Keely and Melisa celebrate Pride Month by getting a little vulnerable and sharing their personal coming in and out stories. Plus, some tips on what it means to come out, and what it means to come in to yourself and your community. Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
Keely: It reminded me when straight people ask "well, why do you need a queer space?" "Or why do you need to have these pieces?" And when I go into a queer space or a situation where I know that there's other queer people, or when I'm with my queer friends, that's when I feel like I can breathe and I forget that I'm like, slightly holding my breath with anxiety and tension in my shoulders, just walking around the world most days. And when I walk into that space, walking into pride, walking to the waterfront and being surrounded by queer people, it's like, I'm able to breathe. It's the same feeling I get when I go to the ocean and feel like I can take this full, deep breath. Pride is like the, the yearly reset. I can breathe. Look at all these humans that exist. I'm okay. Hey, everyone. Melisa: Welcome to Queer Relationships, Queer Joy. Keely: So it's been a minute, Melisa. We haven't really had a pause in actual releases, but when I haven't seen you for a week or so, it's- Melisa: it's been a minute. I've been on another planet. Keely: I feel like there's some catching up to do. And I'm just so curious. You are you comfortable talking about what's going on with your relationship dynamics? Melisa: Totally, totally. Well, it's a mix. In the spirit of authenticity, I've been out with COVID, unfortunately. I am well now. Negative. All that good stuff, but it coincided with me planning to take some time off for like self care reasons. so I'm very efficient. I planned to get COVID essentially I got infected two days before my time off. So I've been quite literally down and out for a while. I think it just means that I'm a little bit disoriented from like humaning right now. I've been back in a lot of isolation. Keely: But you're healthy just in time for pride. Melisa: Thank god. Just in time for pride. Yeah, if I had to get it, I guess that was a good time. Question mark. Needless to say, I'm healed now I'm reconnecting with people who, you know, are, are meaningful and close to me. I'm definitely in an interesting spot relationship-wise. I would say three established connections now and I'm laughing just because anyone who's listened to our episodes, especially consecutively, like it's been a long drought for me. That was very much self-imposed. I was really not interested in dating at all. Yeah. So it has shifted. I feel like I'm currently kind of poly saturated. I feel like this is a good amount for me, of course, one of my partners lives out of town so it makes it a little bit easier in terms of time expectations or commitments. Yeah. But yeah, I'm finding out how do I still have the time for myself while then prioritizing time with other people? Keely: Wow. Melisa: Lots of changes. Keely: Lots of changes. Melisa: How about you, Keely? What's been going on? Keely: I'm trying to even think about what do I want to talk about? Where do I start? Yeah. I did go to a thorns game. Oh, I should have saved that for the Queer Joy but I feel like there's another, there's some other Queer Joys that are floating out there. Yeah. Winter thorns game. And, oh, great old good fashion, ran into my ex. In fact, ran into the ex who was my partner when we first started the podcast. And I was gushing about her. I don't think she saw me and I freaked out and like turned my back completely in hopes of her not seeing me. I had a lot of different interactions with different people in my life. DC... we took a month off from talking to see if we could reestablish a friendship. So we chatted this weekend. Unfortunately, she has COVID. So she's hunkered down in her apartment in DC, but then she just randomly said, "oh yeah. Are you still doing that? Like lesbian, camping trip in Portland? I need a vacation around that time. Can I join you?" "What?" so like, and it's not a dating thing, but just like, I haven't talked to her in a month and she's still remembered and I do have an opening for that. Yeah. So I would say really exploring all of these relationships, not being in any specific romantic relationship, exploring boundaries, and really seeing a spectrum of one person who I thought I was gonna date. I made a decision not to date cause of all these red flags. She is now engaged, and we are now not talking because her fiance sent me a text. And in very jealous, monogamous style possession was like step away. And I'm like, we're just friends. So there was that cutoff. And then to the other end of having these beautiful connections with people that are non-monogamous, just hanging out with them when we're available to hang out and feeling connection outside of a romantic relationship. Kind of just going with that right now and really having more emotional space to then explore so much. Melisa: That's a piece that I had left out, but I will, I will name just for the sake of naming it. We're on a