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  • Writer's pictureAshley Stevick

14 Years Later ~ A Coming Out Story

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

I believe wholeheartedly uncomfortable topics, hurts, and conversations are better off in the light of day than buried and unseen, shoved under a rug, or stuck in a closet. Heh. In a closet. 🤓 I s’pose I'll start using that analogy now.


Trigger warning: suicide, rape, miscarriage.

 

• THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL POST •


Every time I share something personal — like my “me too” or my miscarriage — people end up sharing their experiences with me. Sometimes it’s in the comments. “I’ve never said this before, but I want to share it now.” Often it’s a DM. 💌


I came out as bi last night in my IG and FB stories, and a friend wrote me today. She shared, “The more I think about it, I am sure I am bi too. I’m just not sure because I’ve always dated men… I see you being so authentic, and I want to be too. I feel like there is so much inside of me screaming to get out, and, even if it’s just quietly, it’s nice to tell someone.”


I will be that person. Gladly. I’m honored to serve as witness.


Time and time again, I’ve learned that telling my own story enables others to feel less alone and supported in sharing a bit of their own truth.


Your shares leave me feeling like my own shares are serving something bigger than myself, and that the anxiety I feel is worthwhile. But good lawrd am I over the anxiety!


Usually, during these cathartic shares as well as everyday conversation, I feel like I’m too fucking much.


Often — as I asked Kevin last night — I’ll ask someone close if what I said was okay.


I’m thinkin’ of Erin sitting next to me in Intercultural Communication at Carroll College. Big auditorium class. I’d stand up and speak. Then I’d sit down and immediately turn to her and ask my familiar words: “Was that okay?”


Whenever Kevin comes to my yoga class, I ask him, “How did that land for you? Any feedback on what worked or didn’t work?”


What I’m really asking is, “Was that okay? Am I okay? Do you love me even though I’m me?”


I’m so tired of asking that damn question.


So I’m outing myself in two ways. 💁🏻‍♀️ 1) I’m a bisexual, queer woman married to the most kind and supportive human being I could ever imagine. 2) I’m done asking if I’m okay.


I’m done waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the world to come crashing down because I exist as myself.


It’s not that I don’t care what people think — ‘cause I’m not a bloody psychopath — but I am done being taken out by what (I fear) people think.


So yeah. That’s that. 😘


 

• BEFORE •

I was in Billings. It was November 2008. I was working for Planned Parenthood of Montana and had just organized a super successful demonstration. We had elected Barack Obama, but California had passed Prop 8. Marriage is only between a man and a woman. Fuck. That. I made signs, and 60 peeps showed up in downtown Billings to stand up for gay rights.


That night I drank with my friends. We drank — I drank — a lot in those days. Not long before that night, I slept with a woman for the first time. Not long before that night, I told my brother about it. We regularly conversed over such things — some bizarre bonding over sexual conquests. But this time there were consequences.


Years later, I’m told it wasn’t about my sexuality. Yet for well over a decade, I felt, and continue to feel, the rejection of my family as grief and despair solidified in my bones and tissues. Choked up in my throat. I had been with a woman, and my world crumbled at its core. I was disinvited from my brother's wedding, and, despite my attempts to make amends, there were no easy repairs.


That night I stumbled home upset and drunk. I had brought people together for a cause, I was doing good work, and I was so very alone. My friends could not convince me that what I had accomplished was enough. Or valuable. I was up to big things, but it would never be enough. I would never be enough.


That night I didn’t go into the kitchen of my apartment. That night I stayed in the living room. I curled my body around the leg of my mid-century chair with the olive green fabric — the thrift store find that’s traveled with me since I was 18 — and I held on for my life. Because in the kitchen there were knives, and had I gone in the kitchen I would have died.


This is not an over-dramatization. I’m the kind of person who makes shit happen. My memory of those moments clinging to that chair are vivid. It took a lot to keep myself alive that night.


There are friends who know the story of what led up to that night. I’ve told it often.


The woman. The disinvitation to the wedding. How I tried and failed to make amends with my brother. How I asked my parents to intervene but they wouldn’t. How my brother threatened me: “If you try to come to my wedding I have people who will physically remove you, and you’ll leave with a broken face.” How my mom didn’t believe me when I told her what he said. My older brother standing in solidarity with me because he didn’t approve of how I had been treated. The complete separation from my family. How I clung to my older brother’s family until he decided our political differences were too much.


