I knew I was in trouble when I caught myself dropping pronouns and dodging questions.
“Are you going to Guatemala alone?” my colleagues asked.
“Well, I’m meeting my parents first in Mexico,” I hedged. Not a lie, but hardly the whole truth.
A few weeks later: “Are you going to Guatemala with the new woman you’ve been seeing?”
“The new woman? Um, not exactly.”
My weekend details became blurred, their pronouns abandoned. Holding hands became an exercise in looking over my shoulder, for fear that somebody might see us. I didn’t dare tell my bosses, for fear that they might fire me. I didn’t dare tell my community, for fear that they might disown me.
And yet I lived recklessly too. I brought Ross with me to WinterPride. The staff at the lodge knew I was in Whistler to cover gay ski week; they also knew I’d brought along a friend. The clerk showed me where to find spare bedding for the pullout couch. Ross and I made sure to leave pillows out the next morning.
I ran into fag-about-town Fred Lee that night at a media reception. He asked where I was staying.
“The Nita Lake Lodge,” I replied, not giving it too much thought.
“Oh honey, me too! Which room are you in?”
“306,” I replied, a bit more hesitantly.
“I’m right below you!”
Oh God. Don’t go pale, I told myself. The rest of the weekend was peppered with “Don’t wake Fred” jokes.
The risk couldn’t obliterate the thrill of a new relationship, couldn’t melt the permagrin from my lips. It even heightened the thrill. Sometimes. The threat of potential job loss and ostracization carried little allure.
We sent out separate emails to our co-ed hockey team, each of us announcing our intention to be in Guatemala at the same time. “You’re kidding! You’re going to be there too? We should compare itineraries,” Ross posted. “We should do lunch,” I replied, laughing behind my screen.
The team didn’t clue in. I had trained my straight teammates so well, carving a gay spot for myself in a group that may not have initially understood me but soon moved to embrace me and even defend my choices. “She doesn’t like virile men,” Ian sternly reminded Ross one night, as my secret boyfriend stood to drive me home. How could I undo more than a year of stellar outreach by telling the team about this?
I told myself that if we got through Guatemala still speaking to each other I would come out. Because I was not about to slip back into any closet. I had worked too hard for too long to be myself and to live my life openly and honestly.
We passed the Guatemala test with flying colours.
Two days later, I got a call from my boss. “You know, Pink Triangle Press will support you no matter what choices you make, including romantically, in your life,” Matt told me, apropos of nothing.
“What did you just say?” I stumbled.
Turns out my best friend at the press couldn’t stand to let me agonize over a non-threat any longer. Convinced there would be no repercussions, he told the head of the company that I am dating a man.
“I’m only appalled that you spent even one moment in the closet,” Matt said.
For the second time in my life, a massive coming-out weight melted off my shoulders.
With the unconditional support of my inner circle and my colleagues, I started sharing my truth with more people: friends, teammates, even some professional acquaintances. It gets easier each time but no less thrilling with each revelation.
“What if our readers feel betrayed?” I asked the head of the press when he came to town.
“We’re educators,” he replied. “We’ll educate them.”
Besides, he added, you might be underestimating the tribe.
I might indeed. So far, not a single person I’ve come out to has rejected me. Without exception, everyone has been shocked, true. Most do a double take. Then they smile.
“Whatever makes you happy,” they say. “When do we get to meet him?”