similar theme with exes My ex-husband is actually in town right now as we're recording this and for work. Oh. And I did get to see him for, I thought I wasn't going to 'cause I had COVID but I tested negative over the weekend. And so I was able to actually see him for the first time, since we literally sat down and like signed divorce papers back in 2020. Wow. So it was such a huge moment for me. I imagine for him too, it was so positive. We have an amicable relationship, which I'm really, really grateful for. I have nothing bad to say. Certainly there's reasons we're not in relationship anymore and there's reasons why things happened the way they did. And it was so nice to be able to connect with like the version of ourselves That's healthy. Like, you know, when you're going through the divorce, things were so chaotic and so hectic. I was not my best self. I don't think he was either. And so to be able to meet again from such a, just a more grounded place and a place of respect and mutual care was such a gift like. Honestly, that might be my Queer Joy. Just because that was really meaningful for me. And it, you know, it doesn't feel like closure. I didn't get like, oh, now I can move on. Kind of, you know. It was more just like another note in our story together about how our friendship is changing and we can still be supportive of one another in the ways that we're like so meaningful and the reason we were together for a literal decade. yeah. So yeah. So exes, you, you can be friends with your ex. It's possible. Yeah. And sometimes it's not, and that's okay too. Keely: I know our ongoing theme of all these dynamics of relationships and exes. And speaking of exes, our episode today around pride. What exes are we gonna run into in pride or at least I guess that's my storyline. You've already met up with your ex, you know, and most of them, I think don't live in Portland. So some of 'em do, but not- Melisa: not, not many, but we met during pride month. I mean, the second. Keely: Well, yeah, so let's do a quick introductions and then we're gonna shift over to our pride edition and talk about our stories. I am Keely C Helmick. I am the owner of Connective Therapy Collective. I'm a licensed professional counselor. I'm also a certified sex therapist. I am queer white able bodied non-binary femme, who is solo poly, though just more solo currently. Melisa: And I'm Melisa DeSegiurant, I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed professional counselor at Connective Therapy Collective. I'm white, bisexual, able bodied, polyamorous. I identify as gender fluid and use she and they pronouns. And I always say that I'm excited for episodes because it's always true, but I will say I'm, I'm grateful to be in pride month. It feels really, really good this year. Keely: Yeah. Especially because this will be the first in person pride event in three years. So 19. Yeah. 2019 was the last one. Yeah. I was trying to remember 2019. I'm like, wasn't that like- Melisa: I remember, I remember! I was a pride with my first girlfriend. Keely: Aw, that's cute. Melisa: Yeah, it was, it was very cute. Keely: So Melisa do you wanna start talking about your coming out or coming in story? Melisa: Sure. Yeah. I'm glad we talked about this beforehand, because I think maybe a lot of queer people would have this experience, but when I don't have like a elevator pitch, that's like a nice, neat coming out or in story, because it was so complex and I still have to come out all the time. so I like the reframe to the coming in that you've offered, Keely. 'cause that does help navigate it more towards like ourselves versus other people. And that was the coming in. That was the most important for me. It was acknowledging the queerness of myself. That was the most life changing. Yes. Coming out to other people has had other impacts and some of them very big and positive. Fortunately for me, not a lot of negative impacts to coming out publicly. Yet . But yeah, the coming in was more important for me. I have said this before, but I was repressed for 31 years. It took a long time and it's not that the signs weren't there. Actually, I will say that my favorite coming out moment was once I came in and realized myself then I called like my closest friends, which are friends from undergrad. And one of my friends is this wonderful, fabulous, gay man. And he was my man of honor at my wedding, like one of my besties and I called and I told him like, I'm bisexual. And I just wanna tell you that. There is a pause. It was kind of awkward for me. I'm like, oh God, like why is there a pause, right? Keely: Yeah. Yeah. Why are you pausing? What's going on? Melisa: I know. And then he sounds kind of confused. He gets my favorite response I ever got, he goes, "honey, weren't you always?" And I'm like, yeah, no one told me, dude, I didn't know, like me making out with all those girls in college had no idea. I thought that's what every theater person did. Keely: Of course that's what you do as a theater person make out with everybody. I mean, I have had my share of making out with gay men, for