There have been some moves in my life since last I blogged. Some were expected, some were not, and at least one was long, long overdue.
I’m out of the Inland Empire. As I’d noted in June, I’m not built for triple-digit heat. Living closer to San Bernardino and the mountains than Malibu and the beach meant heat, dust, fire, and desert. These are beautiful things and I appreciate them. However, living amongst them was a health challenge, and the isolation from not having anyone to talk to within any reasonable distance was starting to get to me. When the introvert is lonely? You have a problem.
Once my coursework was completed, I was free to move, so long as I’m able to get back to the university to handle various things for the dissertation. In September, I started to review my options. Returning to Chicago was my first consideration. Unfortunately, having to be in LA on a reliable basis, and the LA-equivalent cost of living, made it not so attractive. Also, many of my Midwest friends have moved away, so I’d be just as isolated out there as I was in SoCal.
I considered moving back north to Silicon Valley. Part-time work is appealing, as it gives me money for groceries and rent, but I need to reserve enough time to finish the dissertation, too. Two phone calls and that idea fell through. My former landlord can now get more than twice what he was charging me…and I could barely afford that two years ago. Unless I wanted to live almost into Sacramento, or find a bunch of roommates, or I intended to give up on the dissertation and go back to tech full-time, NorCal was a big fat no. It’s a shame. I liked it there, and it’s sad to watch a good place price its own residents out.
Finally I sat with a map and reviewed cities: close enough to LA, far enough that I could afford to live there, close to friends and family and far from the desert. Nevada and Arizona went off the table immediately (no desert). Seattle was a contender with its Tamara-friendly weather, but it’s looking more and more like NorCal, with the spiraling cost of living. After several short trips and six weeks of house hunting, I decided on Portland, Oregon: a medium-sized city full of trees and actual weather, with a reasonable cost of living (at least for now), a good number of family and friends nearby, and easy and cheap flights to LA when I need them, as well as the ability to drive there in a reasonable amount of time if I must.
After final exams in December, I packed up my apartment with the help of two wonderful friends and a magical ABF “Upack” container, and then Zigzag and I made the long drive north one state and just a few miles short of a second, to our new home in PDX. It was two years to the day since we’d driven down from San Jose to Upland, along with Ru. This trip took longer. I had to stop overnight in Sacramento because I didn’t get out of Upland until late afternoon, and I almost got stuck on top of the Siskiyou Pass during a whiteout. The whole way, I kept thinking about our missing companion. I wish Ru would’ve been able to come with us to Portland. It’s beautiful and comfortable, and he would have loved the sunny windows and the wide stair. We miss him every day.
The other out is the one that was a long time coming. That one would be me, coming out of the closet.
I am bisexual. I’ve known this since my early teen years. As an intensely private person, I never felt like I needed to talk about it, let alone announce it on the Internet. I never felt like “bisexual” needed to be the only, or most important, identity I defined myself as, and my sexual orientation wasn’t something I cared to discuss with anyone who wasn’t a partner or a potential partner. Being bisexual is not any more special or important than anything else about me. (Of course, there is a tendency toward “erasure” of bisexuals in our culture, so even if I had been out, some would discount it or try to redefine me….but that’s a post for another day.)
So why did I decide to come out now, at 46, as a fellow ingredient of the alphabet LGBT+ soup? First, it is difficult to act as a mentor or counselor for LGBT+ youth, and not feel wrong when told over and over “you’re straight so you’ll never understand….” Second, I am not a proponent of people finding out important things about me via the Internet, and I wanted to make sure I had spoken with my family before I made any formal announcements. I’m sure I’ve caused them enough grief in the small town I grew up in, with my weird religion and all the other curious things I’ve been doing with my life. While I knew my family would accept me no matter what, not everyone is supportive of a genderqueer, bisexual person in their midst. I didn’t want my family to find out from anyone but me…and then, once I decided I was going to do this and that I needed to do it in person, there was the timing of it. The opportunity to have that conversation never coalesced. For a time, I battled the desire to not have them find out from anyone but me personally, and the concurrent thought that maybe I didn’t need to tell them about this, any more than I needed to talk about it to my coworkers or classmates or strangers, or even to the readers of this blog.
And then there was a flashpoint. A good friend, who came out a couple of years ago, posted some thoughts on his Facebook page about the importance of coming out if you can. He felt strongly that if you don’t have a reason to worry about your job or your life, not coming out is potentially an act of cowardice. It fails to set a good example or provide support for the LGBT kids coming up who really need support and affirmation, as well as positive role models. In talking with him further, I started to think about my reasons for keeping my silence, and whether or not they outweighed my desires not to cause trouble for my family. I also confronted the concern that perhaps I had been using my family as an excuse all along so that I didn’t have to talk about it.
I mourned that once I’d decided to step out publicly, to support those who are afraid to do so and to make sure that I too have raised my voice, that when I finally did have the conversation with my family, my father was not able to be present. He would not have had any problem with my revelation, but it’s sad that I waited too long. I hope he’ll forgive me for that. I also hope that all the students and friends and family I’ve had over the years who might have needed a more supportive word from me, but didn’t get one because I was either too scared, or too private, to open up and talk about myself as bisexual, can forgive me for the time it took me to open my mouth.
This is a long post, but it was a long time in the making. It’s good to be out: of LA, of coursework, of the cowardly closet. And now I need to get out of the office and get back to work on the Daybook, that other project that I can’t wait to let out! Thanks for reading, and I hope we’ll get to talk much more often as 2016 gets itself rolling.