Things I remember about coming out in the ‘80s

Rachel’s and Dave’s posts this week stirred up a lot of thought about my own coming out circa 1987 in college.  Random memories won out over narrative or analysis:

I didn’t realize until later that when she kept sleeping naked with me in my bed, she wanted to be more than friends.

Sinead O’Connor was our goddess.

“I just hope you don’t molest any children” is not a supportive statement, Mum.

I happily adopted the uniform of 501s, Doc Martens, and stripy tops.

The first time was nerve wracking and rushed.

An endless menu of marches and activism formed our social hub.

After a couple of years of accompanying my gay BFF to Lesbian and Gay Society activities, it was strange to find myself attending in my own right.

I subscribed to Spare Rib and became a radical feminist in about 30 seconds.

I found myself unable to come out to my closest friends even though they were gay.  I felt fraudulent switching sexuality overnight.

I took a half-seminar on Virginia Woolf before I even knew.

Gay Pride in London was the most inspiring and empowering experience I could imagine.  Way to spend my 21st birthday.

It felt right to be an official social outsider.  Like I’d come home.

4 responses to “Things I remember about coming out in the ‘80s”

  1. I’ve been really digging the posts this week. Keeping a little quiet because I’m not sure how much I would have to add to this discussion besides “You go, folks”, but I really appreciate them. A couple of your random memories make me laugh and laugh, Stella.

  2. Rachel says:

    Stella, this is so wonderful, both utterly recognizable and completely different from my own experience. Thank you for sharing it.

    My earliest forays into understanding, and then trying to join, “queer culture” were so fumbling and yet enthusiastic, and often so wrong-headed (especially in high school)…you sound amazingly together in comparison.

    To wit: I took my mom’s car without asking, snuck into Boston (over an hour away), and then hung around the entrance of Tower Records all afternoon, trying to muster the courage to pick up some of the free gay weeklies. Imagine the young Miss Berkowitz sitting Au Bon Pain and pretending to be an adult, trying to suss out the personal ads for the wisdom they undoubtedly held about my future (“What does ‘7″ uncut top, light BDSM, NS, hot’ mean?”)

    Your idea of outsider-dom as the most comfortable place to be also makes a world of sense. Kind of makes you wonder who walks around feeling like an “insider,” and what it must be like.

  3. LP says:

    Stella and Rachel, these are fantastic memories! Wow… seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

    I had a relatively painless coming-out period, followed by anguish when my first GF decided she didn’t want to be / wasn’t gay. Then: agony. It was the mid-80s, and the only other gay people I knew of were super-political, super-butch women who fulfilled every stereotype that I didn’t want to become. (sorry, un-PC, I know. But I feared that becoming a “lesbian” meant becoming something other than what I was).

    One of my happiest memories of that time was watching the film “I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing” with a group of friends on campus. What a film! I had never seen anything like it, and have never had a more powerful experience at the movies.

  4. Dave says:

    This is an awesome list. I’m thinking of adopting a uniform of 501s, Docs Martens, and stripy tops.