53 - Lizzie Furlong
Married to Aubree Furlong
Fitness Coach. Movement Enthusiast. Work In Progress.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know….
“I did not realize I was attracted to a girl until the moment I kissed my first girl. But then when I think back on how much of a tomboy I was and maybe got a little jealous when my best friend would have a friend, and that could have been a sign.
I’d probably say it wasn't until I was 15 that it made me truly stop and think that there was something different, in that regard. I just thought that I was just unique. I thought that I was the girl that was great at sports… I was the first one picked in dodgeball and the only girl on the boys team. This was the 80s… I didn't know that there was something different to label it, I just thought the tomboy was the easiest thing to go with. I knew that I was different... I just never equated it to a sexual thing, just because I was very sheltered when it comes to sexual things… I’m Hispanic, my parents didn’t have the conversation. You learn when you learn.
Later in life I started to embraced [the word tomboy] more as an adult, as in like, ‘I'm a tomboy…’ And then they're like, ‘Oh, I can totally see that.’ And it just makes sense to people now. Anybody can be a tomboy. Since then, I’ve realized… and being in the fitness bubble, I think that's what also helped me… is that in the fitness bubble I see tons of straight girls that are super tomboy. They have ponytails, lifting heavy sh*t…And that's where I think it was the fitness community that made me realize more of these, I guess, spectrums of personalities.”
On her coming out experience...
“I never decided to put myself in a box of only being one thing… I never really had the formal coming of the of closet because I was just always the same person. Here and there I would tell friends… they would ask… they knew… I mean, they figured it out. So I guess my coming out would probably be with my parents.
So touching on that, that was an interesting one… so, same thing we’re brown (Hispanic) people, we don't talk about it. So, I had been dating someone for a very long time, when we had broken up, they text my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister in law... which my brother, I actually did come out to when I was 17. He was the cutest thing ever because I said [nervously], ‘Hey, I sleep with girls…’ and then he goes, ‘OK… I'm so sorry, but I have got to go to work.’ I laughed and said, ‘…you can go.’ My sister-in-law stayed, and she had a full conversation with me afterwards… and so he's been cool, but he's known since I was in high school.
But then my parents…the text heavily implied a romantic relationship. My sister in law texted me, and she goes, ‘Sh*t is about to hit the fan. We just got this text. Everybody… the whole family got this text!’ I’m like… motherf*cker. I was living with my parents at the time and I was just kind of having that freak out moment of like, ‘What do I say? What I do? I know they saw it… There's nothing I can do…’ And so finally I was like, ‘Let me go into work early I won’t have to deal with them.’ And then next thing you know, I hear the back door open, and I’m like, ‘F*ck… someone's home.’ Then I walk out, my mom like, ‘Hey, how's it going? Nothing ever happened…’ I was doing the normal, like, ‘Hi, how's it going… gotta go to work, blah…’ But there was something about that moment where I just told myself that I didn't want to push it off. So, she was about to walk off and I stopped and said, ‘Hey…’ She kinda turned and looked at me… I'm like, ‘Are we going to talk about this?’ And she goes, ‘Talk about what.?’ I go, ‘You know… are we gonna talk about this?’ As we’ve done before, we were both trying to avoid it but I took that moment because I wouldn't get another like it.
After a QUICK conversation, everything was fine. The way I describe my coming out story is, it's almost like you hit a speed bump that you didn't see coming and it goes boom! And you're checking the car… Is anything happening? Is it making any sounds? You slow down for a second, and you realize that everything's okay… And you just keep on going… that's literally how I felt. It felt like, ‘F*CK! WHERE'D THAT COME FROM?!’ And then you kind of stop, and you're like, ‘OK… I'm OK.’ And then we were able to keep on smooth sailing… and it never was a thing. It was very natural. My parents would introduce her as my novia (girlfriend in Spanish)… when we got married, would introduce her as my wife. It was never a thing after that. So that was kind of my coming out situation, is what I call it. It was weird. But like a speed bump, and just kept going after that.
A few months later, we had a thing that I volunteer every year and my mom was asking if I was going to be there and what additional volunteers I was bringing. ‘OK, are you going to be there? Is Misty going to be there? Who of all your friends are going to volunteer?’ In that conversation I was like, ‘Hey, well you know Aubree, that girl that I've been seeing… Can she come? Because she was planning on coming…’ My mom said, ‘Absolutely’ Because of that coming out conversation, or because of that situation that happened, I was able to introduce her as somebody that I’m seeing. Which I'd never been able to do that before that.”
Fears or concerns with coming out?
“Yeah, absolutely. I'd probably say about 15 years ago, I had a manager that was kind like my mom. So I would use her as a pulse for mom stuff… one day I asked, ‘If it was your daughter, would you want to know?’ And she said, ‘I’m gonna tell you an answer that you may not want to hear…if I wanted to know, I'd ask.’ I go, ‘Done!’ And that's just one reasons why I never felt the need to come out.
