IT’S NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY – IT’S THE 28TH YEAR
And it’s the first year I have and will participate – I’m a Lesbian. Boom ! Drop the mic, no hardly a news flash.
Why does it matter? Why do we do this? Is it just another hallmark card day? Surely everyone who knows me knows I am gay so “whatevs Bleasdale, get over yourself”.
Well first of all not everyone knows, and some would say I even ‘pass as straight’ (although I don’t wear skirts as often as I used to). I deliberately don’t have a super short butch haircut, I like jewelry, and shoes OMG shoes ….pretty ones and ugly ones, penny loafers and heels.
I just started a new job as an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, for the first time I outed myself as gay, married, parenting, during the hiring process. Yes, I felt I had to do that, because I have never had a job where that was not an issue. I am 46 next week
I have been in education for 22 years (20 of which was in high school teaching) I have worked in public, private, secular and religious schools. I have worked summer jobs delivering mail or post depending where you live, as a tea lady for the UK government, (yes really) making PIMMS at Wimbledon, serving beer in a bar, in nursing homes for people who needed a lot of help, in a women’s hospital, and I have NEVER felt that it ask to be gay in my work. I have NEVER felt it was OK to be entirely myself. Although I have also NEVER been the victim of a homophobic attack and have for the most part had a very supportive family and group of friends I have never felt it was OK to come out publicly until now. And even now, as I am learning the life of higher education and building my consulting practice – I am wondering, will ‘coming out out publicly hurt my chance of a new consulting contract? a promotion? Being asked to serve on a committee? Having my work published? As a parent I am wondering if it will hurt my kids – does it hurt them having two Moms? ( They don’t seem to think so, they don’t like football either !)
This isn’t a pity party ‘poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.’ But I share it in the hopes that when we come out as adults, who live ‘normal’ adult lives – a younger person, a closeted older person, a scared person can look at me and say ‘huh it’s okay to be gay’. Last week a young graduate student asked me to be a mentor – I asked ‘why me’ and the response was ‘I’m queer, I have never had a queer mentor.’ The old fashioned, conservative English me bristled at the word queer – yes internalized homophobia – still present. But this student knows that being gay is a challenge in 2016, in San Francisco, arguably the gayest place on earth!
If you are still reading this far – and you are a member of the LGBTQ come out today, come out and celebrate who you are. If you are a straight ally – we need you, not just for marriage to remain our right but so that we don’t get humiliated in public, hurt in our work space or have to deny who we are.
Jane Bleasdale PhD.
University of San Francisco – Assistant Professor
Educational Consultant. Janebleasdale.com
Resident – Maplewood NJ and San Francisco CA