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CANADA: Coming Out to My Global Sisters

Tamarack Verrall
Posted November 29, 2016 from Canada

Speaking openly about her lesbian identity strengthens Tamarack Verrall's activism for women's rights worldwide.

“I am voicing this essential aspect of freedom, hoping that we can create a strong safety net together.

I am an artist, a writer, a speaker, a dancer, a social activist, an environmentalist, an unabashed feminist, a lover of people, a lover of nature, a lover of peace.

There are other essential parts of me too that I often wait to tell people until they know me a little first. There is a part of me that goes to the core of my existence, that is precious to me, but is stillmisunderstood and taught widely to be fearedand mistrusted.

I am a lesbian—a woman whose deepest experiences in life are with other women. This is one of my greatest joys and a source of strength for me, but I don’treveal it right away because I don’t know yet what you have been taught.

To my global sisters, who have linked arms with me in our shared desire to end violence against women: The work that we are doing together is so critically important. I cannot bear the possibility of any barriers between us. I don’t want to lose any connections with you just because, ironically, my closeness to women is what is taught to be feared. I also don’t want to put you in any danger for associating with an 'out' lesbian.

But I must speak out. If you are surprised, you will now have a new context; if you are discriminated against, you will have an open ally; and anyone with questions will have someone very willing to answer them.

It is important to me to speak openly, from my own experience and from my heart. I belong to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, and two-spirited (LGBTIQTS) community. All of us, in our own ways, are broadening understanding and proving that life is more complex and varied than we were taught.

I must speak out and identify myself so that I can work toward LGBTIQTS safety and freedom. I must speak out knowing all too well that my sisters are living through and dying from 'corrective rape', a brutal hate crime committed in an attempt to change someone's sexuality through sexual assault. I must speak out knowing that my brothers are thrown off rooftops for being, or for even being accused of being, gay.

I must speak out about the indignities my sisters and brothers face as they are forced to describe the most intimate details of their relationships to prove their refugee status when they are fleeing countries that would imprison or kill them.

I must speak out as I witness others of you in my cherished World Pulse community speaking out on this topic despite possible danger to yourselves. And I must speak out because I am in a privileged position to do so, while the vast majority of this community is not.

I have been 'out'since 1972. I have always cherished my freedom and knew early on that I was here to lead an unconventional life. I wasn’t lonely or unloved. I had plenty of offers of marriage from gentle, interesting, kind, and loving men. But between the ages of 19 and 22 I had a recurring dream that I had agreed to marry. This dream would immediately fill me with remorse and dread. In some of the dreams I ran out before the wedding dress was hemmed. In others, I would get halfway to the front of the ceremony, turn, and run. Always, I would jump in a car, drive off and go camping, wind blowing in my hair. It wasn’t until I accepted this dream as a message, that I found my way to the lesbian community.

We cannot all be “out”. Many have lost jobs, lost children, lost lives. I am writing this so that those without freedom to live their lives can find support, and so that all of us who want to be in touch can find and support each other. I have the safety to be able to speak openly, so I am voicing this essential aspect of freedom, hoping that we can create a strong safety net together, dispel the myths, and celebrate the wonder of all of our lives.

We have so much in common. Not all women who love other women are lesbians, but we all live in a world in which the deep love and trust between women is suspect, ridiculed, and all too often, severely punished. Not all unmarried women are lesbians, but as a lesbian, I am fully aware of how mistrusted an unmarried woman can be. Our society assumes that women who live without men have some deep fault, that we are dangerous, unloved, or that we are a threat.

The choice to live life unmarried to a man is still one of the basic human rights inaccessible to many women. There is so much resistance to women who live independently. Widows are thrown to the street, banished from communities, stripped of land and property, or locked up inside the house. Girls are threatened, tortured, injured, and even killed for wanting a modicum of freedom. I have met girls as young as 7 who knew they were headed for persecution. I have met women in their 90s who have had to hide.

