You’re sixteen, you’ve just spent two weeks going through a harrowing first-ever existential crisis where you broke up with your boyfriend and refused to speak to anyone except when absolutely necessary, using every spare minute you could find to scroll through the wlw tag on tumblr. You ask your best friend to meet you at your car after school so you can tell him something. You sit in silence together, you wait for your racing heart and shaky hands to find any semblance of stillness, sitting in the driver's seat of your silver 2014 Honda Accord at the back of your high school’s parking lot, staring straight forward through your windshield, trying to figure out the right words to say as he stares straight forward too.
Coming out isn’t easy, but I think being in a car makes it easier. All of my most important moments of coming out have happened in cars. There’s just something about it that feels sacred. Ritualistic. Cosmically important. Coming out in a car feels like a rite of passage, an age-old tradition of queerness festering in suburbia, begging to be let out. It’s beautiful, multifaceted. You’re so confined in the compact metal walls of whatever vehicle you happen to be in, surrounded by glass, completely exposed, with mirrors reflecting your own image back at you. You sit parallel to your subject, defaulted to face forward in your driver’s and passenger's seats, so when you turn to make eye contact, you really mean to. You sit side-by-side and share your secret, exposing a part of yourself with the hope that the ears it falls on will be gracious and accept it. It’s sort of a confession, except you aren’t a guilty Catholic, you’re just a faggot. (You could, of course, also be a guilty Catholic, but that’s extra credit.)
The journey I have taken through queerness has felt pseudo-religious, when I really step back and look at it. Spiritual at least, as the first time I ever really felt like I knew myself or made sense in the world was when I realized I wasn’t straight, now almost seven years ago. Isn’t religion the subscription to some intangible force that governs your world? Isn’t it a means through which to discover yourself, to extend love to others, to connect with a greater sense of humanity? Yes, to me, queerness is inherently religious. And I have found that, when baptizing myself, I prefer it to be in a car.
You’re twenty, back at home on winter break, and you just had a fight with your mother while picking up Chinese takeout for family dinner. You tried to stifle your tears while she ordered egg foo young and Mongolian beef, and when you both step away from the counter to wait for the restaurant to pack it all up in styrofoam, she asks you what’s wrong. This is the first time you’ve spent time back where you grew up in the suburbs of Texas since realizing you’re nonbinary, and you are more disphoric than you can ever remember being in your life. Everything, your parents calling you their daughter, the way the jeans you’re wearing hug your waist, even looking at your brother or sister for too long, pulls you deeper into the dissociative state you found yourself in since you arrived a week earlier. You tell your mom that there isn’t anything wrong, and she refuses to accept it. You tell her somethingiswrong, but you don’t know how to talk about it. Suddenly she is yelling at you in the lobby of this Chinese restaurant about how you never tell her anything anymore, about how she feels like she doesn’t know you, how you two used to be so close and now it feels like you’re hiding something from her. You start to cry again because you know that you are. The very timid teenage boy in a visor approaches you both and apologetically hands you two plastic bags with your food inside. You retreat back into the car.
Again you find yourself facing forward, eyes glassy and fixed out the windshield, sitting in silence and trying to find the right words to say. You didn’t plan to come out to her as you both set out to pick up a quick bite to eat because neither of you felt like cooking. It’s becoming clear that there’s no way to exit this car without doing so. You’re back in the driveway of your house. She turns off the engine and neither of you move. You wait for yourself to say something, and you can feel her waiting too. You don’t know how to say it, how much to explain to her, you can’t decide how much she’d be ready to hear all at once. The food is getting cold. You begin the sacred ritual.