Journey to Me: How I Came Out to Myself and Embraced All of Me

by Charmaine Lang I saw her sitting in the room during a morning break at a conference. Beautiful...

by Charmaine Lang

I saw her sitting in the room during a morning break at a conference. Beautiful, with big hair framing her face. I was drawn to this woman. I had, before then, never been instantly drawn to anyone, especially a woman.

She was sitting at the table with two other women of color, and a white woman. I went over and introduced myself. I would see her throughout the conference, almost as if something was bringing us together. I wanted to get closer to her. And, at the same time, I did not want to get closer, for fear of what it would mean to my pretense as a straight woman.

She invited me to dinner the next day, and I gave her every excuse as to why I could not accept her invitation. At the time, I didn’t even know her intentions. I didn’t know if she was attracted to me, or just wanted someone to accompany her to a restaurant. At dinner she stared at me. Making me even more uncomfortable. I would not return her gaze, though I admired her beauty from my peripheral vision, and quietly wondered how it would feel to hold her hand, or run my fingers through her hair.

I had to excuse myself from the table, and go to the bathroom and have a talk with myself. It went something like this. “No, ma’am. You cannot like this woman. End of story. Get your life together.” Further denial.

I had denied my attraction to women since I was younger. It was safer to parade around as heterosexual given how homophobic society and my family could be. I remember seeing my younger sister’s journey to coming out as a lesbian and how some members of my family isolated and ridiculed her. I recall seeing our mother’s struggle with blaming herself for having a gay daughter, compounded by one of her sisters declaring that my sister was going to hell for her “deviant” behavior.

I was considered the good daughter. The one who did everything she was supposed to do.

So, I paraded around as a heterosexual Black woman until I decided that I no longer wanted to deny my queer identity. I had to go through the process of coming out to myself.

This woman and I stayed in touch mostly through texting. I kept my responses minimal and vague, as I didn’t want to lead myself on or make her believe I was interested. I didn’t want to ask questions of her, nor of myself. I had settled into a sense of denial of my intimate desires for Black women, and I was comfortable with that.

But then I saw her again.

It wasn’t until three months later at yet another conference that she asked me straight out if I liked her. I shifted around in my seat a little, trying to decide how much to reveal, how much to hold on to. I ended up telling her that I was attracted to her. It was not an easy thing to admit to myself, let alone say out loud, on a bus with other folks on it at that. But I felt free to look at her in all her beauty, to take it in, and appreciate it. I felt free.

At 33, I finally felt free to admit that I am emotionally, sexually, and romantically attracted to Black women. I mean, I am still single. A band did not start to play after this admission, and life largely remained the same.

What did change, though, was how I began to move about my world. Allowing myself to be open to whatever the universe has for me. I no longer have to pretend anymore. I don’t have to worry whether or not my friend saw me checking out a woman. Hell, I no longer have to question or justify why I was checking out a woman. I know now what I’ve always known: I am attracted to women.

Yep, I said it.

Accepting my queer identity has allowed me to further explore my creativity, to lift boundaries I have set due to my fear of falling in love with a woman. I have reexamined what life could be like with a woman, or a man for that reason, because I’m still very much attracted to men too. It’s created a space for me to be open to possibilities, open to the universe, open to myself. When we deny any parts of our true selves, we neglect that which is most beautiful, and that which makes us whole human beings. Perfectly complex.

I am perfectly complex.

It took a while to accept it, to bask in what makes me human—my complexities. But here are some of the pieces to my journey to accepting my queerness.

1. I speak to the universe.

I pray for guidance and support with self-love and love from a partner. As I prayed, I began to realize that people were coming into my life that were supportive and loving, and they challenged me to go deeper with my love for self. I also noticed that my descriptions of an ideal mate became genderless. I no longer prayed for a man, but I prayed for genuine love from a beautiful soul whom I could share experiences and a lifetime together.

2. I keep a journal.

I write about what I want to experience. How I want to feel. I think deeply about love, hurt, and lessons learned. I try to write everyday as it helps me to relieve stress, to clarify my thoughts, and to explore what I want in life. What I write in my journal often signals for me what I need to release, what I need to usher into my life, and the progress I have made.

3. I surround myself with open-minded people.

The people in my life are accepting, allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, or are queer themselves. So when I came out to folks, it was mostly a beautifully supportive experience. There were questions of course, but no one made me feel bad for coming out. In fact, I felt more affirmed and at peace as a result.

4. I write poetry.

In “Poetry is not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde asserts, “poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” It was through my poetry that I could write about my attraction to women, without fear of who would judge me. I wrote poetry as a way to organize my thoughts. To survive. To dream. And to embrace all of my intersecting identities as I moved to action.

5. I am in nature.

There’s something about being amongst the trees, the green hills, and the ocean that opens me to all of my senses. I can smell the lavender and rosemary. I can see the vastness of the rolling green hills. I hear the sounds of the waves from the ocean and at once I feel the water pull at my feet. I am in love with nature. It was actually on a trip to Sonoma and Los Angeles where I was entirely engrossed in natural beauty that I felt at peace and was quiet enough to hear what my spirit was telling me. It was also here, in nature that I began to awaken to all of me, and see my queerness as a part of who I am.

6. I cry.

Sometimes shit gets rough. Meditating, great friends or journaling may not be what I need at the time. Crying may very well be what I need to do. And so I cry when I need to. Too often, we, as young people, are taught to stop all that crying. And as grown folks, especially women of color, we are made to believe that to be strong means to deal with it all with a smile on our face. I realize that there is no strength in denying how I am feeling. I honor my feelings and let them pass through me, realizing at the same time, they are just emotions needing to be processed and released. Crying is therapeutic.

Accepting all of me, and loving me unapologetically, has been revolutionary. I realize that there is no freedom in denying any part of me, so I acknowledge that I am the one I have been waiting for to love me, hold me, and set me free.

We are worth loving all of what makes us complex, full, beautiful human beings. What are some of the pieces to your journey of self-love and acceptance?

Photo: Shutterstock

Charmaine spends her time dancing and daydreaming about love, self-care and what it would be like to have an Ooloi in her life. When not doing that, she is a fourth year doctoral student and Program Manager at the Reproductive Justice Collective, and she loves reading Afro-futuristic novels, and pissing narrow-minded people off with her talk of intersectional liberation.

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