Another reason is, for the longest time, I felt that coming out, for some, can be a selfish process. It might make me feel better to come out, not them feel better for me to come out. So, why would I do that? I thought if they ever ask, I'll say something… but they never asked, then I don’t have the urgency to throw myself a coming out party.
Part of me thought they never wanted to hear it. Why is it my business to then push it on them? Because it'll make me feel better? I never felt the weight on my shoulders… I never felt like I was somebody else... And so yeah, it was an absolute fear of the worst case scenario… ‘Okay… We're never gonna talk to you again… You're never gonna be able to come around again... We're never going to see you…’ which luckily did not end up being the case.
Friends wise, my friends were always very great and supportive, so I never was worried about that… but there was that fear of the unknown. You just don't know. I was pretty much out with everybody else, and so I never worried about that…”
Frustrations within our community?
“One of the frustrations I probably see is that they still put you in a bit of a box, and so people get surprised… ‘Oh, you're a lesbian? You’re so cute! You're so pretty!’ I'm like, ‘What does a lesbian look like?’ ‘Well, you don't look like a lesbian…’ Like you know that we don't all look alike! Why would you say that?!
Take the gay male, they think that they need to be on the flamboyant/femme side because if they're not, then they think that they're ‘not doing the gay community justice’ and then they feel outcasted. The fact that, even within the gay community, we feel that you have to have your leather bars, etc… you're still in a box. Even when you date - who do you date? a butch? a femme? a lipstick? a chapstick? and this? A that? I'm like, ‘Yeah I don't f*cking know, what does their soul look like?’”
Favorite part about our community?
“On the complete opposite side, how amazingly loving they are. Even if it's not a pride thing… you can always go to a bar, you can always go to an area, you can always go to anything, and the gay community is just loving, because maybe they needed the love. I don't know what it is. But that's been one of the things that I love the most. They truly feel like brothers and sisters, because you can get mad at them, but you can love them. In all capacities. The old, the young… I love older LGBTQ+ community members, because you can learn from them… you can see the stuff that they went through. And, I love seeing the younger kids, because I'm like, ‘Sh*t, you don't have to go through half the stuff, and that's good for you… because you can be these bigger things!’
When I first came across the term ‘queer’ and ‘androgynous, I thought that was amazing. Being able to find the word to describe yourself is important for identity, whatever identity. I just I love that within the community we can be exactly who we want to be.”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“I would tell a younger me is just keep being yourself, whatever that looks like. Which I think I did a pretty good job of that, so I would say… do that again. Now that you know all these extra things, it's kind of like you have all these options, so now you do really have to figure out something… well I guess you don't… But I would probably say just be confident in what and who you are. Don't let anybody deter you… Regardless… whether it's a sexual thing, whether it's who you are… whether it's work… don't let anybody tell you that what you are, and who you are, and your ideas… whether it's valid, right, whatever it is… just know who you are, and trust that. Even if you're not sure, try to find it. Don't pull back. Lean into it and find it. I'd probably tell myself just to make sure that you're still following your own path.
To others… it gets better. It totally gets better, because even if it's sh*tty in one moment… you could have come out and then five years later it's shitty for you, and you equate it to maybe whatever your lifestyle is… but that's just a moment. It will get better out of that moment. Whether it's junior high, elementary school I guess nowadays, but high school… my brother said this to me once, ‘Those years are not the time of your life. They're going to be great memories, but they're not the time of your life.’ And I'm so glad that he said that to me then because all up until I was probably 25 I kept saying ‘this is just the beginning… this is nothing… this is going to build who you are… and this is going to give you some amazing stories…’ It's cliché, but it gets better. You find your people, you find your community, you find who you are… even if you don't find your people, you figure out who you are. It will get immensely better.”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“That I've been able to keep who I am. I am open and always evolving but I have always searched to be the best version of me. That may be in slacks and dress shoes, or a dress, or my athleisure that I love. Hair down and curled, or up in ponytail. I never worry about fitting into a defined box. In my previous career I was unhappy for the longest time, so I made the scary leap to start a new career in the fitness industry. I listened to myself, and so I am proud of that, and at times been selfish… but I have to put myself in a better place so I can be the best person for the people around me.”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“For people to realize that not anyone is necessarily right or wrong. We just have a different way of looking at things. I saw an image yesterday that was of the number nine, and someone was on one side of it, and someone was on the other side of it… and someone goes, ‘That's a six!’ The other said, ‘That's a nine!’ It’s the same thing. You just looked at it differently… and so it's you're not right you're not wrong. We just look at things differently… Have compassion and you have a chance to be better every day.”