Be­cause Oprah said so

GA Voice - - The Power of Lgbt Media -

Back in my clos­eted days, I was a stay-ath­ome mom steeped in a fun­da­men­tal evan­gel­i­cal cul­ture. I was train­ing to be­come a Bib­li­cal coun­selor to find out what a Bib­li­cal coun­selor would tell me to do to cure me of be­ing a les­bian.

My life con­sisted of a lot of Bi­ble mem­o­riza­tion, prayer, search­ing my heart for un­con­fessed sin and gen­er­ally be­ing some­one that I re­ally wasn’t. I spent a lot of time in ladies’ Bi­ble study feel­ing emo­tion­ally at­tracted to other women be­ing vul­ner­a­ble and open with each other, then driv­ing home feel­ing sin­ful, guilty and not blam­ing God at all for not “heal­ing” me.

I lived in para­noia that some­one would fig­ure out that I was gay. Maybe they would see my DVD of “Ground­hog Day” and fig­ure out that I was hot for Andie MacDow­ell. Then, my life would be over.

I toyed with the idea of liv­ing in truth for the first time when I saw an Oprah show in Oc­to­ber of 1998. The episode was “Find­ing Your Au­then­tic Self ” and she and au­thor Sarah Ban Breath­nach (‘Sim­ple Abun­dance’) were dis­cussing women who long for more in their lives. Oprah kept say­ing things like, “What would the world be like if you were just au­then­tic? What if you stopped wear­ing masks and pre­tend­ing you’re some­thing you aren’t?” Easy for you to say, Oprah. How­ever, an idea was planted and I started to al­low my­self to imag­ine what it would be like if I could just be my real, les­bian self. What would my life be like if peo­ple knew I was gay (and didn’t care), I could marry a woman, have a fam­ily with her, fall asleep hold­ing her and let her do all of the dec­o­rat­ing so I didn’t have to?

This tiny nugget of imag­i­nary real es­tate was hid­den in a cor­ner of my mind. At night, when my work was done and ev­ery­one was fed, bathed and the house was in or­der, I would lay down to go to bed (even when I wasn’t tired). I would visit my imag­i­nary wife (who looked ex­actly like Andie MacDow­ell) and our imag­i­nary life and spend time with her do­ing mostly the same things I was do­ing in my real life. But with her, it was amaz­ing.

I think this small act of claim­ing my own world in my head, where it was safe from dis­cov­ery, was my pri­mary cop­ing mech­a­nism for that stress­ful time in my life. It was a place where hope lived and I went there as of­ten as I could – in all of the quiet mo­ments.

About eight years ago, I went to a coffee shop with one of my best friends. I was hav­ing friendly con­ver­sa­tion with the barista when she said, “You re­mind me of Shane from ‘The L Word’”. I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart be­gan to pound while I pre­tended not to know what she was talk­ing about.

Yes, I heard of “The L Word” in a doc­tor’s of­fice mag­a­zine. I knew it was about les­bians and, no, I had never seen it. But I knew what it was.

Be­mused, my bestie de­fended me. “She has al­ways been a rocker-chick tom­boy, ever since we were kids.”

But there was a shift af­ter that. Some other woman (who seemed nor­mal) was watch­ing a show about les­bians, had gay­dar and picked up on my gay­ness when I was so far in the closet I was find­ing Christ­mas presents.

I de­cided to do the un­think­able: I bought the first sea­son of “The L Word” and watched the DVDs on my lap­top when I took my son to foot­ball prac­tice. I sat in the car at the back of the park­ing lot and watched women liv­ing openly gay lives and I wanted that life for my­self. Also, the sex. I wanted that, too. A lot.

The de­sire in me to have a life like this grew un­til I fi­nally mus­tered the courage to come out and be my au­then­tic self. As you might ex­pect, Oprah was right. It’s amaz­ing!

I never mar­ried Andie MacDow­ell (al­though I re­main hope­ful) and I had to dec­o­rate my house my­self. My real life isn’t like the one I imag­ined all of those years (ex­cept for do­ing the same mun­dane things). Still, I am pro­foundly grate­ful that those two events hap­pened to help me get to the place where I can now hap­pily live my au­then­tic life.

By SHAN­NON HAMES “Oprah kept say­ing things like, ‘What would the world be like if you were just au­then­tic? What if you stopped wear­ing masks and pre­tend­ing you’re some­thing you aren’t?’ Easy for you to say, Oprah.”

Shan­non Hames cred­its ‘The Oprah Win­frey Show’ and Show­time’s ‘The L Word’ for plac­ing her on a path to­wards self-ac­cep­tance. (Pub­lic­ity pho­tos)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.