The Second Coming (Out)
Sometimes love is revelatory, not unlike religion… Seems fitting to post this one right after the Christmas holidays! Here’s hoping your holidays have been wonderful and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year!
After the three-month living together experience in China that spring of 2008 was over, I went back to Canada. At the time, I wasn’t sure when I’d be returning to Beijing. I had a lot to deal with back home in regards to my living situation and broken relationship, not to mention gigs that summer, and even though my time in Beijing had solidified Guo Jian and I as a new partnership, I still had a lot of doubts about it all.
These doubts were certainly minimized when, in the summer of 2008, Guo Jian came to Canada to visit me. He also came to meet my parents and to get a glimpse of what my life is like on the other side of the world. His interest in doing this, alone, made such a difference. Since he had never been to North America, it gave him a chance to fill in the blanks, so-to-speak, about where I come from and the culture that formed me. Having been so immersed in his culture, it seemed only fair for him to get at least a cursory glimpse of mine.
And my parents wanted to meet him, of course.
I have a great relationship with my parents and they have always been incredibly supportive and open. I came out to them at 19, sitting in the tall back, pink and cream embroidered Queen Anne’s chair in the formal living room of their previous home. It was Christmas time and I remember asking them if they’d mind coming into the living room because I had something important to tell them. I chose the formal environment because I felt it fit the topic that was about to scuttle its mess into the tidy and uncluttered space around us.
I sat there, feet tucked up under me with my newly cropped hair tousled and messy and my toughness poised sharply to protect, like razors along the edges of my shoulders and elbows and kneecaps. I had been refining this invisible outerwear after four long months on my own in my newly adopted city then—Ottawa. At 19, four months seem like an eternity and can truly change a person. I felt changed too. I felt able to be the person I wanted to be. I felt entitled.
I began my coming out with the only words I knew to describe myself then: “I’m gay,” and then all the toughness melted into a pool of tears in my hands.
When I opened my eyes, my Mother and Father had both gathered at the edge of the chair perched on the floor and were holding my hands and looking up at me. We talked more and hugged and the journey continued throughout my twenties into a realm of getting to know each other as adults across our different communities and lifestyles, our different beliefs and histories, linked solidly by our common love.
They were the parents who were always inviting my queer friends home for Christmas or Easter or any other holiday during which they feared any member of my community might not have an accepting family to return to.
They were the parents who showed up at my gigs that were rallies for the GLBTQ community or were Pride Day performances.
They were the parents who welcomed each of my partners over the years with open arms and love and treated them like adopted daughters.
When I sat them down in the (less formal) living room of their new home that winter after having met Guo Jian, I was sitting in the same chair that I sat in at 19 and my feet were protectively tucked up and under me once more. This time, though, my toughness had long merged into a presence of being that arriving into your thirties brings a person.
I began my second coming out with the words: “I have fallen in love with a man,” and then all that presence of being melted into a pool of tears in my hands.
When I opened my eyes, they were still sitting across from me on the couch and looked puzzled and concerned. They didn’t come over to me this time, but their calm responses quickly helped me calm too. I explained how we’d met, what he was like, and what was happening in my confused but honest heart. They were wonderful and supportive as always.
Later that week, my Mother asked me three very pertinent and important questions. She asked me if I was sure, and if I had definitely fallen in love with him or if it may be a phase or a chance to experiment with something that I hadn’t had before. She also asked me if I had fallen in love with him or with a culture and a place and suggested that he may be representative of more than just himself and that I needed to be careful not to break his heart. And finally, she asked me if I was going to keep it secret or if I was going to let people know because she was concerned that my fans and friends and community may be judgmental and, (though she didn’t use this word), heterophobic.
All of those questions were really the source of all of my fears. It had caused the tears and had sent me spinning in the first place. I had to push my heart to answer them all with as much clarity and detached awareness as I could, or else I knew I was going to be walking a difficult, if not impossible, path.
Interestingly enough, these were the same questions that my parents had asked me when I came out over a decade earlier, just in gender reverse of course. I was indignant then, and personally insulted by the suggestion that I didn’t have everything figured out. But, this time, I was grateful because I knew I needed to ask those questions of myself. More than anything, I needed the answers.
The choice to go back to China for those three months that spring of 2008 were about this truth-seeking as much as it was about escaping the chaos my life had become. I discovered that, yes, I did love him. The experimentation and newness was a bonus, but he had gotten under my skin and his dimples had burrowed themselves in a Guo Jian-shaped crevice in my heart.
In those three months, despite all the fighting and the bewilderment that came from getting to know a younger, Chinese, straight man, I discovered that I had indeed fallen in love with a place and a culture, but that these loves had opened my heart to the subsequent love for Guo Jian. I began to see myself as having first fallen for China, and then having fallen for him. I learned to say that in Chinese. It made him smile.
And finally, slowly but surely, I learned that I could share this love with my family and then my close friends and eventually, my fans. I “came out” for the second time to everyone, eventually, by way of blogging and mass emails, but it all took time and courage and bravery—all of which I discovered were stored in hard-to-reach places somewhere in my spirit. I just had to give everything space to be.
When he came to Canada that summer, my parents fell in love with him too. We cycled around Toronto. I took him used clothing shopping much to his audible glee. We swam in a pristine lake in Algonquin Park and paddled a canoe on the Gull River in Coboconk, Ontario, near my parent’s home. (Well, I paddled and he complained about how much work it was to paddle a canoe!) We then travelled to Ottawa and Montreal and I got to show him the beautiful farmland of Eastern Ontario, where I had left behind a piece of my heart in search of China.
He stayed in Canada for a month and in September, after having sold my possessions and reduced my psychic baggage to two guitars, a suitcase, a computer and some recording equipment, I moved myself and my favourite pillow to Beijing to really see if China was the place for me, once and for all. I booked a six-month ticket. For the first time in my adult life, I had no gigs booked into the future. I figured I had nothing left to lose.
And I didn’t.
We never have anything to lose on the path of the heart, the pursuit of truth, the leap of faith. These cliché expressions come in handy sometimes. As scary as it was, my second coming out also brought much revelation, exaltation and joy.
And to that, there’s nothing left to say but: Hallelujah!