Coming Out

Coming Out

A lot of you probably saw this coming. I honestly didn’t.

I thought that this was a secret that I’d take to my grave, or one that I would at least keep with me until my grandparents, parents, and (basically) entire family had died.

But I realized, today – around 12:03 PM (give or take 3 minutes) – that I shouldn’t have to keep this a secret. Also… that I shouldn’t want to; that it isn’t fair or healthy for me to be keeping this knowledge to myself, and that it is actually barring me from being able to fully and freely express (and be) myself, both when people are and aren’t around.

So.. to make this just a little bit easier on me, I’m going to start off by admitting (5) embarrassing (to various degrees) truths to you. 5 because I couldn’t think of 10. I tried.

5 Relatively Embarrassing Confessions

1. I find Taylor Swift’s tune “Style” to be very catchy and actually find myself humming along to the song on occasion. While it’s playing. On my Pandora station. Yes; I thumbs-upped it MONTHS ago and didn’t tell ANYONE.

2. Girls are supposed to be really “dainty” and eat “lightly”, right? Well, I hereby proudly confess that when it’s burrito night at the Yarbrough house, I regularly consume three burritos. Minimum: 2.

3. I would rather die than use a tampon. They can kill you, you know.

4. I used to carve letters into my wrists with (of course) a cutting instrument when I was an angsty teenager and while (secretly) listening to either downer industrial or heavy rock music. But you can’t commit me for this because of the 7-year clause. So HA.

5. I am bisexual.

So. You’re probably thinking, now, with these new revelations in mind, that this blog post is going to center around me coming out as a Taylor Swift fan. No. I am not a fan of her; one, two, six of her songs maybe. But regardless, you would be wrong to think that. I’m actually (and this may come as a surprise) going to be talking about #5: the confession that I’m.. you know. *whispers* Bisexual. 

Now; with our focus clear and a set agenda in front of us, l will formally call this meeting to order by relaying (2) specific memories involving me and another gay person.

#1

I remember sitting in the back of the classroom during first period – U.S. History – in the 8th grade and conversing with a fellow student before the teacher walked in (I was, literally, the “teacher’s assistant” for this class). The boy sitting in front of me (who I was talking with and who I will fictionally refer to as Jacob) turned around suddenly and casually mentioned: “You know, my cousin is in college, and he told me last weekend that it really isn’t wrong for a person to be gay.” He said this out loud and out of nowhere. It wasn’t until about 3 years later that he formally came out to me and the rest of the student body as gay.

“Actually Jacob,” I whispered sadly, leaning my body and reaching down into my backpack to locate my Bible (which I carried around with me.. daily and everywhere), “it IS wrong.” I pulled the corners of my mouth down into a frown and turned to Leviticus 3:17, remaining soberly quiet as I turned the book around so that it faced him. He read the verse to himself and, when he finally looked up at me, he said nothing. Instead, he turned himself around, resumed facing forward, and – from what I can recall – never spoke to me again.

This is one of the worst memories that I carry with me. I truly hate that I was the girl sitting in a back-row seat in that classroom, making a young boy feel unaccepted, morally corrupt, and judged. I hate that girl. I hate that old version of myself.

During this same class year, I had just finished changing out in gym class one afternoon (I would hide behind a locked bathroom door to accomplish this) when I found myself stumbling against a row of red lockers out of sheer surprise; I had walked back into the locker room to see two girls kissing each other on the lips in the middle of the room. Everyone else stood around, laughing, staring, or taking pictures; I couldn’t breathe from the terror of it all. I went home that night and was unable to sleep, feeling guilty for witnessing it and firmly believing that I went to the most sinful school on the planet.

Memory of a gay person, #2

When I was in the 12th grade, I picked up a part-time job working as a bagger/cashier at the Publix in Hoover. One Sunday afternoon, a woman and her daughter (who looked my age) came through the line together, and I smiled pleasantly and chatted with them as I scanned their items. After paying for her groceries and nodding goodbye, the mother began pushing her cart towards the store’s exit doors while her daughter – a medium-sized girl wearing short, black hair, heavy mascara and a black hoodie (I still remember) – lagged behind her. She seemed hesitant, but after about two seconds, she resolutely slipped a note into my hand, smiled shyly, and then quickly walked away; her name was Amanda, and she had just given me her phone number and email address. I remember feeling shocked as I quickly pocketed the evidence, vaguely realizing that I had just been hit on. By a lesbian. And that it was wrong. 

