2 – Chelsea Macek

Queer (she/her) // Colorado Springs, CO // Owner/Head Craftswoman at Moon Hollow Merchantile & Teller of Tales of Adventure

Where does your coming out story begin?

“I don’t know if I can go as far back as the age where I thought the Pink Power Ranger was the coolest shit on earth, but I think at the time I didn’t quite understand what that meant to me in my little brain. So, when I further started to explore things was… well, to rewind a bit– I kind of put myself in more of a conservative bubble growing up. I spent my Friday nights at church youth group, I went to a conservative Christian college, but it was all of my own doing… kind of the friend group I ended up having in high school. It just kind of led me to thinking that was the path that I wanted to take.  I didn’t really meet a diverse community of people. I grew up going to a school literally in the middle of a cornfield.  It was the same once I went to college in Indiana— there were a lot of cis straight white people that all looked the same, dressed the same, and did the same things.” 

“It wasn’t until I studied abroad my junior year – I went to Chile for a year – that at some point while I was there, I started discovering and exploring more the idea that “I think I’m bisexual, because there’s lots of really pretty ladies I’d like to get to know!”  I was becoming friends with women who identified this way, and I was like, “Wait, that’s an option?!” It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I think though, at the time, I was a little too scared to act on these thoughts and emotions, but it was probably the first time in my life that I actually allowed myself to acknowledge that about myself. So, starting around the age of 20, that’s how I identified.”

“That wasn’t really my “coming out” though, because my coming out to the world was seven years later.  In college it was maybe something my very, very close friends knew, or maybe just had an inkling about, but I didn’t date women, or hang out with women in a romantic sense. I always wanted to, but I couldn’t push myself to do it.”

“It gets a lot more complex after that, because then I ended up just dating men exclusively. It just always seemed easier? And at the time, I thought that worked for me. Deep down, I always knew there was something missing from those relationships; like I had really loving, trusting, and caring relationships with these men, but the romantic aspect always seemed to be not quite there, at least on my side of things. It was like having a best friend that you shared everything with and I naïve in thinking that that’s what these relationships were supposed to look like.”

“Then, I actually ended up getting married. I was married to a man, and the relationship lasted a total of five years. It was during the marriage I just knew that something wasn’t right. There was something that just didn’t feel right.  And it wasn’t him, and it was nothing that he had done; it was something inside of me.”

“That was a discussion that I had to have with him, and then a discussion that I had to have with my parents. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life—sitting my parents down after being separated from this man for months (unbeknownst to anyone) … simply because it took months to gain the courage to finally say, “I think I’m gay.” That opened up a Pandora’s Box of “What does that mean?”  – “What does that mean for him?” – “What does that mean for our family?”  There was a lot of guilt, and a lot of shame, for knowing that I was causing so much hurt, to not just him, but my family, his family, to so many people… it was a really difficult thing to get through.

And because I was the one coming out and making this decision to get a divorce, and I was the one deciding on the things that were going to impact so many other people… everyone thought I was fine. They were like, “Well, this was all your idea…” but it’s not like I came up with an “idea to become gay” for shits and giggles. Hardly.  It was something that was bigger than me, and I was learning how to navigate it.”

“…That was a conversation that I had with my mom where she said, “I’m sorry I didn’t reach out to you more throughout everything. I thought you were okay.” In reality, I was the opposite of okay. It was such a traumatic experience, because I feel like I’m a very empathetic person, so to know I had caused so much harm and pain for so many other people was almost unbearable.”

On fears and concerns about coming out…

“It was something that I had to do and the clock was almost ticking, because it was in January when I finally separated from my husband, and I’d say around April I was finally able to get the courage to tell my parents. So, at that point, we’re still living in the same house, going through the motions, and no one really knew except for maybe my best friend.  It was just knowing how hard everyone was going to take it, and knowing the implications it meant for our family. They had accepted him (husband at the time) into our family, and they felt I was betraying him, and there was a lot of… ‘why did I do this to him? How could you do this to us?’“

“Looking back on it – and I understand when people are finding out something for the first time, there’s a lot going on in their minds, but the focus that was put on everyone else except me is something that I think about sometimes … it was all about, “Well… we thought this…what about us?” and “What are we going to tell people?” And I tried putting others’ feelings before myself for so long, but I had to do this for me… I knew I’d explode if I didn’t. And trying to do it being married, and then realizing this and having this “Eureka!” moment and learning how to navigate that – like where do we go from here? And wanting to do everything in the most respectful way possible was also challenging. I had to be very intentional about it.”

