When I first outed
It was summer, I was living in an apartment with some fellow steardesses, and I wasn’t out to a soul.
I had spent the last several months haunting the website of the one bar in the city that had an exclusively lesbian night once a week. Over and over again I would return to the page, each time feeling a little jolt of adrenaline as the screen loaded. The homepage featured a video of one of the dance floors – I must have watched that thing a hundred times. All those women dancing together! It seemed impossible that such a place actually existed, that it was real, that there were hundreds of women there like me. The fact that all of this was just five minutes away baffled and excited me.
But I couldn’t possibly go there, I thought. Who would I go with? What if someone I know sees me? After months of allowing the fear to hold me back, I could take it no longer. I had to see this place for myself.
One Saturday night, I convinced my friends I was staying in because I was too tired to go out. While they prepared for a night on the town, I pretended to get ready for bed: washing my face, brushing my teeth, getting into pyjamas. It was 12:30 by the time they left and I was finally alone. In a flurry, I got changed for the club, ran out the front door, and hailed a taxi. I was nervous. This was it. I was driving to a gay bar. All those days spent reading lesbian websites, all those hours pining for Kristen Stewart and listening to Tegan and Sara – that was all just in my head. No one in the world knew about that but me. Now reality was about to break in. Be still my heart. In the back of the cab I remember laughing to myself and repeating over and over, “Oh my god. I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
I was completely sober, and here I was being driven to a bar that I had never been to, alone at 12:30 at night. No one even knew I had left. As I was pulling up, I could see some women spilling out of the club onto the back patio. Another shot of fear coursed through me. I paid the driver, who was smirking when he said "good luck", and took a deep breath.
At the door, I knew I would have to show my driver's licence and pay the £15 cover for u******e patrons. I was prepared for all this because I had practically memorized the club’s website. What I wasn’t prepared for was the beating in my chest, the wads of cotton that seemed inexplicably to be filling my mouth, and the sudden sweatiness of my palms.
The woman checking for IDs lazily reached for mine. Suddenly my fingers wouldn’t work. My hands seemed to have grown three sizes, or maybe my wallet shrunk three but either way my fingers were tripping all over each other and then as if in slow motion I could see my wallet tumbling out of my hands in a swan dive for the ground before landing with a thud and spilling its contents across the floor. I could feel my cheeks flushing as I knelt down to scoop up my credit cards and receipts splayed out on the carpet. So much for playing it cool.
When I finally made it into the club, I was no less intimidated. There were people everywhere – and they were all together. In groups or in couples, everyone had someone to talk to, dance with, and generally not feel like a loser with. Except me. So I sat down at a high bar stool table and pulled out my phone. I was too petrified to look around. And because none of my friends knew I was there or even that I was gay, I had no one to talk to. So I did something I’m not proud of – I fake texted.
I believe my inner dialogue went something along the lines of: “Oh my god, everyone knows I’m here alone. Everyone is staring at me thinking I am a huge creep… Wait a minute. No one is actually looking at me. Why is no one looking at me?? Am I not attractive to lesbians? F*ck, here comes someone. La di da, don’t mind me, I’m just looking at my cell phone, checking all my text messages from all my hot lady suitors… Okay, phew. They passed.”
This went on for an hour. I literally sat there, surrounded by sexy women and fun music, staring at a blank cell phone screen. It was getting late. The bar was going to close in 45 minutes. Suddenly, something clicked in me. I stood up, mumbled “F*ck it” under my breath, and walked into the crowd of dancing lesbians.
Do you know how awkward it is to dance by yourself amidst a crowd of people all dancing in couples or groups? I’m pretty sure it’s up there in my nightmares with showing up naked to middle school and my teeth falling out of my face. But nevertheless, I started dancing. And then I saw her. I had never seen a real boi before, and this one was all abs in a sports bra and cargo shorts. She looked like she was having the time of her life and I was positive I had never seen anything like her in mine. I audibly said, “Wow.”
I continued dancing with my eye on her for awhile, but I had no intentions of approaching. She was older and the hottest girl in the room and I was a babydyke alone at my first gay bar. So I let it go and just kept dancing. I couldn’t believe I was actually there, surrounded by other girls who like girls. In spite of my lonely awkwardness, it felt like coming home.
Then by chance, we made eye contact. She smiled. I smiled back. Then suddenly she was heading my way and I couldn’t believe what was happening. She came up and said hi and we started dancing. Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” was on, and I knew the whole music video dance to it, so we laughed and danced and laughed. She shouted over the music to me, “You’re awesome!” There was such sincerity in her voice. It was years ago, but I know I will never forget that moment. My infant gay heart needed to hear those words right then. It was like she saw all my insecurities and doubts about being gay and being loveable, not only in spite of, but because of that part of me which I had been unable to share with a soul until I set foot in that bar, that night.
“So are you!” I laughed and shouted back. We danced together for the next half hour, until the lights came on and everyone was clearing the floor. She asked me my name and told me hers was Cassie. Then she leaned in and gave me a peck on the lips; my very first girl kiss.
I never saw Cassie again, but that didn’t matter. It was better that way, in fact, because I got to keep the memory of that night as a pure moment in time, untainted by future interactions. The kiss wasn’t romantic or sexual. Rather, it was as though she somehow saw me for what I was – scared, alone, excited – and she gave me what I needed in that moment. Like some kind of lesbian fairy-godmother, Cassie showed me that I was going to be okay; that no matter how dark or scary the path ahead might be, this was where I belonged, and it was all going to be okay.