sure. Melisa: Yeah. You know, and so that's really where a lot of the repression. It's not that if somebody looked at me, they would be like, oh yeah, you may be queer. You may be bisexual. You may be whatever. I wasn't able to put that together because I had so much internalized phobia that it was like, yeah, it's okay if everyone else is, but I'm not. I just like to do this 'cause doesn't everyone else? I just assumed everyone else was the same way as me. So yeah. So again, it's like I guess from that point I realized that I was bisexual. What was really rewarding also was looking back on all of the signs because they were validating. I'm a big journaler. Some people get really down on themselves cause they're like, oh, I don't journal all the time. You don't have to. I don't journal every day and all the time, but I have come back to that frequently since I was really, really young. Yeah. And so I was able to go back and read diary entries from like middle school that were very revealing. High school, I knew I had one where I like directly was processing my sexuality. So I went back and read that one, had a big crush on this girl in one of my classes. But going back and even seeing the middle school stuff and how I talked about certain friends and described them, I was like, oh my gosh, I had a crush on them. I didn't know. I literally didn't know. Yeah. So that was kind of part of the rewarding part for me. Keely: That's true. Yeah. Melisa: But like I said, it's, it's ongoing, you know, it's like, there's a different story for coming out to my friends versus coworkers versus the first time I started coming out to clients versus the first time I came out to my family members versus like the Facebook, you know, it's just, there's so many and still, you know, still I have to do coming out, especially because I am very femme presenting person that would be mistaken as cisgender very easily. And I do date cis men. And so I don't necessarily appear queer to the average person. If I'm walking around with one of my partners. So. Coming out is, it's a process. It's ongoing. Keely: Yeah, I think the ongoing thing is definitely something that doesn't always fully reveal itself when we have these snippets of these stories or when we have made queerness being gay, such a part of social media, part of shows, movies, just media in general. Hey, it's Cardinal. You're behind the scenes buddy. Every year around pride month, we see rainbow capitalism explode. In case you don't know rainbow capitalism as a term coin for when corporations that don't usually support LGBTQ plus rights, or even actively oppose. Suddenly change their logo to rainbow colors and target LGBTQ plus people with their advertising and products or services barf this June for go rainbow capitalism and buy from LGBTQ plus owned businesses or donate directly to LGBTQ plus people or organizations in need. Cardinal: Don't know where to find these businesses. There are tons of resources, but one of my favorites is, or P I B or P. Which stands for Oregon pride and business. They have a directory of LGBTQ plus owned businesses in Oregon. I've linked that in the description and for our out-of-state friends, just Google LGBTQ plus business directory and let the algorithm do its magic. Thanks for listening this month and all months. All right. Back to the show. Keely: If anyone wants to hear my story, they can actually go on TikTok or Instagram. Chloe did an awesome job. I just told my story to her and then she edited it. She videotaped and edited it and it was almost 20 minutes. Ah, I don't wanna take 20 minutes of the podcast to go through that story again. It was really beautiful to do and I I think what's coming up for me in this point in my life having this reflection... We haven't been in pride for a couple years in person. I'm thinking back and reflecting on my pride experiences and also the difference generationally. I have a high schooler and my joy so much right now as a queer person is seeing how the high school experience for her is so different. There are things that are worse in some ways. We can name all the things that have maybe gotten worse or just appear worse. But I will say as a queer person, seeing the reflection of what's happening in high schools, at least in Portland, Oregon, is amazing. And so I get so much joy reflecting and seeing that, and then really noticing the trauma that I experienced, really owning that and making that a part of my story, just as much as the joy, because frankly, for so many years, I didn't have it as bad as anyone else in middle school and high school. In college, I dated men and women and all different folks. And you know, 20 years ago, there was a lot of closeted people who were dating in a cis hetero appearing relationship and kind of doing that relationship escalator. So, I think that- no, I mean in high school, I definitely was not out in high school to myself. I honestly, and I've said this multiple times before, I didn't even know what a lesbian was like legit. When I look back and I know my brother would make fun of me and call me a lesbian and