectful way. It's a lesson in consent I wish I had received earlier in my own life.
Perhaps if I had, I would have been able to get the help I needed as a child to ward off sexual predators. Perhaps I would have been able to figure out for myself that it wasn't okay for someone seventeen years older than me to want a relationship with me when I was 14 years of age.
For me, coming out wasn't about saying "I'm a lesbian" or "I'm bisexual." Those definitions don't really apply to me. Instead, coming out for me was about saying, "I know myself, and I follow my heart." It took me a really long time to get here, but I am glad that I did. My sons have been living with me in my home for about five years now, and though it was a long journey, it’s one I do not regret.
For more information on Mera’s “Love is Love” message, visithttp://bigworldlittleom.com.