On Coming Out As a Disgusting, Bisexual Cartoonist

by Erika Lopez

My mom's bisexual, too, so I had to find something else to dramatically "come out" about. I chose to come out with my raunchy sense of humor that still gets me excused from the dinner table to this day, even when I'm by myself. And now that I'm thirty-one, things haven't changed. Just this past Christmas, my mom's big, sickly, operatic girlfriend stormed away, dramatically coughing from the table two times in under three meals, leaving me to wonder just what I said THIS time. I thought the stories about my friend Kris battling breast cancer and offering up her breast to our friend, Mark, so he could make a purse and then enlarge his penis with what was left, was quite funny.

Two Christmas days later at the airport, the teeny, tiny little airline people sighed and said they didn't have room on the plane for so many big, fat Americans, so I begged them to at least strap me to the wing so I could at least get away from the east coast. "Drop me in Oklahoma, I don't care," I wiped my tears all over the airline's formica counter, and knowing I was from San Francisco, I think the teeny, tiny little airline people thought my tears were riddled with AIDS. So, I got on the plane.

I was finallly safe from lesbian moms who go to therapy too much and rise up like Creatures from the Black Lagoon... just when you think it's safe to fall asleep in your row boat: AHA!

My mom spent my entire childhood finding herself; saying "yes" when she meant "no"; discovering her mother/herself; wondering why bad things happened to good people; and she eventually ended up in tears at wall-punching therapy sessions with animal print pillows on the floor. When she wasn't at work, empowering women at the YWCA, and teaching them to ask for raises and say "Fuck no! I'm not shaving my legs for you, for God, or for the patriarchy!" she was drinking cheap wine and sharing her feelings with her silly and bitter friends who'd been dumped by their seventies' Sensitive Men. These now INsensitive Men had left their bra-burning wives and girlfriends for tight nylon shirts in discos and opening lines that had to do with horoscopes. Can you blame them? Even sensitive lesbians leave the bludgeoning intensity of each other for nylon and cheap horoscopic patter once in a while.

And I was there. Not at the discos, but at the fireplace, listening to every bitter, lying, cheating word about men and let me tell you, I was prepared. I was prepared to rebel in my upcoming adolescence, to rebel against equality with so much helpless femininity culled from "Cosmopolitan": I always said "yes" and had my mouth glossed and forever open wide. I didn't want to be left; I wanted to be loved. I didn't want to have to bother with being loved for who I was because at that young, fresh, and nimble time, it was easier to be loved for WHAT I did and HOW I looked while doing it.

I hid my sense of humor to be sexy, and therefore loved. In my creepy adolescent world, you couldn't be a sexy, bulimic, AND a strong or funny Cosmo girl (I wasn't quite bulimic, because vomiting is such hard, painful work. You have to delicately excuse yourself from the table right before there's any chance of digesting, and once you return to the table, you sound like Tom Waits or Stevie Nicks for a bit, and everyone silently wonders why.... But I HAD done more than my share of the seven day grapefruit diet, so it's close enough to be on this Eating Disorder Wagon Train).

Adding ideas of "strength" and "humor" to our ideal concept of the light-headed waif on a sugar high, leaning against a Corvette for support with an open, glossy mouth was far too complex for us, along with the rest of America, to understand. Back then, we thought only lesbians laughed and made fun of things. And now that I'm older, I know this is true.

So it wasn't until I'd swallowed enough semen to see that, like the grapefruit diet, it wasn't exactly getting me what I wanted, and I said, "Forget this. Acceptance for WHAT? I constantly have a metaphorically and literally bad taste in my mouth, and I don't even have enough in my pocket for a pack of gum."

So whoring around may have been cheesy, but the good thing about being on my American cheese knees so much was that it made me humble enough to bring me back to myself and the sense of humor I'd thrown away long ago with all the green peppers and onions I'd stuffed in my napkins at mom's experimental Chinese dinner table.