I didn't quite understand it in middle school, there was a, some sing song about You know, the term finger banging, which I dunno. Melisa: I haven't heard that in so long. I know if somebody said that to me, I would laugh out loud, like in their face. I would be like, that sounds hilarious. Keely: Yeah. So in middle school, in the, on the school bus, like people singing about finger banging. I have no idea what the hell that was and then yeah, through middle school and then high school being made fun of by my brother and by other students in the high school. And then really honestly having a secret girlfriend. But even that, like, it's interesting, cuz I've looked her up on Facebook, like any good queer person, and she's like a nurse with like four kids married to a dude, cis man. And so, knowing how much hiding and how much the layers, not just like sexuality and then relationship orientation, hiding that like the layers of hiding I have done throughout the years. And so those moments are when I'm constantly coming out or coming into myself more and then coming out to people because really having grown up in an alcoholic family and grown up around abuse... The maladaptive coping strategy was to hide and to have secrets. And so the pure unadulterated joy of pride is to have a space to really be seen. And to be heard. And this basic human need, you know, if we talk about basic, basic human needs, aside from food and shelter and water is to be seen and to be heard and during pride month, we get that. I mean, we should get that 365 days of the year. I mean, yeah. So I'm really reflecting on that. And so my layers of coming in and coming out is, you know, from high school, unfortunately, people found out about the relationship, the dynamic with my best friend or one of my best friends at the time who I called my secret girlfriend. They found out when I went into a college and it was blown out of proportion at high school, it was really shaming. I was closeted in my cis hetero appearing, even though I, at that point at 19, I was fully identifying as bi, but then got married to a cis hetero dude, and then really hid the non-monogamous part of me. And so really continued having sexual connections with women and non-binary folks outside of my marriage, consensually, but people didn't know about it. So I was like, as much as I hated the feeling of being closeted or hiding, it was such a comfort thing for my youth that okay, I'm out as bisexual, but then, oh. I'm hiding in this closet of monogamous appearing. So then I had a full, like fully coming out for my divorce and it was really convenient to blame, to blame, blame my sexuality for our divorce when there was so many other things about the marriage that was not going according to what I wanted. But then not really understanding fully my full sexuality, my full relationship status, my full desires and relationships and understanding my gender. And so that coming into play a couple years ago, and now all of those coinciding at 41 years of age being like, okay, what does all of this mean? Melisa: yeah, it's an ongoing process. Keely: But what it does mean is next weekend at the pride event, I just gonna exist. Yeah. And I'm not in a relationship because also, and I'm not gonna go into this too much, but I feel like Melisa would be tapping onto a episode topic. I think about relationships and how as much as I want to like break away from standard monogamous relationships, sometimes that feels so secure to me in a way. And being able to be at pride and not be in any kind of romantic relationship where I have like this obligation to somebody else other than myself, that is so freeing. Like I just get to mingle and interact and be with people. And we should be able to do that in our romantic relationships as well. Do not get me wrong, but I put myself in these situations and I've allowed certain dynamics to continue. So that's my convoluted kind of piece by piece. Melisa: Everything you said is just so important and thank you for sharing. I wanna echo the shout out to high schoolers all over the world because my God, like that was a huge part of my coming out too. I was working with high school students and guess what? Most of them were queer. And the best part was, they didn't come in to work on their sexuality as maybe people thought they were coming in. No, they wanted to talk about testing anxiety and how do I get a better grade in math class, you know? And it was so wonderful to have these people who are like, yeah, I'm, non-binary, I'm trans, I'm queer, whatever. It's cool. We're good. Let's talk about what I wanna talk about. And that was very different than the culture around my high school years, you know? Keely: And it, and it just, when we're in times of struggle or really trying to come into something feeling good to be able to reflect on that, to say, you know, the work, not just the work of our generation, but the generation before us, you know, and being like, because I had it better in lots of ways and currently have it much better than people in their sixties and seventies when they were