I don’t talk about it here. I don’t want to look you in the eye and make you uncomfortable. About this. This isn’t what it’s about. My business. But if I was to be honest, it’s always there, a part of me. Who I am and how I live. It’s even a part of that Unabashed spirit in me.
To have this conversation I first had to wash my face, brush my teeth and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee.
I’m gay. While I’ve been out to my family and in my community for years, I waltz around it more than you realize in my posts. I don’t lie but I refrain: from mentioning it, explaining who I live with, who I make decisions with – I don’t want to offend you. And, it’s no one’s business. But it rankles me. I’m not exactly quiet.
If I was going to be completely honest. I haven’t wanted to be a spectacle for all those people, who don’t really matter, who knew me back when: when I had boyfriends (cause I did), when I was a fledgling struggling to find my way, when adolescence was cruel, there’s just no way around it. And so I think I’ll take a minute to address a few things:
Homosexuality isn’t like being born with green eyes. You don’t just come into existence and know. We live in a heterosexual world and sometimes it takes years to figure out if you’re not in the norm. And sexuality isn’t black and white. I know we’d like it to be but it isn’t, after all, it’s all that gray that scares us and challenges us and requires of us to reach deeper and ponder more.
I’m quite pretty. Yes I am. Yes I said it. Yes I know it. Yes I’m still gay. And it’s not because I haven’t found the right man, or dated enough – god knows – I’ve dated so very many, so very very many, or dated someone man enough. So stop that. That’s to all those ex boyfriends that are bewildered and smirking and thinking things that cover up the uncomfortableness of a simple fact. It’s not you, it’s me. And I’m fine with that. And it’s not a shame. I’ve heard that. A lot. That it’s “A shame”. And it makes me livid, and it makes me sad and it makes me oh so very tired.
I love men. I have great guy friends. One of my bestest friends in the entire world is my fire fighting, baseball playing, cowboy brother. Another is my dad. We have a great relationship. He won stars in his crown for his reaction to me being gay. I didn’t expect it. I expected a lot of things. I got none of them. I got unconditional love. Somewhere in your life, you’ll have a wound you won’t even know about. You won’t know about it until unconditional love heals it. That’s my dad.
That wasn’t my mom. She won’t like that I tell you this. She’s ashamed of how she reacted now. But it’s more important you know this than anything else. She was her worst self. That’s who she was when I told her I was gay. All those negative things you could think, and maybe are thinking, about a pretty, intelligent, charming girl being gay – she said them. And she meant them, at a moment in time. You need to know that to know, I’ve heard it all and it didn’t change me, falter me or fix me. But it did do that to her. And that is more important than pure acceptance. It’s beauty. The ability to be someone you’re not proud to be and step up, dig deeper, move in and stay a while until you’re ready to grow. And she did.
When you meet me, you won’t know. You’ll probably like me, you’ll probably ask if I’ve got a boyfriend and then I have a second to make a decision and prepare. Because that’s what I always have to do, prepare. For shock, a shrug, a taken aback look. This is what my momma was worried about, that her little girl would always have to struggle a little, fight and prepare for countless glares of animosity and attack. It’s true, but I’m my daddy’s daughter and I’m ready for the fight. I won’t win it the way you think I will.
Why today? Why am I telling you all this today? New York. It did things to me I wasn’t ready for. It made me cry. It made me smile. It made me feel like sometime, somehow, a day might come where it doesn’t matter if folks are still uncomfortable, I’ll be safer and my children will be safer and my community will be safer. Some day I won’t worry about being fired, or harassed.
You see, this is my country. This is my south. I’m not moving. I’m not giving up my flag, my patriotism, my pride, my southern accent, my love of sweet tea and baseball, how well I cook fried green tomatoes, that I was born and raised in Belews Creek, the clay in my blood, rocking on front porches with my grandma, stories with my grandpa, my righteous storytelling skills and Moravian roots. I didn’t choose to be gay, but I’m not ashamed that I am. I’m charming, I’m talented and I’ve got good things to do in this world. And the gay part? It turns out to be just like my green eyes, a part of who I am and hurting no one.
It’s time for us to look our friends, family and community in the eye. It’s time to say, This is who I am and I’m beautiful, I’m worthy of your friendship and your respect. I work hard, I care for others, I want to leave this world better than I found it. Being gay isn’t my agenda, making a difference as your teachers, scientists, doctors, healers, farmers, artists, environmentalists, leaders, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends -is. Take my hand. We can make this world better together. This is all of me, is your heart big enough for it all?
