In honor of National Coming Out Day, an interview with my fiancé, Trish Fields, below.
Unlike Trish, I never had to really “come out” to others. I only had to come out to myself, which wasn’t always easy – it was a journey of self-discovery – but when it came to other people, I just told them I was dating women now and they were all like “yeah, sure, okay.” NO BIG DEAL. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by super liberal people, but I’m well aware how lucky I am and that it is not like that for everyone, and was certainly not like that for my fiancé, Trish, so let’s get into it.
Thank you for coming out, Trish Fields.
Trish, thank you for doing this, and I’m wondering if you can tell us about your coming out story? Are there multiple ones? Hmm. I’m not sure where to start …
Ok. Well, when did you first suspect you were gay? When I was a kid – pretty young, maybe 5 or 6, but I didn’t know it was a thing, my best friend and I hung out together a lot and I just liked her A LOT. I had a crush on her, but didn’t know that it was a thing, that girls could like girls. (Turns out, she is now gay too!) And after that, there were always “friends” who I really, really liked and sort of obsessed over, but I just thought that was normal.
When did you first hear the term “gay”? I was about 10 and my parents had good friends that were counselling a lesbian couple, and I sort of realized they were a couple, but everyone was very negative about it, and my mom said that one of them warned her “watch out for that,” (meaning me)! They warned her (my mom) that I was gay. My mom told me this when I was like 35, after I was already out. Everyone was weird and negative about these 2 women being a couple.
Any other gay people in your world? [She laughs]. No, no gays in the church. In high school, sure, but no one was out – I dated all the gay boys – seriously! 3 of my high school boyfriends are now gay.
What was your community? Seventh Day Adventist in Hagerstown Maryland – a very close knit tight community – Adventist church, schools, all your friends are Adventist – you don’t know anyone outside of the church.
How long was this your world? Until I was 24 and started working in a Catholic hospital.
So until 24, you only knew Adventists? Basically, yes.
In the Adventists world, anyone gay would be in the closet? Yes, 100%
In the Hagerstown Adventist world, had anyone come out prior to you? Yes friends of my family – someone did and it was a huge scandal in the community and everyone talked about them and made fun of them. The person left the area – moved away – was just gone when they came out. So prior to my coming out, there was one, who was ridiculed and ostracized. And one other, right before me, and the same thing but they didn’t move away, but were out of the church, out of the community and totally ridiculed and ostracized by the community. But that was when I was older, right before I came out, and was the first person I was able to talk to about what I was about to do, so I’m so grateful for them.
How long did you have to hide who you were? Until I was 34, but I didn’t know because I was in denial to myself, even though I felt different from everyone else.
Did you know how the church – your community – felt about gay people? Yes, that it’s wrong, it’s a sin. You won’t be “saved.”
So, when did you begin to explore this difference you mentioned? When I was 34, and started working with an “out lesbian” doctor, and I was fascinated with her and we became good friends. And then I started going to her parties and meeting more gay people and I felt very comfortable and started questioning the teachings of the church – I started thinking the church was wrong. I started thinking: why would God have a problem with these people? These are good people! Why would God keep these nice, kind people out of Heaven?
Ok, when did you start wondering about your own sexuality? A couple years later, I met another friend at the hospital who I spent a lot of time with who started asking me questions about myself. She started asking direct questions about things she was picking up on that I was putting out, maybe? Sexual chemistry or tension? And she talked about it like it was no big deal.
And is that when you realized that you were gay or queer or bisexual? No, I just wanted to kiss her, and I did and it was like a whole world opened up and I was like “okay everything makes sense now.’
So who was the first person you came out to? That friend that I kissed.
And you were married at the time? To a man? And had small children? So, you had to come out to him? And to the kids? And to the church? And to your parents? And friends? And family? How did that go? If you don’t mind telling us? Pretty terrible. Basically, I lost all my friends. My parents didn’t want to talk about it, but that was fine, I didn’t want to talk about it with them either. My ex-husband wanted to send me to conversion camp. I didn’t want to break up the family, but I also knew I couldn’t live a lie anymore, I knew I wasn’t straight. I felt like I had been suffocating all my life and I finally figured out WHY! I finally knew the why! And felt like I could finally breathe and couldn’t go back to being suffocated. I couldn’t stay in the church as an “out” lesbian, the only way I could be a member of the church was to go back in the closet and that wasn’t going to happen, so I lost my entire community: my church, my friends, my family. I knew that was going to happen, but … The worst part was the girls … I didn’t want it to affect them, but I knew it would (they were only 3 and 5 at the time), but I knew their friends and their friends parents would talk about it, would talk about me.
Did they lose their friends? No, and actually they were able to talk to their friends about being gay and that their mom was gay and that it wasn’t bad.
Were the girls still in the church? When they were younger … now they are finding their own way.
Would you mind telling us, briefly, how BAD it got for you? Did you ever think you wouldn’t make it through this? I felt like I was losing my mind. It was a messy divorce. Everything was messy and fake and at time I felt like I was going crazy! I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel at times. I didn’t see a way out of it all.
BUT YOU DID make it through it all and found your way out!!! And how did you do it? Finding new friends who accepted me for who I was without judgment. Like all my coworkers – they all accepted me without judgment. It was shocking especially compared to what I was going through with my “home community,” who was totally excluding me.
So you built a NEW community? Yes, coworkers who became friends and eventually found my friends at the Café, which was a HUGE turning point for myself and the girls, because the Café is close to home and was a new place we could gather outside of the house, where we were entirely accepted as we were. They took me in and treated me and the girls like family. They took care of us.
And, now, how are things going for you? Now I’m in the best place of my life. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m 50 and I feel like I know who I am and I’m very happy with who I am and I’m glad I finally figured it out, even if it did take until I was 34. I always had this underlying anger before coming out and I never knew why – but after coming out, that went away.
Were you able to do some healing with your old community? The religious community? Your family? Old friends? Ex-husband? After years and years … there is some healing, we had Christmas dinner at my ex-husbands and his new wife’s so the girls didn’t have to go to multiple houses. The church and that community … NO. Some old friends, but only the other ones who have come out, really. There are a couple who are supportive though. Some family here and there that are supportive. My biological family (I’m adopted) are very supportive and not Adventist.
What’s next for you, Trish Fields? I’m getting married in 12 days to the most amazing woman and I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life. That is the truth. (Not just because she is writing this either … LOL). And I don’t feel apprehension like I normally do about exciting things – I can’t wait.
So, Trish, you know I am all about service. I truly believe that we all go through whatever terrible or beautiful thing we are going through so that we can use that to serve others. I think one gift you have is sharing your STORY of HOPE with young, maybe closeted, religious kids to let them know that IT GETS BETTER and that they aren’t alone, that their stories are important and matter. You are already a great example just by living your life out in the open and by letting me share your story with my tiny audience here.
Thanks Babe! I can’t wait to marry you.
Trish and I have committed to donating 10% of all money gifted to us at our October 23rd small, gay wedding to The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is “the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth.” Learn more, volunteer and donate to The Trevor Project by visiting them at thetrevorproject.org.