And then last week — in present life — I received a message on Facebook. The content of the message startled me: “Are you secretly bisexual? I’m just wondering because you post a lot of pro-gay rights stuff on here.”

We’ve just glided over a 10-year time span, so let me sort of rewind and break things down for you, dear reader.

This was me 10 years ago: 

Pray gay away

Just pretend that’s a girl.

This was me (roughly) 5 years ago. Still pretttttty much the same person.

Pt 1  Pt Old

And this is me now.

Me TodayPt Now

Do I look like the same person to you? Or even the same gender?

In recent years, I’ve changed a good deal. It began dramatically, when I dropped out of the church and left religion crumpled on its doorstep three summers ago. It continued on, slowly, when I stopped shaving my legs and underarms two falls ago, and then, thing escalated quickly as I began — maybe two years ago — to actively defend (largely over the internet) the very same LGBT Community that I had previously criticized and proselytized. A HUGE percentage of my blog and Facebook posts have centered around these topics (of defending the LGBT Community and fighting for equal rights), and it didn’t take long for people to notice that I was constantly hovering over the subjects. “All she ever talks about is gay rights and how she hates social stereotypes and femininity and just being a girl in general.” And I guess that that’s why, last week, someone finally felt compelled to directly ask me about my sexuality.

And then, yesterday happened. 6.26.2015: One of the finest days in American history. Gay marriage is now legal nationwide, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I was at work when I got the text message from my husband (who openly shares my views) yesterday morning: “!!!!! Gay marriage is legal nationwide!!!!!”

“WHAT?!” I texted back. “HOW AND WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN?”

I immediately pulled up a news site to confirm his announcement (it did) and then saw the internet positively exploding with rainbows. My beautiful friends, long deprived of both respect and freedom on the matter, were celebrating their victory; a**holes were being sh*tty about it. I felt like crying. It’s a moment, a memory, that I’ll never, ever forget.

And I’ve known for the last 4-5 months that I was, indeed, a part of the LGBT community — that I am bisexual, but I kept telling myself that it wouldn’t be wise to share or announce it. “People — friends, family, and coworkers — will view me differently and will probably feel uncomfortable being around or talking to me. It’s just not worth it.” I also justified secretly twiddling my thumbs in the closet with the thought that my campaigning efforts for the LGBT Community would carry more weight if people saw it coming from a “straight” person. Maybe that was true.. maybe not. Regardless, while my involvement in promoting equal rights may have been born out of a sympathy for others, the fight has become my own, and it is now time for me to start being honest with myself and with the rest of the world, because keeping a secret that is this big is stressful. And unhealthy. And lame.

So here you go, folks. This is just as much for me as it is for you:

I am bisexual. This means that I am attracted to both sexes.

I am happily married to a man who is my best friend in this whole entire universe and who I love more than anything or anyone on the planet. Even more than three perfect burritos all lined up neatly in a row on a blue dinner plate (blue plates trump all other plates).

I feel – on the inside – more like a man than I do a woman, and it has ALWAYS been this way. ALWAYS.

I never fit in with other girls. They liked boys, and shopping, and pink, and painting their nails and doing makeovers and waxing things. I, on the other hand, liked skateboarding and collecting Pokemon cards and climbing trees and playing football during PE instead of walking track and gossiping with the rest of my gender group.

I would shop, as a preteen AND teenager, in the boy’s section at Walmart, desiring the shorts that would fall low (to my knee) over the kind that would sit high up and snugly on my thigh.

I loved the Spice Girls as a child, but that was the only girl band that I ever allowed to come under my radar. I have always preferred lip-syncing to the music of boy bands and male singers, gazing into the mirror and pretending to see the coolest dude on the planet staring back at me.