You just made me smile 10 miles wide. Oh and I <3 you muchly.
Thank you Mary –
so proud of you!!!!! you’re awesome sb!!
Thank you Karie 🙂
this is an incredibly b e a u t i f u l post, i feel as if to want to reach into my screen, find you and hug you, i know this sounds odd and perhaps it is not because you have come out, but more so for an honest post, full of poetry and real whole living. this is written in such a lovely way i could hear you speaking, i understand the face wash before had and the butterflies you must have felt when you pressed publish oh goodness i am so glad you did. i understand what you say you might not see it when you look at me, so very well. so very well my dear mary.
really the best thing i have read in a very long time and like your clothes, you make me happy to be a girl.
Your response means so much to me. You’re absolutely right. I still have butterflies, my knees are still weak. And I still want to pass it on. So thank you for your support and friendship. I’ll take that hug. 🙂
What a beautiful post. I hope marriage equality is soon the law of the land throughout the US, and that you feel safe and loved and “home”, wherever you are. We’ve had marriage equality in Canada for some time now, and the sky has not fallen. If anything, I felel better about my own marriage, knowing that I am not privileged (in this instance), just because I am straight. And I hope that if ever my daughters come to me to tell me that they are gay, that I can remember to celebrate who they are, rather than focussing on struggles they might face. After all, none of us get through life without struggles…
Yep, this is the Mom who cried out in disbelief, stomped about saying no…and now will forever live with regret. How could I have been the one? After-all, I had many friends who were gay and I loved them. Yet, deep within me I knew their ongoing struggles, the stares, the scoffing and the hatred they endured. Oh my child, surely do not walk down this road. You’ll be in danger on that path and I do not know how I can protect you. I still don’t. But I do know and hold hope that when there are enough of us who can stand with innate kindness, forgiveness and compassion…and accept one another for our differences not our similarities, then humankind will take that one giant step not into outer space but into the inner space of our soul. I am proud of you. I love you, Mom
Thank you Sophie,
You know I called my mom after I posted this. She read it out loud to me and sobbed. The most beautiful part to me of my own story was that she raised me with enough conviction and confidence that when she struggled, I didn’t loose all faith and belief in myself. She has a hard time with the memory of how she reacted. But it is her reaction and then her acceptance and love and support that is the most beautiful part to me, the part where we can change and mend and learn from one another. I am proud she’s my momma. I’m sure your girls are proud to have you for theirs.
You are beautiful. Your writing, your heart, your smile, your creations, your desire to make the world better, your whole self. Thank you for your courage and passion in all things, and especially for your honesty in this post.
Thank you Megan. For all of you (and pictures someday of a gal in a dress… come on, please!) 😉
Miss Sarabeth, you are one remarkable woman. I am so glad that you are able to know yourself and be true to who you are. I hate that you should ever have to pause and prepare to tell someone who you are, because who you are is such a gift and we’re all just lucky to be on the receiving end. xo
Thank you Alli. You know, in some ways, it’s a priceless education. How many discriminated against minorities get to choose whether or not they tell a person that they are one? Because I “pass” I don’t walk down the street with venom thrown my way on the pure account of how I look. And while I can’t help (and don’t want to “help”) the way I am, I am buffered from the constant barrage of public sentiment. I am very aware of the luxury that it is to -choose- to take a stand in my daily public life.
Thank you for your support dear friend.
Damn girl! I had no idea you weren’t out to your family yet. This is BIG! It’s a scary thing to move through the world in “otherness”, but it’s scarier still to take a leap of faith with those around you and simply say the words. Those people that you live life with. Everyone from employers, to casual acquaintances, to close family and childhood friends. Shedding your anonymity, being naked with yourself first, being good with that, and then standing in the light of the world full of bravery is something most don’t ever do. While it’s one of the most difficult facets of being “other” it’s also one of the most sublime and self-affirming experiences a person can have about who they are. It just gets better from here.
Oh wait! I’ve been out to my family for years – it was a “I’m not really ‘out’ on my blog, online business” type of deal. It was a – let’s be naked in every aspects of our lives because only then can we help teach and change and move forward – type of post. Make more sense? But I believe everything you said is oh so very valuable for folks who are contemplating life-after-the-closet. Well said.
