Bonnie Aspen – Coming Out

“A very intellectual coming out.”

I was 26. I had a very intellectual coming out.

My best friend, in the town I was living in, was a lesbian. I just finished a relationship with a pre-operative transsexual: female to male, which meant . . . , with no way to get an operation . . . He had been living as a man for 12 years at that point. [This was in] Lincoln City, Oregon. A very small town. He wore overalls and a down vest. In Lincoln City, Oregon, on the coast, you could get away with that most of the year.

I really hadn’t had a clue [about him] until we sat on the edge of the bed to sleep together for the first time. He said, “I think there’s something you need to know about me.” All of the straight women that he had ever had relationships with in that city had kept his secret, had not outed him. [He] turned out to be the most “male” male I was ever in a relationship with. Upon examination, [I realized that] I had always chosen on the effeminate side of males. But boy! The [male] ego was totally there [with him]. I mean, it was absolutely incredible.

[Jill,] this lesbian friend I had, had been telling me for weeks about this really beautiful, exotic looking woman that she was cruising all over town, with this long black hair and these almond eyes—just wonderful.[1] But she could never bring herself to introduce herself or anything to this beautiful woman. Well, my friend Jill I invited home one day to finally meet [my boyfriend]. She walked in the room to meet my boyfriend and her eyes got really big. She said, “I left the iron on. I think I need to go home.” I mean, this was a lesbian: she didn’t iron! She ran out the door. A couple of hours later I went to her house and I said, “What was that about?” She said, “You remember that woman I’ve been cruising all over town? That’s your boyfriend.”

Anyway, so I really started looking at things and it was like, “Oh. I’m loving this body. His ego won’t let me touch that body, because he’s so ashamed of that body.” Anyway, I had a real epiphany. A very intellectual coming out. Once I had what I call my “forehead moment” [slapping palm of hand to forehead], “Oh, gosh! Why didn’t I get it?” I could put all the pieces together from my college years, my relationships, all of that. It was pretty amazing.

Once I had my intellectual coming out, my friend Jill told me about my friend Willow—and that she was really crushed out on me. I went through quite a bit quite a bit of denial about that. And [Jill’s] like, “No. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” [I’d say,] “No, no. She’s my friend. Couldn’t be. Couldn’t be.” But it was.

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Since the minute that we moved to California, we haven’t been in the closet again. It’s just not a thing we’ve done.

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I did [come out] to mom. I hadn’t come out to them yet [when we wanted to be married]. [My mom was] a man hater, yeah. She was like, “Oh, I hope I haven’t turned you into a man hater.” It’s like, “Nope. I love women, mom. It’s really a different issue.” She was like, “I really am glad you didn’t bring me home a son-in-law. I probably would’ve killed him.”

But mom was okay. She and my stepfather liked Willow a lot. She was glad I didn’t bring home a man. We left it at that. But my mom was always really clear, “Well, I don’t want you telling your brother. He doesn’t need to hear that ‘L word.’” I didn’t really have a relationship with my brother anyway, so it was kind of a moot point.

[1]“Jill” is a pseudonym.

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 15 August 2007; transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman. Audio file held in the Museum of Arts and Culture.