Deena Romoff – Coming Out

“Are you together?”

So this guy [at work], Bob, was 20 years younger than me. We became good, good, good friends. He was a good Christian fellow. One day—it was National Coming Out Day—I went in his office and I closed the door. This is after knowing him six, seven years. I’m sure he knew—but it’s something you don’t talk about—because my partner worked there. [My partner and I would] have matching lunches and the whole thing. I said, “Bob, I want to tell you something.” He said, “What?” I said, “I want to tell you I’m a lesbian.” He goes, “Oh, my God! Why did I have to know that? Why do I have to know something like that?” One thing I said to him was, “Because, if anything happens in our society,”—and I think it was a pretty rough time [in the early 1980s]: people were getting very homophobic; a lot of the killings and all of that was happening. I said, “Because, if anything happens politically, you need to remember that you loved a lesbian, and you need to do something. You’re the one that needs to do something.” So then, things really changed a lot with this. He comes in and he said, “I think my cousin’s a lesbian.” [Laughs.]

But then he started talking “gay.” I said, “You’re not allowed to say the word ‘gay’ to me. You have to say ‘lesbian,’” because it’s a big word and people don’t know how to say it. It’s too big for them. It’s too bold. It’s like, try to get someone to say the word “woman.” It’s impossible! A “woman” is an Amazon. Whereas a “lady,” or a “young lady” . . . They can’t do it. He was a quiet fellow, sitting in the lunchroom one day, and everybody’s talking. Somebody said, “Oh, I read this article about these gay women, who . . .” From behind his newspaper he said, “They’re called ‘lesbians.’” That was it. And I thought, “Oh, my God.”

Oh! Here’s another funny story. So, with my partner, we were going through the food line at—God knows—one of those places where they make the tacos. We were looking at all the food, and I’m here and [she’s] over there, and the young woman says, “Uh, are you together?” You know, basically meaning, [“Is one of you paying for both meals today]?” I said, “Yes, we’ve been together for 21 years.” [Laughs.] She just kind of blushed . . .

One other time someone said, “Are you [two] related?” Because she couldn’t figure out the relationship. There’s something different happening. We had a big age difference, we don’t look alike . . .  I said, “Yeah, we’re lovers.” [She said,] “No, no, no, no, no. I mean, are you related?” I said, “Yeah. We’re lovers. We’re relating.” She was flustered: “But that’s not what I mean!” [Laughs.]

You know, you just live your life. I remember my son, when he first put it all together, he said, “Mom, how come you didn’t tell me you were a lesbian?” And I said, “Because I didn’t have to tell you I was a hippie.” It’s how you live.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 20 March 2013.