What is one thing you would tell younger you? Any advice for anyone who feels like they can’t come out, or don’t have a community to be a part of?  

“Don’t forget yourself, and realize how important you are to yourself. Learn about yourself first. I know it is cliché, but you shouldn’t care about what people will think… if they’re the people you never really talk to in life, like an uncle who lives 1000 miles away and you know is going to be really upset with you coming out as gay, well guess what? You don’t talk to him anyways, so who cares?!”

“Then you get into the stages of when you’re dating someone, where they’re a priority, and learning how to show and express that they are a priority, and being proud of that relationship. I think there were still stages of shame and self-hatred that had been instilled in me by society. Like not being out when I was with someone caused some issues for a while until I learned how to really define my priorities.”

“Don’t tell yourself that just because you’ve dated men for so long (speaking for myself, at least), that’s the way that you are, or you have to be. Just because people see you as one way, doesn’t mean they know truly how you are on the inside. You know yourself better than anyone, and you don’t have to push those things aside, because deep down they’re not going anywhere.

“Trust yourself. Love yourself. Find those people who will love you for who you are. No matter what. It’s definitely a journey and a learning process that everyone does in different ways. I came out really late in life because no one really knew that I identified as bisexual for almost 10 years… it was in my late 20’s when I finally told people and THAT in itself was a whole thing, because coming out later, not in your teens or college years as so many do… it’s almost like people don’t know what to do with you coming out at that stage in life. “

“However, once I started meeting more people in the LGBTQ+ community, I met a lot of people with similar stories, who had come out later in life, who had been married and realized they weren’t living their truth, and it surprised me at first because I thought I was the only one!  It just shows the fluidity and complexity of the LGBTQ+ community… Our stories are all so different, but at the same time there’s so many of us with similar stories, that we can still find someone who relates to our story and relates to us.”

What’s your favorite part or thing about the LGBTQ+ community?

“My favorite thing is the initial connection that you have with others, like knowing that they get you, and knowing that you share that common denominator and yet everyone is so different. Like my community of friends here in the Springs, I’d say we’re all VERY different, but we still are able to have this love for one another, and appreciation for one another. It’s that safety net, or a space where you can 100% be truly who you are…. Even though I have straight friends who are very open and loving towards me, but it’s just that difference of when you have other LGBTQ+ folx around you.”

Least favorite part?

“So, at the same time, especially when I was first coming out, I realized that there is a lot of hypocrisy in the LGBTQ+ community. I definitely heard a handful of times, “Oh… I don’t hang out with newbie queers”, or “well, you’re a baby gay”. I think there’s a lot of, depending on how you identify, “cliques” that happen, and if you’re not a part of that identity then we’re probably not going to be friends.  It’s kind of like a double-edged sword because it can drastically go both ways. I think it’s almost like people forget what it felt like to be excluded.”

“We’re all part of the same community; however, there is definitely a focus on cis white males in the LGBTQ+ community… and gay men definitely deserve their space and time, and have done so much for our community, I’m not denying that at all.  It’s just that we’re so much more than that… I am grateful and I acknowledge the road they’ve paved, but the community is so diverse and so huge, and even today there’s still the trans and non-binary communities… the intersex community… LGBTQ+ people of color… they all still struggle to be recognized. I wish we could divert the focus and spread it out more, because it’s such a beautiful, diverse group of people with so many amazing stories to tell. So many people are being overlooked in that sense.”

What in your life are you most proud of?

“I’m truly proud of my ‘career path’ which many might not see as a path at all but perhaps… a complex game of hopscotch?  I have just woven my way through the Universe trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing. I think it’s built my character, as to who I am. I’ve been a personal assistant to a handbag designer.  I’ve worked many years in different bakeries.  I did a brief stint on reality tv.  I was a Peace Corps volunteer – I know that Peace Corps is not something everyone can do or commit to. I think that experience especially helped shape who I am today, how I see the world, and how I see others.”

“I also think I’m a creative person, and I think I have good ideas sometimes. I have finally taken that leap in pursuing my creative outlets more seriously. I’ve just recently started my handmade jewelry business- Moon Hollow Merchantile (@moonhollowmerchantile on IG – www.moonhollowmerchantile.com). That’s something I really enjoy, and I love being able to make something that others can love, appreciate and enjoy. That’s half of why I do it – to see the joy it brings to others.And I’m proud of myself for finally pushing away the anxiety and the doubts, and being like, “You know what?! F*** it!” Just try it and see what happens… If you don’t ever try it, you’re never going to know if it’s going to work out or not.”

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