my age. Absolutely. Yeah. Was recognizing. The El the elders above me. Yeah. I , I hesitate to, I don't feel quite like an elder yet, but when I realize that I have a child, that's almost a sophomore in high school. Am I, I don't, , I'm a different generation, but I'm not quite an elder. Yeah. Melisa: You're, you're not, you're, you're a veteran, perhaps a queer veteran. Keely: I had some experience under my belt. Melisa: yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, and also. It it's helping me reflect on what pride actually means to me this year, because it does. I said it feels good, but it does feel different than other years. There's less of a need to be validated by anyone else which I think was very much an experience of my first out pride. And more of just like wanting to like, kind of like put my bags down and relax. Like I'm tired, I'm a tired queer person. I'm a tired poly person. I'm a tired therapist in the middle of a pandemic, you know, there's all these pieces of the fighting piece of it. And what we've all been fighting for. And I could go off on that and I won't, but yeah, so the, the pride for me this year is kind of about relaxing into who I am and just being seen as a person, not just as a queer person, but like as a human. You know that feels really important. And also you mentioned that piece of being seen and then some of your trauma that you experienced in coming out. One of the things, in some ways being closeted, I avoided a lot of bullying and things like that in high school, cuz I wasn't out. What I did experience with my coming into my sexuality which is what kind of happened first for me before I approached non-monogamy where then started questioning my gender was grief. Grief of realizing how many years I had lost. How many people I didn't date because I didn't think I was allowed to. How many opportunities I shut down because I thought that that was bad, right? And so, that was a part of my coming into myself too, was a lot of grief around what I felt like I lost. Pride now for me is feeling very grateful that I have so much better understanding of who I am and it's so much more integrated and yeah, it's just, it's this feeling of like, I just wanna get to pride and just relax and like, kind of not say anything and be surrounded by bubbles and glitter. That's my goal for pride. I'm not like trying to meet you. Just like laying out, just surrounded by not doing like the jelly shots this year. We're like, I just want like a halo of rainbow around me, like an aura. If I could like manifest a rainbow aura that I just like float around in, that would be my ideal pride. 2022. Keely: Totally. When you said that it, reminded me when straight people will ask like, well, why do you need a queer space? Or why do you need to have these pieces? And when you're saying this relaxation when I go into a queer space or when I go into a situation where I know that there's other queer people, or when I'm with my queer friends, that's when I feel like I can breathe and I forget that I'm like, Slightly holding my breath with anxiety and tension in my shoulders, just walking around the world most days. And when I walk into that space and walking into pride, walking to the waterfront and being surrounded by queer people, it's like, I'm able to breathe. It's the same feeling I get when I go to the ocean and just, and by the ocean and feel like I can take this full, deep breath. That is what that's like for me in these spaces. And pride is like the, the yearly reset. I can breathe. Look at all these humans that exist. I'm okay. Totally. I'm like I'm okay. Melisa: Yeah. You know, when you say that yearly reset too. I think that's a good way of looking at it. Like I certainly the last couple of prides have.- It didn't celebrate really the last, I mean, I did in my house, like wearing like rainbow socks, but like, I was very quarantined for most of this COVID experience, but using it as an annual check in, I definitely do that. Not even intentionally, so, but using it as an annual "how am I feeling about my queerness now? Look at how different I am from who I was a couple years ago." for me, it's so much gratitude that I've been able to grow and the people who have helped me grow, there's been so many people. CTC is a big part of that. You know, just as a collective, all of us, but there have been so many people over the last several years that have really helped me come into myself and even if that's just recognizing that that's happening and like telling me like, Hey, you're different. You're so different than when I first met you. Yeah. That for me is so validating and I've yeah. Pride is an opportunity to be grateful for all those people too. Keely: Yeah. Gratitude and joy. Well, that leads us to our Queer Joy time. Melisa: Queer Joy. Keely: Yeah. Thank you for sharing your story, melisa. I feel very good and I feel slightly vulnerable, so yeah. Melisa: We're gonna both need to go take a breather and like drink some water. yeah. Keely: Like, wow. Yeah. Do you wanna share, what was your Queer Joy? Melisa: Gosh. Oh man, it's