And recently, I’ve started changing myself on the outside – transforming – so that the face and body that I see in the mirror will more accurately reflect the soul that I am. Nothing drastic — it’s not like I’m scheduling any surgeries, or anything (while I certainly don’t blame some people for going that far, I don’t have the desire to). I’ve decided to make other (more minor) changes. For example, I’ve cut (and even shaved) the hair that’s on top of my head and I’m letting the rest of my body hair grow freely. I pierced one of my ears, twice, because I thought that it would look cool (not pretty). I proudly carry bruises from skateboarding mishaps (ask anyone; they’ll tell you that I just rave over my scars) and I make a deliberate effort to wear clothes that are either masculine or unisex.

To be completely truthful, if fate, or genetics, or “creator god” had bothered to ask me, 23 years, 9 months and 18 days ago: chick or dude? I would have 100% — with NO hesitation — chosen the latter. It is what it is. I would then look, physically, precisely how I feel on the inside, and my personality and disposition would then make sense. I am ALL about motorcycles, rock and roll, skateboards, and wearing short hair and cool t’s. I don’t want to be pretty or beautiful or desirable or noticed by boys or men; I just want them to see me and to understand and recognize me as the being that I am in my heart and soul. That I am just like them.

Transgender? Gender fluid? Bisexual? I guess that all of these might apply to me. I haven’t really grasped the specifics or worked out the logistics of all of these terms yet, and there is a whole myriad of information out there that I’ll be sifting through, but what I do know for certain is that I am definitely not straight. I do not fit into a box of stereotypes and I never, ever, EVER will.

This is all going to – again – come as no surprise to a LOT of you (who have probably, secretly suspected this all along), but for those who didn’t suspect that I was bi and who this came as a real shocker to: I apologize. I am sorry if this makes you feel sad or uncomfortable or any other kind of way. But – to be clear – I am NOT apologizing for who I am, because I am genuinely proud of the person that I am. I see flaws and weaknesses in myself, for sure, but feeling like a dude and having the capacity to love any human being – regardless of which type of sexual organ they happened to be born with – are not things that I’m sorry for. I believe in loving the soul of another human being — not the body. And I firmly believe that we should all feel comfortable in our own skin.

In closing, I’d like to share these two recollections with you all. They didn’t fit nicely or neatly into any particular place on this post, so I decided to just stick them both towards the end.

Recollection #1

A Publix associate, seeing my short hair, called out (from behind me): “Nice helmet, man!” as I was walking through the store and wearing my riding gear (roughly 5 months ago). I felt so validated. He apologized when I turned around and he saw my face, and I remembering wishing that he hadn’t.

Recollection #2

Three weeks ago, when I was at the Tuscaloosa skate park, a group of children were standing on the sidewalk near a pavilion where I was passing by. A little boy called out: “Look, it’s a boy with a skateboard!” and another child corrected him: “No it’s not… it’s a girl.”

I also wished that he hadn’t.

I’ll admit it freely; I broke my own rule. I said that I wouldn’t post on this blog again until I had finished my novel, and clearly – in a two week time period – I haven’t done that… but this was too important for me to not make an exception.

To those who now understand that I am bi and who still accept and like or love me: thanks. I really appreciate you. I sincerely hope that the world will be full of people who are only like you someday; people who will freely accept the rights, beliefs, feelings and lifestyles of others when it causes no harm to themselves.

To those who feel disgust, sadness, or disappointment in relation to my announcement: I don’t need you in my life. So, for your sake and mine, feel free to move along. I have no ill feelings towards you, but I will also not be harassed or ridiculed. I haven’t tolerated it being done to others, and I certainly won’t stand for it myself.

