Well, shoot. I mis-dated this post, so it’s out almost two weeks late. Let’s just pretend it’s October, shall we?
“October?” I hear you cry. “Why?”
Well, October was national coming out month. Thing is, there are few people in my life I can come out to anymore (because everyone knows), so I post here. I’m going to tell you all a little secret that everyone knows anyway: I’m lesbian. Or more specifically, butch-sexual. (It’s a term I made up. It means, “Wow, I’m really only attracted to masculine women, the occasional transman, and once in a great while a queer-gendered guy. Talk about picky.”) I’m going to come out again (and out my boifriend with me): my assistant trainer, Quin, is my boifriend. Since that spelling doesn’t fly when you say it out loud, I generally refer to her as my girlfriend.
Aren’t we cute?
Thanks, I think so. 😉
Northern California is a pretty great place to be queer of any sort, which is part of the reason I moved up here from my little town in Southern California. It’s cooler (I lived in the desert), more dog friendly, I’ve only lost two clients because of being gay since I got here, and I have yet to feel physically threatened. Woo hoo!
Here are some commonly asked questions/commonly made statements:
#1: “Why do you even bother telling people you’re gay? It’s none of your clients’ business.”
Well, anyone who has ever met me knows I’m a story-teller. The people who spend a great deal of time in my life are usually fodder for my stories. So, for instance, I might tell a client, “Hey, your dog will always behave better for a person setting new rules who isn’t you. It’s not because they don’t like you, and it’s not because I have a lot of practice — though that helps. It’s in large part because they have no bad habits to break with me.”
Client: *continues to look sad that dog listens to me and not them*
Me: “Okay, for instance, when I needed my dog, Cash, to walk with me better, I had to get Quin, my girlfriend, to walk him. He and I had too many bad habits together; she had to come up with a new training technique for him, that I could then practice to break the old bad habits.”
Do you see what just happened there? In using a story to explain to my client that it’s okay, they haven’t failed, I outed myself. Try going for a day where you interact with a dozen (in my case usually more) people at length and never once mention your significant other. It’s amazingly difficult.
“But,” I hear you cry, “you just announced it on your blog. That didn’t come up in conversation!”
No, that’s true. I’m a big believer in being myself, which also means being visible (as above). I also believe that the more people can put a face to a title (such as ‘gay’), the more likely they are to say, “Hey, those gay people are just people… maybe they should be able to get married, too. I like Jenna, after all, and I don’t want to tell her she can’t get married. That’s silly.” But I don’t believe in shoving it in peoples’ faces: it would be super annoying if I went around saying, “Hi! I’m gay!” At least this way, people have to search me out and decide to stay and read!
#2: People who hold your sexual orientation against you shouldn’t matter.
Yeeeaaaaah. But I have to eat. I’d rather be somewhere where people just don’t care, rather than try and cut out the clients who do care and then wonder if I’ll make enough money to pay the bills.
#3: Have people actually fired you because you’re gay?
Yes and no. If I say something about my girlfriend and they look at me with stunned silence before awkwardly changing the subject, then get off the phone/out of the appointment ASAP and never call me again… I’m pretty sure I can figure out what just happened. I know for a fact of two people who decided not to hire me for that reason. And that’s okay: if they’re that uncomfortable with it, then they wouldn’t be listening or learning very well. They need to find a trainer they’re more comfortable with. I would be vastly uncomfortable having a client that I had serious moral issues with, and I would teach poorly. In that case, I would suggest they find a new trainer. (This has also happened, though usually it happens because I realize that they need a different technique than I’m using, and I know just the person for them.)
#4: Do people ever ask you weird questions?
I am, apparently, an extremely approachable person. I’ve been told I’m very good at not judging. When people feel they can ask questions that might seem foolish or get them judged in other circumstances, and they can do so without being teased or ridiculed or otherwise emotionally harmed, they ask. So, yes, I’ve been asked a WIDE variety of questions. I love them. It means people are thinking.
#5: Are you still in touch with your family?
My family IS AWESOME. As are my friends. My extended family… well, I didn’t see my aunts and uncles much anyway, those I did see are supportive, and my cousins rock. I don’t actually think I came out to my immediate family so much as started waxing poetic about my first butch boifriend, DK (who later became a very good male friend, Ryan). My coming out moments went like this:
Chelsea (my little sister): Would you date her?
Chelsea (relieved): Oh, good. I thought you might be stringing her along without realizing it.
Me: Hey! I’m not that mean!
Chelsea: But you can be that clueless.
Me: And she’s wonderful and handsome and so on–!!
Dad: *highly amused* So… are you gay? Or bi? Or do you just love people?
Me: *ponders* …I just love people.
Dad: I’m glad for you, Jenna.
I don’t think any of my other family said much of anything. They all took it in stride. *grins*
One of the other things that comes up in my life on a semi-regular basis is people apologizing for outing me. So I’m going to stay it now: Out me! Feel free to use me as an example. Tell people about the wacky gay dog trainer or the sensible gay homeschooler who came out okay after all. (Thanks, Mom!) It gives me a secret pleasure to know I”m helping to broaden peoples’ horizons! Silly, I know, but there you have it.
“Wait,” I hear you cry. “You were HOMESCHOOLED?” Yup! I went to kindergarten and college and nothing in between. It probably saved my life. Other things that people are surprised to hear, that put a face to unusual experiences:
– I suffered from severe depression as a teen and young adult, including suicidal thoughts, ideation, and near-actions.
– I have an extreme case of a type of sensory disability that affects my reading, depth perception, writing, light sensitivity, and other minor things. You can learn about it here.
– I used to get panic attacks thinking about going to work, the one and only semester I worked at a “normal” job (ie, one that wasn’t outdoors and/or didn’t involve animals).
– I am caffeine sensitive: it will also give me panic attacks. (So sad. But I love my decaf coffee!)
– I had to stop riding and training horses because I was very good at it, and so ended up with some seriously naughty horses who wanted to hurt their riders. Riding horses is now anxiety-provoking for me. I hope to get back into lessons and overcome this anxiety some time in the next year.
– I write novels. I have five novels published and a number of short stories as well, but none of them have a thing to do with dog training.
Finally, to celebrate National Coming Out Month, I’ll link you to a few articles, if you’d like to keep reading:
Don’t Ask. Tell On coming out as a straight ally. I quite liked it, and everyone could use more allies.
National Coming Out Day: It’s Actually Okay to Stay Closeted When it’s safer to stay “in” than to come out, that’s what you should do.
Now… back to plotting my next book. 😉