Come out, come out wherever you are…” The Good Witch of the North sings that song in the Wizard of Oz to encourage the Munchkin folk to quit hiding in the bushes and to come investigate a welcome change in local affairs. It’s the mantra chanted by children everywhere when the game is finally over, and it’s time to stop fooling around and go home.
Coming out: Like a hungry snail sticking its soft wet vulnerable head out from under the rim of its shell and beginning the long dangerous journey to the garden feast. Coming out: Like the gunman at the end of a stand-off, hands raised and conspicuously empty, finally ready to face the cacophony because the alternatives sound even worse. Coming out: like the stars at night, which were there all along in the daytime, too, but invisible until forced into sharp relief by the gathering darkness.
As a married woman who is both bisexual and polyamorous, I’ve had quite a few tough questions to answer over the years. When my husband and I started dating our mutual girlfriend, it took me a long time to tell certain people about it. In fact, I only just told one dear friend last week—and we’re fast approaching our fourth anniversary as a triad. The excuse is that my friend lives in Australia, and I like to talk about such things in person. Partly it’s that I was nervous, though. Not all of my conversations about the matter have been entirely pleasant, and certain people’s disapproval has the potential to weigh heavily upon me, sometimes so much so that when they really think I’m botching it all up, I’m inclined to doubt my own judgment. There are some important people, mostly older family members, whom I still haven’t told and I probably never will tell. (If you’re one of them—surprise!—and I’m sorry, and yeah I also write about drugs on the Internet. Call me and we can talk about it. Ahem.)
Similarly, for a long while I was only “out” about my use of psychedelics to a small handful of fellow explorers. After a while my mom found out. I can’t remember if I told her or if I got caught or what, but she was surprisingly cool about it. I probably didn’t go into much detail about the particulars of my practice at the time, because I didn’t want to freak her out or get into too much trouble. (I was a dumb kid and Erowid wasn’t around to consult about dosage, interactions, or harm reduction strategies, so I tended to sort of wing it. Results varied, as you might imagine.) Eventually I told my brother what I’d been up to, and shared some acid with him, which turned out to be one of the best trips ever. Next I started talking about my habits at social events, awkwardly at first and then more casually when the sky failed to fall. Lots of people had questions, and I got plenty of opportunities to dispel myths and to educate people. Eventually I started tripsitting, and people I had barely met started inviting me to their upcoming expeditions. The word was out about me, and as far as I was concerned that was just fine.
Then I got the opportunity to start writing for Erowid. At first I was elated! The more I thought about it, though, the more concerns begin to creep into my mind. This is for reals, I thought. This is on the Record. Sure, I don’t have to use my legal name, but it wouldn’t exactly take Sherlock Holmes to track me down. I wondered: Is it illegal to just talk about it? I mean Obama isn’t in jail for admitting to having indulged his youthful curiosity, right? What if I want to emigrate one day, or get into some kind of cool program or something, and my public connection with such a taboo subject counts against me? It seems unlikely right now, but life is long and the Internet is forever. Could I get busted for something like promoting terrorist activity under the Patriot Act or whatever? What if an extremely conservative regime comes into power some day and decides to round up all the troublemakers? I’d normally shrug off that kind of ideation (paranoia will destroy ya), but this time it really got to me. Sometimes it still does. I just had to do it, though. I’d end up kicking myself forever if I passed up the chance to contribute to my favorite website out of cowardice.
And then came the big one. See, I recently did something really stupid. Or maybe it was super cool. In any event it blew the closet door off of its hinges and shattered it to smithereens. A well known production company got in touch with me and told me that they were making an open-minded documentary about psychedelics that had all kinds of cool people whom I admire and respect attached to it and so forth, and asked me very nicely if I would possibly consider letting them tag along the next time I happened to be planning on taking something, anyway. (They were scrupulously careful not to suggest that I do anything just for their benefit.) The vision was to follow me around at some sort of festival, and capture a colorful glimpse of psychedelic sparkle to liven up what was essentially a fascinating but rather dry talking heads piece.
Well. I had just finished writing that column about records (Are We Recording? ) and why it was extremely sketchy indeed to so much as make a secret video of yourself tripping in the privacy of your own home, and now here was this strange request. I meditated upon it for several days. Literally millions of people would see this. Some of them might be friends and relatives who would be shocked (shocked!) to see their beloved Faerie both breaking the law and ruining her once brilliant mind. Could I be prosecuted even if nobody ever saw me take the drug and it was just implied that I had done it? Worse yet: What if I made a fool of myself and, by extension, brought shame and dishonor upon the psychedelic community at large? I look like a freak, for one thing. I’m not representative of anyone; I’m sure as hell not the poster child for psychedelic culture, and I have no desire to be. There’s no such thing as psychedelic culture, anyway. It looks as much like a therapy session, or like your dentist and your accountant sitting around the living room with goofy grins on their faces, as it looks like a rave, or like a concert scene.
In the end I accepted it. The fact was that they were going to find somebody who would do it eventually, and I didn’t have anyone to recommend to them that I trusted more than myself and Seuss Dean, who is always willing to share both my honor and my peril. I told them that I wasn’t comfortable with the hedonistic festival idea, though, and suggested that they come record our actual practice instead. All and all I think it went pretty well. I feel confident, at least, that it was better than the festival thing would have been if I’d let the cup pass from me.
But now I’m waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats. The cat is out of the bag and on the loose, shredding up the furniture and pissing on the rug. I keep thinking of more and more people who might see that documentary, like for instance my mother-in-law. I keep wondering what clips they’ll use; some of the stuff that I said I’m really proud of and some of it was silly, but even if I’d done a perfect job they could surely cut it to make us look like assholes if they wanted to. I’m statistically certain that it will come back to haunt me again and again, sometimes in amusing ways, sometimes maybe not so much so. Whatever. It’s out of my hands now. The point is that I’m feeling it, okay?
And it is from the nauseating pinnacle of this state of extreme overexposure that I want to talk to you about coming out.
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