I went to the picnic looking for my people.
I was nervous heading over. Stalled. Changed my shirt twice. Settled, in the end, on a casual note: “Saint in training.” It’s an icebreaker.
Turns out I didn’t need help breaking the ice. The organizer welcomed me as soon as I arrived. By then the crowd had thinned to a little more than a dozen, but at its peak, I’m told, 25 people came to Nelson Park to Celebrate Bisexuality Day on Sept 23. I hadn’t even known such a day existed.
I poured myself a cup of warm root beer as an impromptu trio crooned Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” If my life were an after-school special and I was just coming out for the first time, the credits would start rolling right about now.
Of course, coming out for the second time can be challenging, too.
It took me a good 10 minutes to work up the courage to crash the clique on the blankets. Again, my hesitation proved unnecessary. The young women welcomed me warmly and immediately invited me to join them.
I might have arrived.
After a summer of being teased by teammates on my lesbian softball team, and feeling increasingly self-conscious holding my boyfriend’s hand at gay events, I was looking for a little belonging. I wanted to come home again.
The women on the blanket were friendly, eager to share their experiences with me. We talked about preferred terms, pansexual versus bisexual, and debated the merits of polyamory. But they didn’t become instant family.
They weren’t my people.
I already have my people, I realized in a rush, as I walked back toward the bus stop. I just have to give them a chance to keep being my people.
Two weeks earlier, I had, after some agonizing, asked one of my teammates to please stop teasing me about dating a man.
“You’ve been very supportive overall,” I said, “but these days I feel like I get thrust back into a spotlight that I’d like to move out from under when you and the others tease me. Sometimes I just don’t feel like I belong on the Beavers anymore.”
“Sure, sweetie,” she wrote back almost instantly. “If it bothers you that much I won’t tease you.”
Then the next morning: “If I could just say something without offending you,” Jenn ventured. “I think a major part of why you feel like you aren’t part of the Beavers anymore is because you haven’t been to more than four practices and have missed a lot of games.”
You’re the one pulling away, my wise friend told me. Your friends are not abandoning you because you unexpectedly fell in love with a man. You’re shying away from your friends for fear of rejection, and they’re feeling your absence and reacting.
“We want to see you more, okay?” she concluded with a friendly happy face.
I instantly got defensive. “For the record, I made it to more than four practices,” I snapped.
A few hours later, I relented. “But I have been pulling away a bit in general,” I admitted. “I think you have a point: if I act like I’m not sure I belong and I distance myself, then others will feel that distance and respond, whether consciously or not.”
“You’re saying I should join you and be myself and bring my man — just don’t pull away. Right?” I asked.
“Yes, precisely,” Jenn replied. “Your friends don’t care if you are dating a man if he makes you happy. They care if you stop hanging out with them because you are with a man.”
“Clearly, I’m the one who needs to take a deep breath and have the courage to be myself, honour the guy I love, and trust my friends enough to keep sharing my life with them,” I slowly wrote back.
“Still here, still queer, got a man, get used to it!” Jenn promptly replied.
“Thanks for being so understanding and supportive,” I messaged her the next day. “We all have our own stories and reasons for feeling like we don’t belong, right? We just need to be ourselves and hold our heads high, I guess. Helps when you’ve got a circle of supportive friends, though. Helps even more when you let them support you.”