I found myself in the trash... rinsed myself off, and there I realized that a raunchy, I-don't-care sense of humor will keep you clean, take you where you really want to go, and keep your breath fresher than any pack of gum. You are on the OTHER side of "Hustler" magazine and THAT'S the place to be; YOU make the jokes now, you don't open your legs like a vulnerable little chicken in the grocery store. No! You don't have to be so pretty because now you're counting on CHARACTER!--And between age and accidents, beauty can be as fleeting and as memorable as a sneeze. A serrated sense of humor will keep people afraid of you just enough to scamper away when you enter the adult section of the video store. And if your timing is off and all that doesn't work, gain a hundred pounds. That'll scare anyone in a dark enough alley and they'll be handing YOUthe money as you waddle all the way to the bank. And on and on it goes.

Anyway, after years of trying to conform or hide in scary, inappropriate shadows, I finally felt free of the circulation-cutting restraints of being appropriate and lady-like when I finally said to my mom in my early twenties, during one of our precious feminine deodorant-spray, mocha-coffee moments: "Dearest mother, woman who bore me: I KNOW I'm raunchy and talk about sex and wrong, scary things, but mom, THIS is who I am. I love you, and I hope you love me, too, for I can not change." Now, of course I wasn't there with a stenographer, so I don't claim this was an exact quote, but it was close enough for your guitar, and my mom sadly shook her head like, "If that's the way it's got to be/I'm sorry, honey/I'd wanted grandchildren and an unoffensive dinner one day, but oh well... if this is the way you choose to live your life..." But she said none of this./Just hugged me in pained silence, and I knew she'd give it the old college try... do her best to understand the disgusting way in which I chose to view life, even though there are no PFLAG groups (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for women with disgusting daughters who don't want to change their wicked, vile, cackling ways.

My mom tries, and I love her. Laughing at/with her makes me love her even more, otherwise I'd be torturing lovers in my basement for telling me to shhhhh in public. She's been to enough different kinds of wound-opening therapy, she at least WAITS around a little bit before storming off and giving me the silent treatment the way her folks did to her.

Her own dad was so white, he was pig-pink, and he stopped talking to her because she married my dad who was one of the darkest Puerto Ricans that side of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. So it is with her mom, who was so white, it was inevitable that she'd retire in a Republican retirement community in Arizona, where I heard her say in the car, "those Mexicans may be poor, but you'd be surprised at how CLEAN they actually are!" And someone else, like my alcoholic aunt from Florida, seemed genuinely surprised in the back seat, and exclaimed, "Oh, really?" like this is one of the very last facts she actually gives a damn about in the last couple of years she's got.

Family. It's beautiful, huh? I think they look fabulous in old sepia photos and in misty, watercolored memories before you remember the way they REALLY were. Right before you finally got the courage to laugh so hard you busted a rib and offended truck drivers everywhere, killing them softly with your raunchy songs.

Coming out as you really are is like being born again for yourself, but you don't get all the hymns or excuses for speaking in tongues---although at times, it comes awfully close to that. Just ignore your neighbors videotaping you for evidence. If it ends up on some creepy FOX network TV show, you'll actually get laid for once because people love rebels. At least for a couple of hours. After the glitter of the rebel idea fades, reality sets in and they want you to behave yourself in public. Most people are scared shitless of what the waitress will think, when all she wants to know is how much you'll leave on the table.

Anyway, shine a great, big, third-degree flashlight over your head and find out who you really are. It doesn't matter whether you're fucking girls, boys, or consenting dogs. It doesn't matter whether you want to be a butt-crack painter in a family full of overachieving lawyers with pinched faces and puckered wallets. It doesn't matter, as long as you graciously thank the ones who kept the lions from eating you when you were small, kiss them good-bye and timidly swagger off into the sunshine figuring out who in the hell you really are, superstar, because you can't lap dance for mommy forever. No, you've got to find your own man, woman, or consentual dog... start your own family and come up with your own oppressive regimes so the next Star Trek has something to rebel against.