Megan Hillier-Geisler shares her experience coming out to family, friends, random waiters,
and the heartbreak and hilarity that ensued.
Starting to write this is like thinking about coming out–there is no perfect way (or maybe right way) so it seems like I should just leap in head first because it’s going to be messy and full of run on sentences no matter what I do. It’s also a love story. Not about the first girl I loved, but how so many people came to fill in a void with even more love than I had before.
The very first person I came out to was the girl I’d been smooching for months, years even. Never had it occurred to me that I might actually be gay–not just kissing my high school best friend/college roommate [read: worst idea ever]. It seemed really important I let her know. Of course the point where this all became apparent was when she’d decided to smooch someone else (a boy no less, adding insult to injury). After a long drive, all the tears, and an unmeasured amount of pleading that I’m not proud of –she suggested that I tell someone else. Part of the problem was that we were just keeping this to ourselves. This rejection and completely correct observation from her was probably the most painful interaction I’ve ever had with another human being. I hurt so badly, but her cutting off communication forced me to be open with at least one other person, then another. And at 32 years old, I can now see that waterfall has put me in a pretty good spot.
Brother, sister, and all the sisters
You first need to know two things:
- I have a really small family. Comically small. Mom, dad, brother, sister. A few cousins here or there–but I’d lost all my grandparents by the time I was in 8th grade. It was just the 5 of us for a really long time. Because my family is so small, and through the wonderful example of my parents, I don’t draw too many lines between close friends and family.
- I was in a sorority at a big state school.
With that collective understanding established – I’ve had a best friend for my entire life. Not like we met in kindergarten and we stayed friends. I’m talking our moms were sorority sisters in college, we were born 6 months apart, lived down the street from each other, she was at my house eating donuts and watching Saturday morning cartoons before I was awake kind of all-my-life. Libby and I are also really different, but it’s always felt like it was in a sibling way. There was no choice but to love each other, because she’s the 4th Hillier sibling. She also knew Smoochy McGoo so I told her when things went south. She was nothing but supportive and asked why I wasn’t on the phone with my brother and sister yet. I stalled by saying I wanted to do it in person, an obviously difficult task since my home town was all of 45 minutes away from campus. But it felt like an eternity. She checked in about it to make sure I really did it. Eventually I did. I told my brother and his reaction was confusion that quickly turned to compassion–and never really took the pit stop at comprehension because it didn’t matter. Once he figured out I was heartbroken, he assumed the role of protector big brother.
It took me another 6 months or so to tell my sister. Partly because she lived in Chicago and mostly because I was terrified. I’m not sure why; she had gay friends that we had all met, lived in an open place, and was the first person to tell me that Pride parades existed. She was understanding that day when I told her in the childhood bedroom we used to share. She offered advice about telling mom and dad. Mostly she gloated that she had thought as much but I really threw her for a loop when I had a boyfriend in high school. She enabled me in a comfortable way, not pushing me to tell mom and dad, letting me and my now wife stay at her apartment in Chicago on a long weekend away from the summer camp where we worked, and even flew to DC to help me find an apartment when I graduated. (She mostly distracted my parents, taking them to another room when I casually came out to potential roommates to gauge how comfortable a space would be.) My 3 siblings–two biological and one assumed–pushed me to be open, and also ran interference instinctively.
But there was a whole different world of sisters too. And that had history… I was [and am] a proud member of a sorority. The 100+ girls living under one roof to eat, study, laugh, fight, and grow up together kind of sorority. Even though my friendships were extraordinarily real, I was terrified to tell them since I didn’t know what they would think about me sleeping in the same cold dorm or sharing a bathroom. We’d also had a profound misunderstanding with massive backlash occur when I was a junior. A member was on an LGBT panel discussion called “being greek and being gay.” Our chapter president asked her not to wear her letters as policy is that no members speaks for all members. We would follow this policy if a fire started and the news came, so she figured it would be the same in this situation. Our sister on the panel didn’t take it that way, understandably feeling wronged and unsupported. Long story short–it blew up at the event, the student paper covered it and quickly found out our chapter, and dragged the situation into the mud. And closeted me was stuck between friends on both sides–and only one side knew I was gay. It was horrible. It’s honestly one of the only really negative interactions I’ve had surrounding being gay. And I take some definite blame. I wasn’t honest in a situation where I should have spoken up and could have directed the situation, a fact that sister never got over–not that I can blame her. I worked hard to repair some relationships and she chose to walk away. Equally valid, most likely equally painful. (When I got engaged and received public congrats from other sisters from this incident, she is the one who broke years of silence to congratulate me on being a raging hypocrite; can’t win ‘em all.)