Out,

Aun Aqui

Submission #101 (and my final blog post): Why I don’t want to look pretty

“Why I don’t want to look pretty”

This is vacation week in the Yarbrough household, and so far, I’ve had a splendid time catching up on sleep, playing outdoors, (watching Christopher) cook delicious and nutritious homemade meals and binge-watching Chris and I’s favorite Netflix TV shows. Recently (12 days ago, to be specific), I picked an old hobby back up — skateboarding, and on Tuesday, I spent 4 hours cruising across smooth, gray concrete at the new skate park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama while Christopher stood nearby, taking pictures and dutifully on-call for any physical injuries. It was.. the perfect excursion. Later that afternoon, once we had settled back in at home and I had showered and slipped into my comfy fox PJ’s + bunny slippers, I uploaded the shots onto my computer and eagerly picked out my new profile pic for Facebook: an action shot of me skating down a slab of concrete (featured above). Not a flattering or girly pic, by any means, but a damn cool one. Just as I posted the update on my profile, a thought hit me; did I ever really upload “pretty” profile pictures?

I took a quick glance through Facebook’s handy “Profile Pictures” album and very quickly realized that… no. I never upload “pretty” profile pictures. And that (to me) is actually, totally awesome.

Everyone’s different; you have the faithful selfie crowd who will post daily pic updates of themselves and who change their profile pictures once every week or two, and then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have who Chris and I refer to as the “lurkers” — the Facebookers who post a status or comment once or twice annually (to announce that they’ve just had a child or are looking to sell an ATV that’s in like new condition!) and who update their profile picture once every 3-10 years or so. I seem to fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes (at roughly 6 profile picture updates per year). Nothing wrong with that — with any of it, really; the selfie crowd may annoy the larger class of moderate and modest posters and the lurkers may seem kinda creepy to us all (because uh, they are), but that’s okay. Anyways.

As I (electronically) leafed through the previous pictures that I had dubbed as being worthy of “profile pic” status, I was tickled/intrigued by the following “features”:

I am looking at the camera in only 2/6 photos

I am not wearing make-up in any of the 6 most recent profile pictures (OKAY, that’s not fair — I never wear make-up)

3/6 pictures (aka half — most interestingly, the three most recent photos) are action shots

So who cares? Well, I do, and here, I’ll explain why.

As a writer (oh come onnnnn.. who isn’t a “writer” these days when even the most air-headed Serena Van Der Woodsen refers to herself as a “professional blogger”? OKAY, redo: As a fan of the written word), I spend a good deal of time observing people (how they talk, what they say, the clothes they like to wear and what they post on the internet). So I cruised through my dwindling friends list this afternoon (checking out peoples’ profile pictures) and noticed a few recurring themes:

Candid shots (weddings, family portraits, graduations, vacation spots) – 90%

Music-related (performing at gigs or posing with a guitar, trumpet, or other instrument) – 7%

School logos/cartoons – 2%

Tattoos/body parts – 1%

So, in general, people choose pretty simple and straightforward profile pics (exactly what you’d expect); them hugging a pet, embracing a family member, or posing at an event where they dressed up to look super spiffy. Of these candid shots, I broke it down a little further:

Out of 10 randomly chosen guy friends, only 2/10 were looking directly at the camera in their profile pictures.

Out of 10 randomly chosen female friends, 9/10 were looking into the camera in their profile pictures (the one who wasn’t: her profile pic was of her two kids).

I scratched my head a little, but really, these stats weren’t very surprising. First of all, it doesn’t really MATTER either way — looking into the camera or abstractly/incidentally away from it — there’s certainly no right or wrong way to be photographed. However. 

With the emphasis that our society places on females being beautiful and attractive and unfailingly pleasant, there’s honestly no reason to wonder why the profile pics that these ladies chose to “represent” themselves with were the most gorgeous, flawless, radiant and confident takes of themselves looking straight into the camera’s lens. The average woman (from my observations, anyways) wants to represent her life (pictorially speaking) with a stunningly perfect still image of her “best” possible self, with filters that smooth out those awful wrinkles and, at the same time, expertly blot out the acne and the blemishes that people in real life seem to fixate on.