Aw, yay!!!! Good for you for such a brave, amazing post. When I came out to my parents, it was the hardest day of my life, for sure. Living in SF we get really spoiled (though it’s not without issue) but being in the South – I cannot even imagine. When I drove across the south in 1997 we were not allowed to stay in hotel rooms, I was run out of malls, and experienced things I never imagined I would.
You are awesome!
It’s interesting living in the south for sure. Stranger still to pass in daily life but have a partner who clearly does not. One of the reasons for my post was that whole “passing” issue. Folks have no clue and it shouldn’t be a big deal, but living here -it is. I’ve been totally out for years and yet doing business as a small town southern apparel designer who looks totally “normal” -well life can be awkward at times. It’s also rather odd for online friendships. When you have a hidden thing you don’t mean to be hidden -how do you handle that? Say to people, “hello, I’m Sarahbeth, I’m gay, still want to be blog friends?” 🙂
I love you my
hit submit too soon. I love you my beautiful friend!
You’re WHAT? Seriously though… your bravery continues to amaze me. Amaze.
Love. Love to you. And laughter – thanks for that. Laughter heals and what it doesn’t heal, it makes bearable.
Yeah, I just got choked up. What a incredible post! Sarahbeth, you are truly a beautiful person not only on the outside – because we all know you are gorgeous – but on the inside as well. I feel incredibly privileged to call you and Gracia my friends. I must say, when I heard about NY I immediately thought of you two and was ecstatic. I love you so much noodlebritches! You are amazing!
Hey my Jennevieve,
You are missed. I hope Germany is loving you while it has you. I am so very fortunate to have you in my life. You wild, brilliant, wise and fabulous mathematician. We love you too.
Hey Sarabeth. Maybe clothing is not your best bet for the future. Political commentary, public speaking and maybe elected office. I am just very thrilled to get emails from you, that you have me on your contact list. Makes me feel that I am doing something right. I was unable to get to New York for the parade and celebration but my heart was singing for them as it does for you. For you and Gracia, blessed be and live brightly! I love you.
Ha! I should have known you’d be telling me that Geoffrey! We’ll see. I really like pretty dresses. You are one of my most beloved mentors, debaters and friends. I cherish you so.
YAY! So brave. I’m so sorry that your momma’s initial reaction was so disconcerting. It’s her stuff, not you. After spending nearly a week with my mother-in-law, I was overcome with the sense that the women in their generation have a lot of decaying preconceptions, discipline by shaming and, really, heaps of self-loathing. I guess the only way for them to really overcome these things is by reacting the way they need to, taking stock and picking up the pieces with you afterward. Then the change can be permanent–real. You are doing good!! Sending you hugs. xo
Hey Miss Jen,
Thank you. My mom is really so ashamed – read her comment below, but I’m quite glad in a way that she reacted that way. If we can all overcome our fears, anger and discriminations in a way as graceful and ultimately open armed as she did, then we can move forward as one people and one world, caring about one another and doing our best to overcome our obstacles. At the end of the day I had a lot to teach her. I think you’re right about the generational issues and that is uplifting too. As the next generations come along, we will only get better. Some things really aren’t like they used to be – and some days – that’s a damn good thing!
You’re awesome Sarahbeth! And to think, all this time I thought you and your “housemate” were just friends 😉 You make me smile…
You make me smile too Mr.
Spill it girl! Spill it! You’re awesome.
Thank you sir, we miss you around here!
made me cry, i’m so proud of you, i love this post. You are such a wonderful, visceral writer. It’s a gift and I’m glad you’re using it to speak up about the things that matter to you and to all of us. Love you tremendously.
Thank you for your words and support. We love you too dear one.
I am sure it will be no surprise to you, my friend, that I cried and cried and cried reading your post and the many comments you have received. I have no words except that once again I am so very proud of you and the decisions you continue to make in your life. Much love, today and always!!!!
Tina – I feel the same way about you, who you are and how you live. You’re a treasure. Love to you.
Proud to know you! You out-wonder Wonder Woman (did that make any sense?) Simply put, you blow me away. I treasure you and your wisdom. Love ya, mean it!
I’ve been thinking more about the post this morning (a 30 minute drive gives you time to ponder)… so one more comment then I’ll sit down and shut up 😉 I recently read a new definition for courage, which derives from the French coeur, the definition was ‘the measure of your heartfelt participation in the world’… yours is immeasurable.
