My coming out was boringly uneventful and I cherish it so for its sweet and tangy warmth.
I brought a woman home, as we approached my home hand in hand, my mother stepped out onto the street to buy some wine. Wide-eyed, I shoved my then are-we-gonna-be-together-person to pass my mother with a stretched awkward smile and slightly red-hued cheeks, letting out a faint semblance of introductions. We walked into the house expecting to find my chosen dad and uncle having a drink in the kitchen only to witness a swarm of parent-aged adults pre-gaming before a concert staring at us. Stunned, unsure, a little unsettled, I introduced my very obviously, slightly stereotypical, non-straight “friend” to the general population. The tension or question was palpable. The adults took their shots, had their chats, glanced a few times at our awkward postures and seemingly locked faces, and were about to bless us with the relief of their absence.
“Have fun but not too much fun,” I said, my confidence growing back, to one of the stragglers
“The real question is… what are you two gonna do,” he responded, shifting his pointed finger back and forth between us with each syllable.
Half-intentional chuckles over, the adults now departed, I stared in the eyes of the woman I would soon call my girlfriend before going on to grow up and reject the term to replace it with partner. The next morning we headed from Brooklyn to the city, where we enjoyed the typical young and broke Sunday afternoon in Washington Square Park, before I dropped her off at hers.
On my way home I envisioned all the ways the post-coming-out-by-bringing-her-home conversation could go, well, all but one….
No one said anything, not my mother, nor her husband, nor her brother, during the entire dinner. I began cleaning up and my mother addressed my palpable nervousness and jumpiness with a simple yet intonated,
“T’attends quoi, une validation,” (what are you waiting for, validation) which my father followed-up with a,
“We don’t care what you do,” all to say there was nothing to validate or even acknowledge. I cannot say for sure if their words sprung from the intention to make me feel that my sexuality truly had zero importance at all or if they were the fruit of discomfort. Shaky vibrations and tonal imperceptions. Their minds seemed to scurry as my feet paddled to the sink. Dishes in hand, I relished in the softness of acceptance yet crumpled in the face of disregard. Not that my parents had ever particularly brightened their faces to personal news of the sort, but, for the instructed reason that there ought be one, I expected a reaction that would make me feel one way or the other. Instead, I felt neither. A weird combination of relief and an unquenched thirst for attention.
The most any gay kid can ask for is acceptance and I got that in the easiest of ways yet remained somewhat unsatisfied, leading me to wonder why….
Regardless of familial acceptance or behavior, being gay is instructed as a hardship in society. I grew up not even knowing that gayness could be a thing for me as I was convinced it was a man-only concept. Struggling to understand how I fit, it took me years to shed my bi-front, after finding out women being into women is, in fact, a thing. I marvel at the beauty that is the generation after mine’s exposure to the LGBTQQAAIP community. Take my little sister, for instance. She is twelve, her older sister is openly and vocally gay, her best friend’s brother is trans, and she is connected to the fact that she does not yet know what her sexuality is and comfortable in the journey of finding out without fear of what it may be. My sister is growing up in a city, a family, a community that will continue to accept her should she identify as gay, asexual, pansexual, or any other identity that may be hers. Will she be proud or will she just be?
The concept of pride as it is anchored in history stems from choosing fight over flight. It stems from feeling at war. It stems for necessity, obligation, circumstances, we, the baby and new gays, simply cannot comprehend. I am eternally grateful for the work our queer activists have completed to get us here today and am stingingly aware that I cannot grasp the gravity of it all. I cannot grasp the trauma, the fear, the fight, and their invasive consistency at the time. I can only bow in great appreciation and admiration and say, “thank you. I know not the struggles you went through, I know not the pain you went through, I know not, and I know to be grateful and that my life, my love, is allowed and visible grâce a vous (thanks to you).”
I am proud to be part of the community I call mine, yet I challenge the notion of being proud of being gay. Naturally, my ability to even raise this question is a luxury. Should I have been born in a place that admonishes, degrades, humiliates, beats and murders humans for being any other than straight, I would not have that luxury. Pride in this sense is tied, as we understand it, to bravery.
“Congratulations on coming out, you’re so brave,” they’ll say
“Happy Pride! You must be so happy,” they’ll counsel
I do not feel brave for having come out to my immediate family because I was deeply aware that nothing could change my position. On the other hand, I feel slight pride and bravery for coming out to my Ivorian (Ivory Coast, Africa) grandmother as doing so instilled fear that she would no longer have me as her beloved granddaughter. I wouldn’t be kicked out, I wouldn’t be loved any less, treated any less. Apart from who my parents envisioned standing in front of me at my future wedding, nothing would change. Pride exists and is necessary because some do get kicked out, loved less, treated less, and worse! Challenging the notion of pride is a dream. It is looking to the future, to a time in which no one will need to “come out,” a time where the “sex talk” will mean parents and guardians simply asking “hey, do you know what you’re into yet, if anything?” This will be a time where pride holds less importance because we will be completely integrated into society and our sexualities will matter less than our genders do today.
We are other
That makes us one
Proud to be
Made to be
Down some time
One of many
None of other
I am proud of how I carry myself as a gay person, glad and grateful that I have the right and the ability to do so but pissed that I am made to feel this way for simply being born as myself. I hope, dream, envision, embellish, a time, space, and place in which my children or theirs won’t have to.
About the Author
Iman M’Fah-Traoré is a French New Yorker. Originally born in Paris, she moved to New York in her young years and majored in Politics and Governance at Ryerson University, Toronto. She is now attending the New School in NYC for Global Studies. The Ivorian and Brazilian writer works with The Womanity Project, a non-profit that challenges gender equity with innovative workshops. Currently, she is working towards assembling her first poetry book. Her writing specializes in LGBTQ+, grief and trauma, and race and ethnicity poetry and essays.