Knowing how few women have any choice at all, I have consciously chosen to remain as independent and free as I can be. I have dedicated my life to creating change and working for our collective freedom and respect.

So many of us lesbians have been working in this way, not only for our own freedom, but for basic human rights for all. I welcome ideas on how to be sure that we include everyone in the work we are doing together. The very real and deep love that women have for each other is beautiful, powerful, and much needed as we work to heal a very broken and cruel society of people and a very damaged planet.

To this end, if you read about this important part of me and suddenly feelmistrust or feeltheneed to step back, I ask you to instead step forward. Ask questions, send me your thoughts, link arms even tighter. Now that you know me better, we can work more closely than ever together to free girls and women to make their own choices, to fully live their precious lives in exactly the way they choose.

Comments 28

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Lisa Anderson
Nov 30, 2016
Nov 30, 2016

Dear Tam,

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post with the World Pulse community. I'm struck by your powerful words, much as I was last summer during your visit. You are such a tremendous part of this community, and it's wonderful to read more of your story and journey as an activist. Shine on!

Love,

Lisa

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 02, 2016
Dec 02, 2016

Dear Lisa,

I can always count on you to make the immediate leap to be of great support and understanding. It is credit to the World Pulse Team that you decided to call for stories on this all too often hidden, undiscussed and misunderstood subject. Thanks to you all for making this easier for me to send out. Your call for stories has created even deeper evidence of World Pulse's work for freedom for all of us. It has also already begun to make more visible the courageous ally work being done by World Pulse sisters. Thank you!

With love,

Tam

JaniceW
Nov 30, 2016
Nov 30, 2016

Brené Brown wrote "Courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength". Thank you for sharing this post and helping to educate those of us who may not be familiar with what it means to be LGBTIQTS. Thank you for inspiring us ALL to let ourselves be seen, deeply and vulnerably, by others; to love others wholeheartedly even though there's no guarantee of reciprocation; to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror; and to believe we are enough.

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 02, 2016
Dec 02, 2016

Dear Janice,

I was moved by your mention of vulnerability, as it is a profound feeling to wrestle with. You led me to look it up: "susceptible to physical or emotional attack; liable to higher penalties". I appreciate your writing about this form of vulnerability as there are so many ways that we constantly make ourselves vulnerable while speaking out as feminists, and by sharing deeply painful information and life experiences with each other. If I have managed to write  without losing any precious connections with my cherished World Pulse Sisters, my heart is deeply relieved. If I have shed a new light for some on the importance of dropping learned prejudices and misconceptions of LGBTIQTS people and examining where and to what end they are taught, I am thrilled. If what I have written does, as you suggest make it easier for others to share deeply, we are victorious.

With love,

Tam

Obisakin Busayo
Dec 01, 2016
Dec 01, 2016

Hello Tam

Thank you for sharing with us. I also want to say that vulnerability brings power that is by showing your vulnerability you become empowered and empower others. I appreciate you my Sister!

Warmest Love

Busayo

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 02, 2016
Dec 02, 2016

Dear Busayo,

Thank you for mentioning vulnerability as well. I so agree, finding the courage to write despite vulnerability strengthens us and can be encouraging for others to do so as well. It is the courage of all the stories in World Pulse that inspire me. And you have long been an inspiration to me, one of the first as a Welcomer to welcome me when I became a member, and a fearless leader who I feel so grateful to link arms with and continue to learn from. Thank you for your enduring warm love.

Your loving sister,

Tam

Julie Zenterra
Dec 01, 2016
Dec 01, 2016

Thank you, Tam, for this beautifully written post and for allowing people to see you in the fullness of who you truly are. So many women across the world are unable to use their voices to safely express views which separate them from their peers or communities, and this is doubly true for LGBTIQTS women, who stand to lose jobs, relationships, status, and even family when they come out. Deciding to make your sexual orientation known can be a very tough decision, but I know from experience that this changes lives. Your thoughtful post on this important subject, and your honesty, make such a tremendous difference, Tam, giving many others the courage to do what you have done. Your amazing and dedicated support of the World Pulse community and its change makers is deeply appreciated. Thank you for helping all of us to see, through your post, how very rich we are in diversity, courage, and generosity of spirit, Tam!

