December 17, 2009

Do you want to know me? I'd like to know you too.

Everyone… I’m freaking out. I’m terrified, things are changing and I’m swept up in a huge transition. I wanted to make this blog strictly about putting a face to the LGBTQA community, to interview others and to get closer to those I didn’t know.

What I wasn’t exactly anticipating was the questions I’d get in return…or the challenges to identify…to come out. Since my time at Duke, I haven’t put a name to my orientation. I hide safe behind my Ally card while urging others to come out to their parents, their friends, and their professors. I’ve spent a lot of time in heterosexual relationships so I don’t have to deal with questions or confrontation, prejudice or hate.

But then I met Ashe. And everything changed.

If you don’t know Ashe, you NEED to. I’m not gonna tell her story because I haven’t asked her yet. Although I don’t think she’d mind, I’m big on asking permission. So I’ll save that for another time, and just tell my side. She helped me see a ton of the inconsistencies in what I believed in: to push others to tell their parents about their sexuality while I was able to happily avoid mine. I know some people shouldn’t be pushed, some people aren’t ready to be pushed, and some people don’t respond to aggressive pushing, so it’s definitely not something that I would recommend for everyone. But it worked for me.

So on Tuesday night, I came out to my dad.

I still don’t identify with one label because I have this issue with thinking that I’m appropriating a community that isn’t entirely mine yet (Let’s work on that). I know it’ll be a process. I think the term Bisexual gets a lot of grief (which NEEDS to be talked about), and I like the term Queer a lot. Maybe if I let it marinate a little bit I might be able to use that. But I’m not there yet.

I don’t mean to commandeer this blog entry and tell the details of my coming out story because I’ve finally had to really empathize with how intimate and difficult it really is. My conversation with my dad went a lot worse than I expected…but it wasn’t horrible. It ended with a hug and an “I love you” from him, so I’m counting myself incredibly fortunate and hoping that time will help it be less difficult.

It’s hard to put this online. As I’m typing this, I’m doubting my decision to put it online….because I’m scared. But if I dare to collect stories and give peoples names and photos and personal information, then I want to be on the front lines. We need to stand in solidarity and talk about safe sex, and sexual abuse, and relationships, and transgender issues, and adoption, and so many other things.

My name is Summer Puente and I want to stand next to you, not just behind you.

16 comments:

  1. Summer, this is beautiful and courageous and moving and many other good things.

    Congratulations, for one, and thank you for sharing. I'm honored to know you and stand next to, or near, or anywhither of you.

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  2. Summer this is beautiful. You are beautiful. I am blessed to know you. Thank you for making me feel like I have a family at Duke.

    Vivi

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  3. Awesome post. More than awesome. This is what the blog's all about, and I'm consistently so proud of the writers here for being so open and honest in the name of The Larger Cause. I think all of our readers benefit so much from essays like this. Personally, it hits home a bit because I'm certainly not out as much as I could be. Being home for the holidays always reminds me this, and it's apparent that I'm not doing everything I can in order to increase visibility and awareness. Yeah I'll advocate but a lot of times it's done in third person.

    P.S. This topic reminds me a lot of this post Aliza wrote a little while ago that I really enjoyed.

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  4. Matt: Thank you so much for your support! You have always been a source of inspiration for me. :)

    Vivi: You're so great and I miss you so much. I'm glad we got to talk on the phone about everything, you're a wonderful friend my dear. <3

    Chris: I'm glad it hit home for you. I was thinking alot about what Ari said to me during our interview together about staying away from the conversation of coming out in order to keep the peace during our short vacations and holidays, but I think we can all do a little more. Thanks for posting to Aliza's post, I seemed to have missed that one. :)

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  5. I'm humbled and honestly inspired by your courage and commitment.
    so..thanks. really.

    but what did you mean about not wanting to appropriate a community that's not really yours? even if only looking at this blog, it seems like you're fully involved and advocating..haven't you made it your community?
    And I like the term Queer too. Even though sometimes I think that by not claiming it Bisexual people sort of buy into or support the negative perceptions/associations about it. (putting aside momentarily the questions like whether it supports the gender binary and so on...)but that whole thing is a complete discussion in itself, right?

