#24) Custody in the Wild West of Westchester
Next, a series of stories on different aspects of coming out
Thank you all for the wonderful feedback on topics you would like to read more about. I gather readers are interested in more stories on serious topics related to the experiences surrounding coming out, so we’ll head there next. In the next few stories, we are going to cover different aspects of coming out, including the impact on family, children, workplace, as well as how factors like culture and religion weigh in.
I want to set out two disclaimers up front. First, each person’s experience is completely unique. My experience, while it may be interesting to read about, may not be remotely like what happens with you. I can tell you a truism from the myriad of gay women I have met while dating and in friendships: no two stories are the same. There are so many factors that play a part—some expected, others less so—and shape each of our journeys.
The second disclaimer is that I came out two decades ago, and so my journey was influenced by the biases of that time. Thankfully, our country has progressed, seemingly at warp speed, since then. I will discuss how homophobia impacted my coming out, but with a certain joy in knowing that many, if not most of these roadblocks have been cleared away by increasing LGBTQ acceptance and the Supreme Court rulings discussed in my last story. Notably, however, as discussed in May 22nd’s story, the Supreme Court overturning Roe could portend losses of rights and protections garnered by our community. At this moment, it does feel as if some of our advances stand on shaky ground.
When I came out at the turn of the Millennium, the country was a vastly different place for LGBTQ people. Even coming out here in New York, in what is thought to be a blue state and county, the risks to all aspects of my life were very real. People were literally being denied promotions or fired in the field of finance, for the ‘crime’ of being openly gay! Forget gay marriage—there was no such thing as same sex benefits, or any recognition of a family structure, rights, or protections for same sex partners.
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In the area of raising children, homophobic assumptions ran rampant. We’re going to explore my experience with that this week, and start with a question many of you asked about: what was my parents’ reaction when I came out? My parents’ first reaction was thankfully acceptance, but they were also concerned and frightened for my children. What if I lost custody? In my parents’ generation, being outed as a “homosexual” meant you were sure to be ostracized, bullied, and lose your rights as a parent. If you’ve seen the movie Carol, you have a sense of what they feared was in store for me.
Like so many gay women of Generation X, part of my coming out story was leaving a heterosexual marriage. I have met women whose husbands’ reaction to their coming out was borne out of love and care—telling them: if this is who you are, I wish for you to live authentically and happily. For some men, their wife turning out to be gay is a lot more palatable than losing out to another guy. It takes it from the realm of competition to the possibility of collaboration. Women I know in that scenario are able to remain friends with, and successfully co-parent with, their ex-husband, even as each finds a new partner. Those fortunate to experience that paradigm might be in the minority, but they definitely do exist!
My experience regrettably was the exact opposite.