tough. Cuz like I said, I've had COVID that I definitely went through my emotions of being really sad about getting COVID. Both frustrated because I'm a perfectionist and was like, I avoided this disease. I'm never gonna get it. Which that was silly thinking on my part but also then to be like ripped away from people at a time where I was like planning to have time off and really connect with my community was rough. So. There was some joy in it. I was very well taken care of by partners in very thoughtful ways. But honestly, it's not what I expected to share. And I did talk about it earlier. Really the, the interaction I have with my ex is my Queer Joy. He was a really big part of my coming out and I didn't share part of that story and I don't feel like I need to in its entirety. But the reason I was able to come out is because I had a cis hetero husband, who is brave enough to say it's okay if you are. You're allowed to be bisexual. That's okay with me. And I don't think that that would've happened. Had I not been given that opportunity. So I am very grateful for that and grateful for the way that we have been able to continue to hold each other in really respectful, caring ways. It's just unheard of, and I feel really, really fortunate. Keely: Yeah, I'm gonna continue about... the people that didn't get to go to the thorns game, I just wanna say how much joy I felt being there at that game. And there are so many moments of joy. And the first thing is to walk out into the stadium. And there is like the rainbow and like a tele advertising. So all the advertising has rainbows in which okay. It's advertising. Yeah. Well, then we see the executive director of Q center. He is the one that sings the national anthem and you know, all these people walk out and these kids playing, then they pull up this huge flag that says our res about transresistance, our joy is our resistance as trans folks. And I was like, and if, you know, for people listening, you can go my Instagram story or not this, not my story, but I have a post, so like a reel on it. And it's just huge man. And I was just like, oh my gosh, this is so amazing. And then the players, so there was Portland, you know, obviously Portland was playing LA. And the normal, you know, mainly black with some red uniform, but then the back of their uniform, their numbers were rainbow. Even the captain band was rainbow and why this is so awesome. Also, I mean, all the awesomeness LA, as far as I could tell nothing about their uniform, they had no gay, anything representation of queerness.. Anything. And so I'm really curious about other states and other cities, I'm like, oh my God, are we just so fucking queer? Like how amazing. Talk about gratitude. And so, yeah, the whole night was just fantastic. Yeah. Was so many gay people and yes, I saw someone that I wasn't super excited to see, but whatever. That was like a minute. Yeah. That didn't, you know, ruin the night for me, it was such a joyful wonderful, you know, and I also happen to be at the game with an ex of course, you know, an ex who's a friend of mine now cause how fitting is that? It's just awesome. Joy. Radness. Speaking of pride and wanna give a shout out that Orsage is going to be having our wellness booth at pride starting this year. And so come check us out, come check us out. Melisa: Yeah, it would be really cool to see some faces of some of our listeners and, and just like, say hello. like real humans. Keely: and we're gonna have swag. We're gonna have swag for CTC. We're gonna have slack for the podcast. So that's super exciting if y'all are fans of free swag and you can just like chill in color too. So anything else that you wanna let listeners know about Melisa beforewe finish off today? Melisa: No, I'm glad you gave the plug for where we'll be because you know, it can feel very disconnected from our listeners when we sit here and record and there's no one here watching us in the moment. Keely: So there's no audience right now, right? Melisa: Yeah. And we, but we've gotten some, some really great feedback from folks and great questions and even recommendations for topics and things like that. And I know I plug that often, but that's how we build community and that's how we connect to our listeners. So it would be really cool to be able to do more of that in person, if anyone is in Portland and wants to check out the booth. Keely: Yay. All right. Well, thanks again, everyone. Thanks for listening to our story, being part of our journey, and I hope all of you have a Queer and Joyful week. Cardinal: Thanks for listening to Queer relationships, Queer joy, a podcast by the Connective Therapy Collective hosted by Kelly C Helmick and Melisa DeSegiurant. I'm your producer Cardinal marking audio is edited by Mars Gaspar. Intro music is by bad snacks. If this episode made you smile or think, tell us about it, if you hated it, tell us about that. Review us on iTunes or Spotify, or send us an email at info at Connective Therapy, Collective dot com for more queer joy. Visit our website at www dot Connective Therapy. Collective dot com. Love ya. Bye.