Earlier this month, we invited Vancity Buzz readers who identify as LGBT to submit their own ‘coming out’ stories as a way of empowering and inspiring others who may be struggling with their own sexuality.
The sixth of our reader-submitted coming out stories during Vancouver Pride Week 2015 details J. Greg White’s experiences with living in the Maritimes and how he made the big reveal to his parents.
J. Greg White
Occupation: Owner & Editor of TheGCBuzz.com; Creator and Director of Festive Food Frolic; animal advocate
I had been legally married to my ex-husband for almost a year before coming out to my family at 27. Despite a lavish and loving ceremony like no other, we couldn’t share our big day with the world.
My ex-husband was from the United States where same-sex matrimony wasn’t recognized in 2009. My marriage and divorce remained a secret for six years until last month when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex unions in 50 states #lovewins.
The stigma of divorce (and a marriage that was considered a crime or joke in most of the first world) was suddenly lifted. I was free to share my big gay wedding with an American audience via my blog TheGCBuzz.com. Absolving Americans comes with caution: http://thegcbuzz.com/equality-lgbtq
My secrecy on this side of the border stemmed from an upbringing in rural Newfoundland where there were no LGBTQ communities. I never had an openly gay friend. I had never seen a gay-friendly place until I took a scholarship in Halifax at the age of 18.
I felt safe at Mount St. Vincent University (probably the gayest school on Earth) where I studied queer theory and lesbian pulp fiction as electives in the Bachelor of Public Relations program. Excelling in academics and athletics, my sexual orientation became an on-campus question that pushed me back in a quiet closet. Once again, my love for soap operas, dolls, and the color pink shamed me into being “sometimes straight”.
Eventually dating and “doing it” with girls ended. I became “one of the girls” (which always came natural to me). I frequented Reflections (a gay dance bar). I worked at Fabutan (a tanning salon). I publicly dated a gay politician (then a gay Mountie). I knew all of the drag queens in town (more importantly, they knew me – Scott Bosse from Big Brother Canada was my drag mom!).
At school I documented the events of our queer-straight alliance. I was an obvious ‘mo to everyone but my family (because we never talked about it while I was a gay… I mean away).
Fast forward seven years to October 2009. It was a few months before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games when I lived in Coal Harbour with my now ex-husband. My parents wanted to come across the country to see our marina-side home. I was excited for them to see how a successful gay couple lives in a gay-friendly city (plus meet their surprise son-in-law).
A few days before their arrival, I asked my brother (via text) what their opinion of a gay son was and if I should prepare for it. Four long days passed without contact from him or home. My parents would arrive the next day so I called my brother. He said my parents were completely shocked by the question.
“Dad has been really cool about it actually but Mom had four or five heart attacks,” said my brother. They had no idea! Love is blind. Ignorance, bliss.
The next day, they arrived. An awkward three days passed before they decided to get their own space at a nearby hotel on Robson. My brother said it was to “get-away from the gay”, to avoid staying with my partner. I was too much after just learning the news.
We met them for dinner on Robson on the final night of their trip. Afterwards my dad invited us back to their hotel for a drink. In the lobby we were greeted by the flamboyancy and opulence of the Mr. & Ms. Gay Vancouver pageant. Sequins, heels, make-up, wigs, and jewelry were on the men while the ladies wore moustaches, shaved heads, and business suits or construction wear. Most of them were friends of mine, they all wanted to meet the folks.
My Newfoundland dad, then age 65, ran to the elevator before anyone could shake his hand. Mom’s jaw hit the floor before staring in disbelief. My brother was giggling under his breath and saying, “what are the chances?” I wanted to die then and there.
Meanwhile, my dad is beckoning my mom from the elevator to hurry. On the elevator ride up, my mom broke the awkward silence by saying, “I just wanted to see the bags and shoes… but I was surprised they were all knock-offs.” My father’s response: “Those aren’t the only fake things you saw!”
So much for a “get-away from the gay!” The gay is here to stay!
Vancity Buzz is a proud media partner of the 2015 Vancouver Pride Festival