And I hate it, and you, dear reader, already know that. I am, as always, 100% in opposition to our society’s gender stereotypes — that men should be strong, fierce, powerful, effortlessly handsome and ageless and that women are mere gorgeous, mindless and giggly little mannequins to hang expensive clothes and handbags on. YOU KNOW that. You KNOW that I hate that. So I’ll just move right along…

I’m not buying into it. Now, or ever. I don’t want to be represented on the internet (or in real life) as being “pretty.” Pretty, to me, is nothing more than a distraction; now, clean? Put-together? Kempt and hygienic? Yeah, I certainly want to look PRESENTABLE, but “pretty”.. no thanks. What I want people to notice is my creativity, my honesty, my passion for life and my cool skate tricks (of which I have like.. none. Right now. JEEZ, GIVE ME A FEW MONTHS) — not my complexion, my height, or my bra size (which I can tell you was a PRETTY sore subject back in middle and high school; being a 32A in a classroom full of 36C’s was fairly humiliating because, at the time, I totally lacked the confidence that I carry now and was still eating, right from the goddamn spoon, the lies that society was telling me about myself, because I was a girl). Screwwwwwwww that.

So – to state it (maybe) a little clearer (and nicer): I have things that I like about myself. I like that I can genuinely play an instrument, somewhat gracefully ride around on a skateboard, and hike up the steepest hill in my neighborhood without feeling like I’m about to have a heart attack (< I only started exercising regularly late last year; those first few weeks were such a rude awakening). And because these are the things that I love to do and that I identify with, these are the characteristics, features and attributes that I want to be associated with and – in a picture – represented by. I don’t want to be smiling perfectly in front of a cloudy bathroom mirror or tilting my head “just so” in a Mayfair Instagrammed selfie from the driver’s seat — instead, I want to be strumming my favorite chord – Gmaj7 – or pushing past my fear and leaning my body into the curve of a concrete ramp, or chasing my German Shepherd through the abandoned golf course down the road. I want people to see THAT Rose, the Rose that is doing exactly what she loves and enjoys. And you already know that I want to control the whole entire world, so I’ll just come right out and say it: I want PEOPLE to STOP emphasizing and endorsing and promoting society’s ridiculous beauty standards. Be yourself – your honest self – and be proud of yourself. Enjoy your life. Your confidence – once you’ve claimed it – will encourage OTHERS to be confident, and if we all abandon our posts on the corner of Eternally Beautiful and Fabulous, then things can finally start to change. Now — while there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be beautiful, don’t ever let it consume you. I, for one, will not waste a single penny on a tube of foundation, 30 seconds gripping a stupid pink razor, or even 5 minutes wielding a pointless straightener or curling iron. Fire hazards — that’s all those are.

In short, I don’t want to wear a mask, and while I can recognize what society would label as the flaws in my appearance, I don’t believe that they need to be fixed; there is nothing about YOU that needs to be fixed, either, and the amount of time and money spent in the ongoing effort to “correct” your flaws is a crying shame, because you could be doing something way more fun with your time and with your money. Unless you are doing it for you. That counts for something. I can very well understand that achieving and maintaining a beautiful outer appearance is a passion for some people (it provides as much joy and satisfaction to them as skateboarding does for me), but if you’re doing it for any other reason than because it makes YOU happy, then it’s totally lame, and you should just move on from it.

Disclaimer: I know that we live in a society where I’m the crazy one — the hippie, the rebel, the confused girl/boy conundrum, and that nothing that I say will make a difference, but maybe, over time, things will change. I have to believe that. I can only hope that future generations will be able to move through life – personally and professionally – in an environment that promotes and stimulates intellectual, emotional, and creative growth rather than unrealistic and unachievable (and outright stupid) beauty standards.

#EndOfRant.

And I alluded to it in the title, so I’ll confirm it here: this IS going to be the last blog post on aunaqui.wordpress.com (or any other blogging site) as I’ve realized that it (blogging) is a distraction for me — it’s easy and noncommital and an excuse to not continue work on my half-way finished novel (it’s been half-way finished for about 2 and a half years now) and to not begin working on my series of children’s novels (which will involve mischievous and frivolous rabbits). So — when these true works of art have been completed, I’ll let you guys know, but until then —

Signing off (while strumming the guitar and dropping a half-pipe and throwing a stick for Shep.. all at the same time),

Aun Aqui