It’s an early spring evening and I’m sitting on a bar stool while my husband is cutting my hair. My palms are sweaty: so are my armpits, my back, and ankles. I sweat when I’m nervous. I had been preparing for this conversation for weeks. “How should I tell him?”
“Hey Husband, I’m Queer!”
“Guess what? I know I’m married to you, a man. But, I’m also attracted to womxn.”
As I’m writing this article, I imagine that people might have questions that I, myself, have pondered. Why didn’t I tell my husband sooner? Was I hiding my sexual identity? It’s important to note that at this point in time, my husband and I had been married for six years. And my entire dating history had consisted of heterosexual partnerships with cis-gendered men. I didn’t discover my Queerness until the age of 28.
Let’s rewind to my four years of undergraduate education. It may sound cliché, but I was one of those people who “found” themselves in college. I was enrolled in my first Women and Gender Studies class. I discovered the wonders of writers such as Angela Davis and feminists such as Moya Bailey. The passion for feminism and advocacy was lit like a flame. As I discovered and explored this passion, I remember quietly evaluating myself and my identity. I noted that while interacting with a few womxn, I would feel heart flutters and a nervous energy, similar to feelings I’ve experienced when attracted to a cis-gendered man. But these womxn I was interacting with were novelties; new and different from the peers that I’d grown up with. They were intelligent and spoke so eloquently about equality and their advocacy for LGBT+ rights. They commandeered a room with a quiet confidence; a confidence I’d hoped to possess in the future. So, I chalked up my heart flutters and nervous energy to simple admiration. I would say,
“These womxn are cool and smart. That’s probably why I feel this way around them.”
As my life and education (formal and informal) continued, I encountered more womxn who gave me heart flutters. All the while, I naturally flowed in and out of heterosexual partnerships with cis- men. Because my sexual attraction and desire for intimate relationships cis- men still persisted, it was easy to continue to dismiss those heart flutters I felt while engaging with a few magical womxn. Eventually, one of my partnerships progressed into a marriage. Life became more serious and I tackled the fun adventure of adult-ing. I was now a wife, new mommy, and graduate student. After graduation, I embarked on a new career and I settled into my niche of mental health work and advocacy.
As my fellow mental health counselors, social workers, and human service professionals may know, it is impossible to avoid the exploration of one’s own self and identity while in this field of work. It’s a natural process that occurs because we are constantly abetting others in their self-exploration. So of course, I was confronted with my own introspection on several occasions. I can’t recall the specific place, time, or the trigger. However, I distinctly remember this pertinent question popping into my head:
“Am I Queer?”
The question lingered. It stayed and stayed and stayed. And I became so uneasy because of its insistent presence that I remember feeling like I would burst! I couldn’t outrun this question and I was forced into a self-analysis that lasted days, weeks, and months. I revisited those occurrences of heart flutters that I felt before (and still felt). I realized that many of those heart flutters were accompanied by a more than generic appreciation of the womxn’s intelligence and swag. Before I was married, those heart flutters were often followed by fond thoughts of their physical features: how cute her eyes were, wondering what it would feel like to hold her hand and touch her skin.
With reflection came the answer to my burning question: Oh my God! I’m Queer! [Let me clarify that sexual identity is so much more complex than lust and heart palpitations. These are just examples of personal experiences that I’ve simplified and provided for the purpose of illustration. Carry on.]
Of course, this discovery came with a flurry of emotions. I was confused as to why it had taken me so long to figure this out. I was elated about the new understanding of my identity. I was also scared as hell. This was a big discovery. What do I do now? Do I need to tell my husband?
This huge moment called for a Sistah Friend communion. I needed to talk to someone who I could trust with this precious part of myself. And I needed help navigating this new terrain, especially when deciding how to discuss this with my husband. So, I reached out to my good friend, Danielle. I call her my kindred spirit. She’s a majestic unicorn: brazen and unabashed in her Blackness and passion for serving marginalized people. She’s also really good at calling you on your bullshit.
The verbal play-by-play of our conversation is lost, but it went something like this:
“Girl! I just found out that I’m Queer as hell! I’m scared and I feel like I need to tell my husband!”
Her response was perfect. It was timely and compassionate. She understood my need for authenticity and the need to discuss my newly discovered sexual identity with my husband. She understood my fear that he may feel displaced after learning of my Queerness. She understood my fear that he may anticipate abandonment and feel undesired. Danielle validated my feelings of confusion and anxiety. Yet, she made me feel steadfast. She offered me humbled suggestions, accompanied with love and encouragement. I felt grounded. And I knew that I was going to share this part of myself with my husband very soon.
So, here we are. It’s an early spring evening and I’m sitting on a bar stool while my husband is cutting my hair. My palms are sweaty: so are my armpits, my back, and ankles. I sweat when I’m nervous. And I proceed…
“Hey, babe. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I think I’m Queer…”
As I anticipated, this revelation was a lot for him to process and he expressed fears of being undesired and displaced. The original conversation took place over the course of 48 hours. We discussed what my new sexual identity meant for our marriage; I needed to emphasize that I still desired monogamy and I very much wanted to remain married to him. He was grateful that I had shared the truth with him. Above all, he was gracious. His questions weren’t accompanied with accusations. He was kind and persistent in his attempts to understand. And I was intentional in kindness and patience as I answered his questions.
To this day, I’m not sure if my husband fully understands my Queer identity. He still asks questions and sometimes, I struggle to answer them. Though, I try my best. We’ve continued with life, traversing through the daily happenings of adulthood, partnership, and parenting. I don’t feel as though my identity has drastically shifted. It’s just been wonderfully expanded. I’m still navigating this space and finding my corner in the LGBT+ community. I do feel a sense of pride and the passion for advocacy still burns like a flame. Maybe it burns more intensely now.
As I reflect on this story, I recognize that I experienced a privilege that not many have. I was able to come out to my husband and a select group of friends without fear of violent retaliation or rejection. To those of you who are still on your journey of exploration and comprehending your Queer identity, I urge you to be patient and kind to yourself. Proceed in a way that feels safest and most loving. Your Queerness is a wonderful, sacred space and only those who are most deserving should be allowed admission. For those of you whose loved ones have come out to you, remember this: your reaction can and will have lasting effects. Make it good. Make it count.
Peace, Love, and Light.
Au’Brie is a mental health and higher education professional located in Charlotte, NC. She is an advocate, dreamer, mama, and lover of cheese, books, and mother earth. Owner of the blog, Femme Talk & Chill.