KarMel Scholarship 2008
Honorable Mention: Best BiSexual
“New to the Closet”
By Sarah Lentz - WA
Desciption of Submission: “This is ‘my story’ focused article style writing. I would like to eventually revise it for publication in LBGT community publications.” - Sarah
Why Karen and Melody Liked It: We loved how she showed that coming out is a lifetime experience that can happen at anytime in ones life. Her unique prospective will certainly help others who may feel they are the only ones who have had to go into a closet that they never had to come out of.
Hello. I am Sarah. I have identified as bisexual since I was 15 years old. That was 17 years ago for those counting. I want to share a little about me in hopes that you may feel a little human connection in the world.
The last time I tried to “join” a community for my sexuality there wasn’t much around I could find. I had to be a “lesbian”. And when I had girlfriends we did activities with lesbian groups, but tried not to say we were lesbians or bisexual. The women in our groups responded very negatively to “breeders” or “penis lovers”, back then.
Recently I found a local bisexual women’s network. I’m so proud of the bisexual community for increasing awareness and tolerance for us. Seeing how the community has developed and come together; men and women, is an inspiration.
I am the founder and executive officer of a non-profit indigenous research and educational development center. (Say that five times fast!) I’m also a graduate student. And a wife. And a mother of two. And Native American.
For the first time in my 17 years as a personally identified bisexual I am feeling this closet around me. Have you ever experienced this closet feeling I’m speaking of? Closed in? Scrutinized? Trapped? I’m sure many of you have. However, this is new for me.
a young age my biological father abandoned my family. After that, mother
attempted to rebuild our lives and moved us to
In the apartment building where we lived all of our neighbors were gay and lesbian. Two men, a committed couple, stepped up to help raise me into adulthood. They became like fathers to me and I called them both my “Dads.” Oh, the stories I could tell about being raised just blocks from Broadway…. It was beautiful, rich in color and vibrant with life.
Both of my dads died, months apart, of HIV/AIDS when I was barely 18. They had taught me about safe sex, alternate life styles and sexual orientations, and tolerance. Mostly, they taught me that men weren’t all abusive and in fact could love others with great strength.
My mother was always religious, and passed on our traditional Native spirituality. She mirrored the tolerance and acceptance of others and taught me to love people regardless of sex, race, or physical ability. However, recently she has begun converting to a more orthodox religion. During her conversion process she has become very intolerant of “deviant life styles”.
Out of nowhere, during a conversation, Mom mentioned to me, “You know, gayness is a choice.” Followed by this shocking statement came that one lecture that makes your head explode, you know the one “If you just chose to live like heterosexuals…” I sat there, silent. Dumbstruck. This woman who had two gay men to help her raise me continued on saying many intolerant things. What do you say to that?
It was the first time in my life I felt silenced about my sexuality. With the executive changes in my professional life I have began to suffocate. I answer to members of a board of directors now. And some of them are conservative. I have to censor myself and conduct myself in ways that are respectful of their right to be close minded, and somehow maintain my right to be me.
Who knew how complicated the workplace could get? I’ve been in administration for a long time now and never saw this coming. And this is a work environment I created. I am almost ashamed.
How did I get in the closet?
Me, who never “came out” because I never had to come out. Me who had girlfriends or boyfriends, or both at the same time, throughout most of my teens and twenties. I never asked for permission or apologized for my nature. Me who has volunteered for the Pride Foundation, and Chicken Soup, and Lifelong AIDS Alliance.
a strong woman. I will find my way out of this closet, and I won’t do it
alone. I’m happy to know that there is a strong bisexual community here, in
I’d like to leave you with a little hope. My 10 year old daughter recently “came out” to me that she is bisexual and has a crush on a girl. My son heavily identifies as straight, but tolerates our insisting that it’s a phase he’s going through. He is very supportive of my daughter’s crush and commiserates with her about girls. I must say that that feels like a sign to me that not all hope is lost.
Raising the next generation gives me optimism. We are seeing the world open up for LGBT people. We are making it happen. And now I’m not just “me” telling my story. I’m “we” telling “our story”. When I step out of the closet, we all will be stepping out together.