    But over everything,thanks. It gives me so much pride and hope that there are people who strive to change things, then if they're not doing all that they could be, they make a change.

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  6. Summer, I love you so much and I'm so proud of you. This post totally made me tear up. I know exactly how you expected dad to react because I think it's similar to how I expected him to react, too. (To you, not to me, since his reaction when he caught me with Marlena was pretty unsurprising, albeit upsetting).

    You know how I feel about you saying it's not your community. That's what a community is, an invisible space defined by each individual's perception, comfort and efforts. It's yours because you're involved and you're helping everyone around you. It's yours because you're Queer (whatever that means to whoever is saying it) no matter how "experienced" you are.

    Welcome to the club. Have some rainbow cake.

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  7. Katricia: I guess I just feel that because I haven't identified, and because I don't know what to call myself that I still feel really distanced from the community. Even though I'm at the LGBT center everyday and go to the events and get involved, it's a whole new process to go through on my own. When it comes down to it, it IS my community, and one that I need to be a part of and want to be a part of. But since I've been portraying myself as heterosexual or not committing to calling myself something, deep down it really makes me feel horrible. I've felt like a faker or as too safe by keeping my distance from myself.

    The lgbtqa is more of a community to me than anything else in my life, and maybe i've just lived it from a safe distance, but I know I can do more and I want to do more and speak up and speak louder. I push myself a lot and I like to be pushed, but I think one of these eureka moments happened a little while after I did Ari's interview... he asked me how I identified and I casually told a story and avoided answering it.

    And I thought that maybe why I'm not closer to these people is because I'm not identifying or being strong for them. There's nothing more that I want than to be me 100% all the time to everyone, and if I can't be honest with the lgbt community, then I have my own questioning to do and growth left to be done.

    Sorry, I know that's kind of a jumbled mess. In short, I know the LGBT community is mine, but sometimes I feel like I'm not deserving of it. I know I need to be stronger and have more conversations and learn more about myself.

    I hope that answers your question.


    Ashleigh: Ohhhh man sometimes you drive me nuts, but you're a great sister. :) I love you.

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  8. I think that you are brave to admit both to yourself and to your dad who you really are (even if you don't have a label for that yet). I'm the one who wrote the first post in the Anonymous Posts section for 12/7-12/13. And I am jealous that you have such a wonderful support network. Anyway...I hope that over the break I'll find the courage to answer some of the questions crowding my mind. And maybe I'll stop by the LGBT Center in the Spring. :)

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  9. Dear anon,
    We all find support from different places in our lives. I'm really lucky since I've pretty much lived in the lgbt center since freshman year, long before I was serious about even thinking about coming out. My family is very religious, and so even though I've told my dad...I now feel like I'm on thin ice and I'm trying to keep my mouth shut around everyone else.

    I would love it if you came to the Center in the Spring. I think it has been a rock for some people, and it would be wonderful if it could be the start to a support system for you too. :)

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  10. Summer as I have said before, you give me hope and strength!

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  11. Summer, your post here is what this blog is all about! This has to be the most inspiring entry I have seen so far, and I'm so glad to see you grow into your own. We are all thankful for the love and support you give to the people at the center and now I hope we can all do the same great deed for you! Continue being awesome...kick ass, take names, and show the world what a powerful human being you are and will continue to be!

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  12. This was beyond inspiring. It is people like you that can make this transition for others so much easier.

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  13. Ari--- it was definitely our conversation and my interview of you that pushed me further into myself to question how honest I was being. A few days after our interview, when we were in your room and you asked me how I identified...I just felt like such a faker and so wrong because I couldn't be honest with myself. I was disgusted that I had to avoid your question. So thank you for helping me look a little deeper into myself. <3

    Dre7305--Thank you for your kind words, I hope to be a resource for whoever needs me!

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  14. Congratulations Summer, your post truly is inspiring - like everyone else has already said, you give so much support and love towards everyone in our community, we're so lucky to have you! :)

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  15. Oli! Thank you so much, I'm glad you feel that way! I feel so lucky to have such a great community to support me :)

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