I’ve told it often.


It’s the biggest trauma of my life — worse than my “me too” and far worse than my miscarriage. Yes, I was raped, and yes, I bled for 40 days, but FUCK.


I felt completely isolated and removed — kicked out — from my family. I avoided blades because I knew what I could do with a knife and a vein.


The fear of officially labeling myself as bisexual was cemented in my body during that time. As I considered saying those words over the years, it felt like death by excommunication all over again.


So I didn’t say those words for fourteen years. I’ve struggled. And I’ve looked for love and acceptance and validation in every corner of my life. I moved great distances more than once for the promise of love. I supplanted my family of origin with a yoga community that disposed of me nearly three months ago when what I had to say was too much.


 

JAW • THROAT • EXPRESSION


My physical jaw. There’s been a pop on the left side for years. In the last few months it’s gotten worse — the popping louder and more frequent. In the last two weeks it’s actually become painful. It’s hard to chew.


I remembered Kyle Cline, our Chinese Medicine doctor here in John Day, and made an appointment. It’s a severe oversimplification, but he’s like a counselor, massage therapist, and energy worker all-in-one. We talked for a bit about the separation from my former yoga community, the ongoing turmoil of what I can and can’t say, and my miscarriage. He identified my layers of grief and suggested an alternative to working with my physical jaw.


He walked me through a body scan and then asked if there were any places I felt something — sensation or stuckness. My throat. Not my pelvis. Absolutely my throat.


He encouraged me to stay with the sensation — stay at just the edge of it without diving all the way in. Curiosity rather than judgment. I stayed with it. And then it moved to my sternum. I’ve been feeling achiness here for months — since the separation from my former yoga community. An ongoing ache lodged between my heart and my throat. The sensation was strong, and it was hard to stay curiously at the edge. I plunged into the depths of those waters, but I pulled myself out and then managed to stay at the edge. Like at the edge of a murky pond.


The sensation — the ache — shifted around from my sternum back to my throat. Then it moved to my forehead, my jaw, my lower teeth. The ache became lighter as it moved to the back of my heart and then back to my throat.


I felt lighter and the colors around me looked brighter. I went to the grocery store and — without thinking about it — bought dinner I’d really have to chew.


I came home and wrote my original post. And now this.

 

• MY BROTHER •

It took years and my father’s death for things to eventually be sorta okay with my mom and my brother.


And now things are better than they’ve ever been.


Andy came to my wedding and suggested he walk me down the aisle in July. It was precious and healing. We danced and laughed. It was fucking beautiful. I love my brother.


I trust saying what I’ve said here will not fracture our bonds. I hope this will create space for more openness and that we’ll all feel more completely seen and valued.


It’s not an option for me to keep quiet and closeted anymore. I must dislodge this shit from my body, my jaw. It needs out. I need out.

 

• COMPLETION •


I find myself wanting to complete this share with a happy ending. Something uplifting. The light to the dark. Dark to the light. But one is not more valid and worthwhile than the other. I’ll stick with a combo ‘cause that’s what’s real.


Kevin could literally not be more supportive. He’s such a flipping gem of a human, and for that I am incredibly thankful. My sweet, dear friends are so encouraging. I laughed when one of you told me to always be myself unapologetically. It if were that easy, I would have done it fourteen years ago. 😝


It feels delicious to laugh right now.


This process will not be linear, and it will take work. I’ve been hiding and scared this whole damn time, and declaring I’m done asking if I’m okay is great in theory. My anxiety and fear of doing or saying something wrong and the long-held belief that my existence is wrong — well, that actually exists physically in my brain as a well-worn pathway. All those neurons carved a big ol’ rut.


And just like it takes effort to move a vehicle out of the rut in a rugged dirt road, it’ll take effort here. It’ll probably look more like constantly reminding myself when those familiar uncomfortable feels come up than a one-and-done statement on social media.


I’m a bisexual, queer woman. I said it. I’ll say it again. And that will be enough (sang in my head to the tune of Hamilton).

 

This is not Hamilton. This is Daft Punk. The end, and you're welcome.



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