There aren’t a lot of positive connotations to go along with women and bags. Bag lady. Under-eye bags. Saddle bags. But there’s a better kind of BAGS in town, my friends: the Born-Again Gold Star.
Let me back up for a hot second before we go on. Dearest readers, especially my cishet males—where “cishet” is not an ancient Egyptian curse word, but rather “cis” as in “not trans” (who said Chem 101 would never be useful?) and “het” you ought to be able to figure out shortly—do you know yet what a Gold Star Lesbian is?
The term has been popularized in all kinds of social media, so it’s possible that you do. Or maybe you happened across a few episodes of The L Word (just for social research, right?). It’s also possible that it’s never crossed your radar. It hadn’t crossed mine even just a few years ago. But it’s simple: the term just allows women who have never slept with a man to identify themselves as exceptionally gay.
A Gold Star Lesbian has only slept with women, and is often quite proud about it. As she should be. Frankly, I’m thrilled for folks who’ve had a one-way road to figuring out their identity, whether Gold Star Lesbians or Platinum Gays or just plain ol’ hetero folks who bypassed experimentation. God bless your luck and determination; but there're other roads to Rome. I’ve walked both sides of the road, played for both teams, and dipped my little toes deep into both pools. Deep enough that, while I identify as a lesbian, I am just shy of 30 years old and have already been married and divorced—from a man.
And let me further clarify, just to address the first question that always comes up when I tell people I left my husband for a woman, or rather now a bunch of them: No, I am not bisexual and never have been. Again, I’m happy for those who are. You go, Glen Coco. But I’m so far from bisexual that before I’d left my husband, I’d been with (frankly a lot of) men, and I’d never been with a woman. And now that I have been with (a decent few) women, I happily, and without malice, intend on never again being with a man. For me, the grass is tried and true on both sides of the fence, and damn if it ain’t just greener over here.
So how do I explain more simply what I am, without prattling on for paragraphs as I already have? It’s simple. I’m a big ol’ BAGS. BAGS for days. BAGS for life. I am a Born-Again Gold Star, and pleased as punch about it. Give me a jersey, give me a pin, give me a snapback with some fancy embroidery. I’ll tell just about anyone who asks at this point.
I get it, it’s not a conventional path. Being comfortable talking about it has taken a lot of getting used to. There are more of us than you would think, but we don’t really have any softball jerseys made up yet, and we don’t get a chance to soapbox about flipping sexual identities very often. A full 180. It’s not typically smiled upon nor understood. It doesn’t fit any convenient pre-packaged narrative or label.
You see, I separated from my husband almost three years ago, leaving him suddenly—it must have seemed—for She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. She was (and is) a deep, dark, dirty cesspool of a person. You’d expect that if you heard the rest of the story. I tend to default to the past tense when speaking of her, since I’ve wished her dead so hard for so long that it’s a wonder she’s still standing; but alas, present tense it is. Either way—you win some, you lose some, and sometimes you fall for Voldemort. But regardless of the shitty quality of the person I fell for, she was exactly what I needed to come to terms with the fact that I’d been hiding really, really far back inside of the closet.
How far in the closet? Well, let’s take it back to before the official marital separation, all the way back to when I started sleeping with her (sorry, holy matrimony, but shit happens). I’d been hanging out so far back in that closet that once I’d been with her even just one time, I stepped on through that closet door and into the light, and I never touched a man again. Not even my husband. Quickly, abruptly, that door to the closet was sealed shut right behind me. But it felt so natural that even once I was well shut of Voldemort’s influence, and found myself single and sex-starved for months, I just busied myself with figuring out how to be a gay person. And my ex-husband is, frankly, very good at doing what men do; I've just become comfortable with the fact that it just isn't for me. Heck, I'd write him a reference. And you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a reference from a lesbian is probably the best one a straight man can get.
Voldemort left my life in utter ruins not long after I left my husband for her. To be frank about it, she wrecked my career, wreaked intentional havoc on my relationships with friends and family, and then finally left me for my best friend arguably out of spite—but even after all that, when my husband wanted me back and offered me the oh-so-seductive stability of heteronormativity—I just never thought of men the same way again. It was all I had always wanted, in a way. I finally had permission from myself to stop giving a fuck about what men wanted from me, and to be able to stop analyzing why I didn’t want the things they did. Everything suddenly made sense. Despite how my life had fallen apart in literally every way, my anxiety problems disappeared almost overnight. About my new identity, I felt obviously confused, but mostly excited. None of the specifics about what had happened to my life made much sense, but the overall outcome sure did.
It turns out to be true that no matter how many times you try on the same sweater hoping it will itch less, it may take falling in love with Voldemort to teach you that maybe it’s time to try on a different fucking sweater. Even if divorce is an unconventional way to come out as a BAGS, I’m really pleased to be out of the closet and wearing the big gay sweater I finally found in there.