This essay, in which I wrote about my own coming out story, was originally published on April 19, 2009, at AfterEllen.com in my column “Notes and Queeries.” In honor of National Coming Out Day, which is today, I’m reposting it here.
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In the midst of the mini brouhaha that erupted after actor Clementine Ford (The L Word, The Young & The Restless) came out, denied coming out, and then came out again (officially), the one fact that jumped out at me was this: Ford was married for four years to a man.
I’m not trying to deny that she came out. Ford told The Advocate, “Look, I am gay, and I just wanted there not to be this big emphasis on it.”
It just struck me that there’s another term for someone who was once in a long-term relationship with a man before identifying as gay: bisexual.
From the little that Ford has said publicly about her sexual orientation, she doesn’t appear to identify as bisexual, and that’s fine. There are probably plenty of reasons for that, and none of them are my business. But her former marriage does make the ambiguity of her statements to Diva and TV Guide make a little more sense — at least to me, because I, too was in a long-term relationship with a man before I identified as a lesbian.
For several years after that relationship ended (well into my late 20s), I was also reluctant to put a label on myself. Whenever anyone asked me about my own sexual orientation, I often gave them answers just as cryptic as those that Ford gave to Diva — and I wasn’t a public figure like she is.
This was partly because I wasn’t ready to be a lesbian, which carries its own set of rights and responsibilities. Nor did I want to align myself with all the stereotypes that fall under the term bisexual. So how could I explain that I had once had a happy relationship with a man for almost five years, and yet was attracted to women?