People & Pride: That Time Supergirl Helped My College BFF Come Out To Me (the one about Tessa)

The image reads, people and pride, with my college best friend.

Discussing the coming-out arc in Supergirl gave us a platform for a good ol’ queer bonding session.

Author’s Note: Welcome to People & Pride! In this non-chronological blog series I will discuss how my sexuality has impacted personal relationships in my life. Unless otherwise stated, this series uses real names and permission from the person in each post. I invite other queer bloggers to write their own People & Pride posts! How have your relationships changed, formed, or broke due to your sexual/gender identity? If you write a related post, please tag it with “people and pride” and link it in the comments. I would love to read it!

In college, I made a friend who just got me. Maybe you know the kind of friend I mean? They just know you, and you didn’t even have to explain too much of yourself. You’re both very similar, and you kind of already get each other because of it.

That’s Tessa. The similarities between seemed endless: both a Taurus, both writers, both a little bit anti-people, and both hip with the distinct sense of humor that mixes sarcasm, self-deprecation, and an ironic high-powered ego. There’d just been one really obvious difference between us. I had a girlfriend; she had a boyfriend.

I met Tessa through the classes we shared in our third year of college. We’d been placed in the same group project for one of them, exchanging numbers, and using each other for lesson catch up if we missed a class. We got to know each other really fast due to this ordinary arrangement and some unexpected tragedy mixed in.

Someone close to Tessa had died, forcing her to miss class, and my girlfriend had a self-harm relapse, in which I walked out during class and didn’t come back. Sharing these deep things with each other bonded us instantly, like I’d known her a lot longer than just a few weeks.

Because she was the first person I never really came out to, being open about my relationship with my girlfriend and expressing parts of my identity unfolded more naturally than it did with most people in my life at that time. For people I did have to come out to—and despite their assurance of love and support for me—I’d still kept myself somewhat closed off from people. Talking to say, my oldest friend from high school and my sister, I knew in my head that this wasn’t a big deal, that they loved me, that it didn’t matter to them, but my heart was still testing the waters, still filtering out information about me. I spent so much of my life censoring this to the people I have always known, that leaving things out became a subconscious reflex, and it is a difficult thing to unlearn.

Tessa helped that unlearning get a little easier. It wasn’t a sudden walls-down situation, but I’d managed to at least take out some of the bricks. She always understood. After a while, I had a slight inkling that the degree to which she understood some of my queer ramblings wasn’t just her being a good friend to me.

Supergirl comes into the picture during our last year of college, with the sixth episode of its second season, when Alex comes out to her sister. And if you’re queer and you’ve watched that coming out episode, I’m guessing that some of it resonated with you too. Her lines of dialogue felt so real to the experience—unlike anything else I’d really heard up to this point. These moments of feeling understood on the silver screen rushed in like relief, knowing that people who didn’t understand before might get parts of it now. I couldn’t stop talking about it.

The parts about Alex being up all night thinking about it. The parts of her remembering feelings like this in the past. The parts of her regretting saying anything to her sister at all. I made a mistake, she said. I was wrong.

It’s so real. I remember thinking a lot about making the whole thing up, and that made me scared to tell anyone. If I wasn’t sure myself, how could I convince other people? What if they didn’t believe me?

Jesse, can I tell you something? The message came in on my phone while I was mid-typing more about Alex’s story.

She told me she identified as bisexual. That she didn’t tell me before because she was scared I wouldn’t believe her.

I could imagine this fear being a lot greater than my own, even during the worst parts of my identity struggles. I always had my girlfriend to prove my identity, in a sense. It’s twisted, the way we make assumptions and demand proof when those assumptions aren’t met, even if subconsciously. Of course, Tessa didn’t need to prove this to me, nor did I demand that of her. But she explained anyway, not that there is much to explain. She just is.

I think for the first time, I understood this very real struggle. Maybe a bisexual person in a heterosexual relationship has some things a little easier than same-sex couples. Not this. There are no casual coming outs in the way that I’m used to. There’s no, “my girlfriend did this,” in the way that I often slip into conversations with new people. There’s no laidback proof built in.

Maybe there are only announcements. Maybe there’s only the anxiety-inducing preface, can I tell you something? Maybe there’s only preparing the proof for a society that’s going to take one look at the boyfriend in your Instagram posts and talk amongst themselves about how you’re just using this label for attention.

I did know this: It took Tessa over a year to share this with me.

Not too long before this, my former roommate came out as bisexual on Facebook in quite a similar fashion to my own online coming out. Like most things that bothered me, I talked to Tessa about it. About how I confided in this roommate all my loneliness without any queer friends, only to find out months later that she’d been bi this whole time and just didn’t tell me. Reflecting on this now, it was selfish of me to look at someone else’s coming out and feel sorry for myself.

I learned not to do this the second time.

I replayed our conversation about my roommate in my head for days. How did Tessa manage to come out to me after this? After I ranted to her, upset that my roommate didn’t tell me she was bi for months? I flipped our script a hundred times over and found the same resolution at the end every time: I probably wouldn’t have had the same courage she did that day.

I don’t quite remember what I said or how much reassurance I gave or how long we kept a serious conversation about it.

I think I already knew. Being the one important person in my life that I didn’t have to come out to (besides my girlfriend), talking to Tessa about anything gay-related was easier than talking to anyone else. And every gay-related conversation with her was so easy. She understood it all too well.

The first time I really met Tessa, I thought she was queer. But I couldn’t be sure if it was an I-spend-so-much-time-on-the-gay-internet-that-I-forget-people-are-actually-straight kind of assumption, or if my gaydar was genuinely working. Maybe it was both. Either way, it made the news natural to digest. Like filling my lungs with oxygen. And I made the mistake of telling her that I always thought she was too cool to be straight, because now she always throws it into play when we’re having Cool Competitions™. (I’m still winning, by the way.)

What’s happened since then? I  teased Tessa for getting The Bisexual Haircut just days before she came out to me. I told her she should listen to Hayley Kiyoko and she ignored my music rec for a year. I went to Hayley’s concert and Tessa finally felt the regret of not listening to me. She and I went to her first Pride this summer with another bisexual friend of ours. We all wore obnoxiously-large rainbow flower crowns that day.

You have a certain closeness with someone when you share the same side of yourselves. Especially when you’re each other’s first close queer friend that you share all your queer ass thoughts with. There’s no one else I would’ve rather shared this experience with. We came into each other’s life exactly when we needed it. That rainbow gave us an unbreakable bond. And it’s a place that might’ve taken us longer to get to without Supergirl.

Tessa and I still have that same bond from the start. Never needing to explain things. Reading each other from just a look (or an eye roll). Finding a comfort in being five episodes into Netflix together. Laughing at ourselves for hours.

But some things need to be talked about, and we’ve learned how to do that too.

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