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Coming Out Story – Leaving Chico

Coming Out Story – Leaving Chico

The following is a performance piece in progress.

Fall 1978, I’m 19 years old, a sophomore at Chico State University in Northern California.  I’m an Art Major and I’m also enrolled in a Fiction Writing Course.  I write in the first person as a man and talk about chicks I like to have sex with—foreshadowing.

Academically, I’m thrilled.  The work I’m creating is unique and it’s getting recognized.  But emotionally, I’m…..oh what’s the word……really fucked up.  I’m inside my head—socially awkward.  I don’t feel right in my own body.  I feel something is missing.

But during this time of internal conflict—I have a boyfriend.  He’s a nice guy and he buys me groceries, pot and booze.  He is so giving.  We’re an odd pair.  I’m 19. He’s 32-ish?  Every 3 weeks he would tell me: “I’m a little older than you think.”  He’s a white dude.  I’m Chicana.  He’s separated from his wife, he has 2 kids and a grown up life.  I have a ten-speed bike and a backpack.  But we get a long and he makes me laugh and that’s important.

As we go through this relationship, he’s observing that I like to look at women, comment about women—a lot.  Every now and then he asks:  “Would you ever have sex with a woman?  Can I watch you have sex with a woman?”

And I would respond without hesitation:  “No!  Sick!”  But quietly thinking: “That’s not a bad idea.”

We continue our peculiar partnership.  I start feeling more and more out of place.  I can’t relate to Chico’s environment–it’s very country.  There are farms everywhere.  I’m not connecting with the people here.  And I don’t want to bond with cows so stop asking me—cuz I don’t!

I’m really confused.  I walk through campus seeing all these flyers that read:  Gay and Lesbian Union Meeting, today at 3PM.  And I think:  I want to go there but I don’t know why?!

I’m at a place in my life where I don’t know what to do with myself.  Hoping to shed light on the bewilderment of my sexuality, I take many walks around beautiful Bidwell Park, wandering aimlessly, trying desperately to connect with nature, looking for answers, but many times end up smoking a joint with a squirrel!

(crying) “Oh my little fury friend…(inhale)…would you like a hit?”

I continue with the boyfriend but it’s not working.  I’m not putting out anymore.  I’m giving him a hand job—with, a spatula–and that’s wrong.

Soon, I see flyers throughout the university promoting a Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Costume Party! I think: Yeah, perfect.  I’ll wear a disguise and go to this event and no one will know it’s me.

My costume?  A yellow and red body suit, fake nose and glasses, a swimming cap and tennis shoes—in case I had to run.  To prepare for this big night, I drank a whole bottle of cheap champagne and a few hours later, I found myself parked down the street from the festive Mardi Gras Party. And I waited for the right moment to go in so I could finally participate in good old fashion homosexuality.

I was going to shake everybody’s hand, (stretches out right hand) “How ya doin’ my brother? (stretches out left hand ) How ya doin’, my sister?”

I was going to have chicks on each arm:  (turns head left to address her chick on her arm)  “Hey, Kitten.” (turns head right to address her chick on her arm)  You settle down, Chiquita.”

But that “perfect moment” never came.  I sat there in my funky two-bit Toyota with my heart racing, feeling too scared to be bold, too nervous to mingle, too queer to be queer.  So I left.

The days that followed I stayed inside my head, quiet, alone–nobody knew my pain.

A month later, I broke up with my boyfriend.  A few days after that, I had a bad acid trip–paper acid.  No one told me I just needed a tiny little piece.  I ate the whole sheet!  And after endless hours of diabolic hallucinations (clutching throat, choking) “I just swallowed the solar system…I need a glass of tar!” I passed out.

Sometime later, I was awakened by a cool breeze—I fell asleep on the street. But it brought me clarity.  I stood up, put my panties back on and I started to beat my chest, shouting:

“City of Chico, approximately ninety miles north of Sacramento, east of Interstate 5–I’m pretty sure I’m a lesbian!  Pretty sure.

I realized I needed the comfort of home. I had to embrace old friends.  I knew I had to leave Chico……….

(sings Sound of Silence)

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Regrets, sadness, confusion…scenes from The Graduate.

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