That whole deal kept me from telling almost anyone. The only sister that did know (outside of the panelist) during my time in the house was a woman who was and is the embodiment of Elle Woods. Our friendship is one I’ve never understood since we’re so very different, but she did me a huge favor. Her sister–also greek but a few years older–came to visit… with her girlfriend. I couldn’t contain my curiosity, my natural attraction to hang out with them. Upon leaving, they asked her if I was gay. She said she thought so but we’d never talked about it. Later she would tell me that I one time put my hands on her hips and she knew then. She didn’t feel threatened, or that I was attracted to her (which I wasn’t), but “girls just don’t typically touch other girls that way.” And that was that. I’ll never be able to thank Prespi enough for understanding me before I understood myself.
The night of graduation–I still hadn’t told anyone. We went out, got crazy, and all woke up to have brunch, finish packing, and say goodbye to each other and the house we’d lived in together for 3 years. It was already emotional. I stole friends away one and a time. I pulled them into an empty room and told them. I got “oh, ok,” “I thought you were,” “it doesn’t matter. I love you, obviously,” “we kinda wondered who you were sneaking off to talk to,” and the infamous “ you only wear polos and baseball caps to the bars when we all get dressed up. You thought you were surprising us??” Not a negative comment in the bunch. I regret not telling my sisters sooner. It really could have changed my college experience. I never should have doubted them, because they never gave me a reason to, and to this day they’ve never disappointed me.
We worked together at summer camp. Alyssa was 18 and I was 21. I didn’t know if she was gay, but man oh man did I have a crush on her. I moved my breaks around and stayed up late to be around her. This love story is too great to spill here, so that will come in another post. Basically this is here to pique your interest. Just know that I was an idiot and got unbelievably lucky. Lucky to have her, and lucky to be a welcome part of her family.
I’m sure this subheading makes some of you cringe. I was racked with anxiety to tell my parents. I thought for sure my mom would be ok, and my dad would be mad. I also thought I needed to be in a relationship before I could tell them, just so I was sure. I’m apparently the worst judge of outcomes. I’d been dating my now wife for 6 months, graduated college, and was heading to DC for my first job. They were helping me move and I felt obligated to be truthful before I left home to be an adult. With the help of my brother, I decided I’d tell them after dinner one night. He stood in the kitchen, urging me with his eyes. Eventually he said “Meg has something to tell you.” I took a deep breath, hugged my very short mom from behind–my arms over her shoulders and crossed over her neck–and plainly said, “Alyssa and I are dating.” I felt mom sink and begin to cry. Dad other other hand winked, said “that explains a few things, kiddo,” and walked into the living room to continue watching the Cubs game. Words cannot express how much I love that man. One time, he asked me if I wanted to go to the shooting range with him. I replied “I’m a lesbian, vegetarian, Democrat. Want about that makes you think I want to shoot a gun??” It takes a special dad to belly-laugh at that. Mom had a tough time coming to terms, but was eventually convinced by our Methodist minister that I am the same person, Alyssa is a good person, we treat each other with respect and love, “so what’s the problem, Judy?” Now my mom sends Alyssa’s parents cookies every Christmas, texts her all the time, and supports our every move. Where dad was 100% in from the beginning, mom’s struggle makes her support equally amazing.
This is a weird category that shouldn’t be weird. It feels different though. Coming out to new friends you make before you feel completely comfortable is its own hurdle. As I moved to DC after graduation, I had a real, live girlfriend for the first time in my life. She wasn’t out, but not really in. I had a new life where I didn’t know anyone, and the opportunity to be gay from the get go. Exciting, but a task in deciding how you drop that bomb. Is it the first thing you say? Do you wait for relationship conversation to come up? Do you casually drop it into conversation so that you make them think you’re HELLA comfortable? I went the dropping in conversation route, which was most assuredly executed as awkwardly as possible. But it was amazing to feel like I was beginning new relationships honestly. Friends from that time in my life hold a really special place in my heart. Mostly because I was authentically me, and I hope that afforded them to be authentically them–even when it wasn’t super comfortable.
Every. Damn. Day.
Each new group project for grad school; each new friend met here in Salt Lake City; each colleague that starts at my organization; our realtor, mortgage broker, and insurance company. The coming out is never over. Hell–every time Alyssa and I go to dinner, get a check with the questions “together or separate?”–TOGETHER feels like a declaration of who we are. But that’s ok. We’re together.