Don’t sit down E! You say lovely things and insightful things and your impishness is just so lovely. Thank you for your support, friendship and words. Love you too. Mean it too.
Hugs and kisses to you Sarahbeth! I love you and I stand behind you 1000%. So much has happened in the last ten years. It takes some of us time to work through things. To your mom – there are lots of us out there that regret things we do with/to our kids, reactions we have. Fear that drives us. We work through it and often become better people because of the things the kids throw our way. Our kids make us reconsider old beliefs, stretch and mold us into new beings. It hurts, its terrifying, but often seems like what was meant to be to help us continue our growth as humans. I left my church of 30 years because of the intolerance there. Feeling free, light, in control of the message I send to people I know and don’t know – it was a tough decision to make but I am so glad I finally stood up for what I believe is right. I would much rather my grand children see me as tolerant and accepting of all the differences out there rather than running with the pack of judgement and hate. Please consider me part of your support community.
Ah Dear Cindy,
I do consider you a part of my support community. In many ways you always have been. I learned a lot from you during our Old Salem days and admired and admire you greatly. It’s so unfortunate and sad to me when religion of any kind spreads thoughts of judgement, intolerance, fear and disdain for others. It’s a part of the larger problem of intolerance throughout the world. The idea that, if you aren’t like me – then you’re against me is so asinine and harmful and plain untrue. I’m sorry that you had to leave your church where I am sure you had many brothers and sisters but I hope one day they will find you again down the road on their own journey towards acceptance and love. Likewise know that in your choosing to stand up and walk away, you have supporters of your own putting out their hands and saying thank you, and welcome to our church of love. I am very blessed to have a grandfather and uncle who are ministers and have never once made me feel that who I am separates me from God. What a gift they are. I am blessed all around. By all of you.
I’m not gay myself but my one and only brother in law is. I loved him before he came out, and I loved him just as much after he did ! Like you said, being gay is like having green eyes, it’s something that is a part of you, and that is no one else’s business, I’d add. The people of this planet have to respect each other, young & aged, healthy & ill/disabled, male & female, straight & gay, human and not. Life would be so much easier & so much more enjoyable for so many people.
What true words – there is, of course, discrimination everywhere in every size and shape. I agree with you that it’s really no one’s business, but I also found/find it important to wear all of me on the outside. Most people that are discriminated against don’t get that option. I’m grateful for your words and support and I know your brother in law is as well. Loving family bolsters us all through the hard times and uncomfortable moments – whatever they may be.
you’ve made we weep x and such a clamour of support, i weep still more. i have to second the canadian who felt better about marriage now it has lost it’s heterosexual privilege here, i feel the same. x
I have to say, the response has been overwhelming. I’m still reeling from the support and wisdom from all these different amazing people. What a wonderful gift. Sadly, there has also been negative reaction. The saddest part to me is that the way it’s shown has been in a turning away. My deepest hope was to open a dialogue and while I honor folks right to remove themselves from association with me, I hope that they will take a moment and sit with it. I hope they’ll come back to the table. Thank you for your words and kindness.
Lovely, moving piece of work.
I am proud that you are Arabelle’s friend.
Thanks Ken. I’m glad she’s my friend too.
You are a beautiful soul Sarahbeth. I love you dearly.
Thank you my lovely friend. Thank you for being a role model + an Unabashed model.
Love this. Love you.
I love you SB! I am proud to be your uncle…and blessed!
Thanks uncle. Love you too. You’re one of my favorite people.
A voice from your past. You are an incredible human being- living from the heart! Jim shared your post with me.
Hey Truman. You know – Moravian ministers turn out to be some of the best folk I know. How blessed am I – and are we, to have such a rich history full of acceptance and service to one another. Thank you for your words and support. It means quite a lot.
I’ve just found your blog through your comment on Saiupa. First, I added you to my feed list because your work is beautiful, and equally so, your words. But then, as I read this post, I became transfixed. You have put into words my exact heart. Through posts like this, and people like you, this world is a better place. Thank you for all the beauty and love you bring to this world. You can be sure, I’ll pay it forward.
You just about made me cry. Such kindness, support, eloquence and generosity of spirit you have. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for finding me. I look forward to knowing you better.
(and thanks for liking my clothing 🙂