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 02, 2016
Dec 02, 2016

Dear Julie,

What a lovely uplifting message. My heart soars. I did want to be visible especially for the sake of LGBTIQTS people who cannot be "out", and to be available for any questions anyone has. I am just young enough to have escaped most (not all) of the raids with people being beaten up, raped, thrown in jails for meeting together, when we were a "secret society", instead being able to be part of the heady 1960's freedom movements. I fully recognize what is being said about and done to too many of this community still today, and am grateful to World Pulse for calling for these stories. It makes a huge difference to me to read your deeply supportive messages here.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam

Emily Jensen
Dec 01, 2016
Dec 01, 2016

Dear Tam,

I was filled with joy when I saw the title of your story, and then moved by your eloquence when I read the rest. Thank you for being both loving and courageous in your willingness to let us all know you better. Thank you for speaking out for yourself and for those who can't yet speak freely. You inspire me to live with a truer sense of self!

With love,

Em

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 02, 2016
Dec 02, 2016

Oh Em,

If only you could see my wide smile reading your comment and knowing that you fully celebrate the title, with the love and respect you have shown me. You, and the Team have helped so much in bringing all subjects related to the LGBTIQTS community into our protective World Pulse spotlight.

With love,

Tam

Alexandra Fercak
Dec 03, 2016
Dec 03, 2016

Tam,

thank you so much for sharing yourself with us, for being open, being vulnerable, and speaking out. By doing that you open the space for all of us to do the same. Thank you!

Yes, we absolutely cannot bear the possibility of any barriers between us. So wonderful to get to know you better. 

Much love to you,

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 07, 2016
Dec 07, 2016

Hi Alexandra,

Your message means a lot to me. If it makes it even more possible for all of us to be wholly who we are with each other, this is wonderful. Thank you for your reiteration that we cannot have barriers.

Much love,

Tam

Adanna
Dec 04, 2016
Dec 04, 2016

Dear Tam,

I am sure this took a lot of courage.

Thank you for sharing :)

Love, Adanna

Nakinti
Dec 04, 2016
Dec 04, 2016

Dear Tam,

thank you for using your voice to speak for all the women who do not have the freedom to speak out because of the situations and locations in which they find themselves. I hope they can read this post and find peace with their inner self.

I hope someday, any one any where will be free to be who they truly are.

With love Nakinti

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 07, 2016
Dec 07, 2016

Dear Nakinti,

I share this lovely hope that you have expressed that those without the freedom I have find some peace, not only through my words, but seeing the loving responses such as yours. Thank you so much.

With love,

Tam

Tam 

Feka
Dec 05, 2016
Dec 05, 2016

Dear Tam, 

I am very proud of your bravery and courage.

Keep talking.

Love you

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 07, 2016
Dec 07, 2016

Dear Feka,

How special to have your message here. It went straight to my heart.

Love,

Tam

PilarAlbisu
Dec 06, 2016
Dec 06, 2016

Tam, Thank you so very much for the bravery and honesty you have shown in writing this journal. Thank you for trusting us as a community enough to share this very important aspect of your identity. And thank you so so much for such a wonderful, reflective and truly positive piece. I have no more words. Just wow! And thank you!

Keep doing exactly what you're doing! Pilar

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 07, 2016
Dec 07, 2016

Dear Pilar,

How wonderful to get your message. I am even more glad that I wrote it. Thank you so much for your supportive words.

Love to you,

Tam

Olanike
Dec 06, 2016
Dec 06, 2016

Dear Tam,

First I must acknowledge you for your openness and deep sense of sincerity. You trusted me enough to speak to me from your heart, and I am not in the least surprised to read the same truth you shared with me in this piece.

Many fear the judgement that the world will mete out to them, and end up living a deceptive and illusive life that is never progressive. The question I ask is what good is there in being judgmental. The world must learn to embrace and celebrate truth, in ways that heals and fuels progress!

Truth sure comes from the heart and not the head, and you sure poured out your heart in the light of the truth and change you want to see in the world; particularly for women and girls. I have spent an appreciable amount of time with you in real time, enough to know that your heart is pure and made of gold.

More grace, strength and peace to you!

Much love, Olanike

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 07, 2016
Dec 07, 2016

My dear Olanike,

Once again your deep wisdom and ability to love with perfect honesty and so completely devoid of judgement lift my spirit and show what humanity is capable of. Your wisdom is based on having witnessed the worst of what people are capable of doing. Your counsel was and is wrapped into what I have written here. It is rare to meet another with whom it is possible to speak so completely openly, especially on a subject so misunderstood. These are the friendships that are being forged here within World Pulse. You and I have the added good fortune of having been able to meet in person, and to celebrate together that we walk on this earth at the same time. I cherish you.

Much love,

Tam

Lana Holmes
Dec 14, 2016
Dec 14, 2016

With you dear sister... on all levels!! :-)  

Appreciate your courage and willingness to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability expands the heart!   That is always a good thing!!

Warmly,  Lana

Tamarack Verrall
Dec 19, 2016
Dec 19, 2016

Hello Lana,

Thank you for your very supportive words, they are much appreciated. Yes, vulnerability brings new strength and I hope opens a largely misunderstood subject to create positive change.

In sisterhood,

Tam

QueenVirtuous
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 20, 2017

I've never met you in person, dearest Tam. We might never cross paths. But deep within my spirit I know you are beauty and grace overflowing. And that's all I wish to hold on to. Your beauty, your grace, your sense of purpose, your intelligence, your courage, your generosity, your honesty, your warmth.....that smile! I certainly refuse to be one of those taking that smile away from you. You are welcome in my heart, my darling sister. 

Tamarack Verrall
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 12, 2017

Dear Queen Virtuous,

I want you to know how deeply I appreciate your beautiful words. I hold close to my heart such a supportive and kind message. I am so glad to meet you here within our beloved World Pulse and look forward to ongoing connection.

Thank you so much sweet sister,

Tam

Phinnie
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 26, 2017

Tam--Your words inspire me and cause me to reflect on my own life.  In North America, I find that it really depends on where I am and who I am with how "safe" I feel to be open about being a lesbian...My partner and I just celebrated 25 years together, have 5 wonderful grandchildren who celebrated our legal marriage with us 2 years ago.  They don't understand why anyone would have a problem with our relationship. Yet, I know in our schools and neighborhoods, it is often a put-down or a form of bullying for a youth to be called gay or queer. Even worse, I know that in many parts of the world, it is punishable by incarceration or even death to be gay...While I have marched in gay pride parades, I have also held back and not been open about being a lesbian and the nature of my relationship in circles where I wasn't sure it would be accepted and I am not proud of that...Thankfully, that has gradually changed so that my family, friends,neighbors, and co-workers celebrated our marriage with us and they know our story of our lives together.

There are so many degrees of being "out" and I wish you joy, peace, and love on your journey, Tam!

PEACE!

Phinnie

Nicole reid
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

This post speaks of the type of emotional freedom some of us can only dream of many of us will forever harbour emotional battle scars that we endured following our one true emotional freedom and that's the expression of love to other people. I know that many lgbtqi abuses go unreported for fear of rejection and safety these are some of the issues I been trying to cover in Australia but I have no real direction I have done one domestic violence documentary but no real direction what to do next so reading stories look like this help with my direction thank you

Stella Paul
Sep 11, 2018
Sep 11, 2018

Reading this - a good 2 years later and it feels just as fresh and relevant as they were ever. Thank you so much Tam for coming out and for telling us who you are. because I do take you my friend and my sister exactly as who you are. With love and deep respect - Stella