When Allegro approached me and asked if I’d be interested in writing an article for Pride Month, I’ll be honest, I was hesitant. Many of the feelings that I’ve worked hard to put away came creeping back into the forefront of my mind. This may be surprising for my friends and colleagues who know me to find out, but I feel I’ve only been completely “out” in the last 10 years. Writing about my truth on a public forum still seems terrifying as this will forever be available with a simple Google search of my name. I feel afraid, all over again, of not being able to control the narrative, of people making hasty judgments about me, and most importantly of it affecting future work opportunities. Please don’t misunderstand! The vast majority of my experience in NYC, especially within the music industry, has been tremendously supportive, but those scars from growing up afraid of my secret getting out don’t ever fully heal.
When I first moved to NYC and began a freelance career, I had been dating my partner, Katie, for four years. We met in college, my undergraduate senior year. We’ve been together now for 26 years. My life and level of openness about my personal life have grown in tandem with our relationship. Over a quarter of a century we have raised a daughter, gone through four cars, two dogs, a cat — and we’ve purchased a home. Through all of this, Katie has been my rock. The level of dedication, hard work, and sacrifices to making a living as a freelance musician is…well…you all already know that. What made it harder for us in the first 10 years was my reluctance to share my private life with colleagues. It was an internal struggle: do I tell people the truth knowing it might affect whether or not I’m hired, or do I live two lives and work to keep my personal life shuttered? I didn’t feel I could be as open and honest as others when turning down a gig. I didn’t feel safe saying simple things like “I can’t because it’s my wife’s birthday”.
Having our daughter 16 years ago pushed me further into the open. I realized I couldn’t raise a healthy child if I were hiding myself. So I started to share. One of the strongest memories I have of that time was while subbing at Radio City. A colleague in the woodwind section was pregnant and due in January. I took a chance and shared with her that we were also expecting in May. I hadn’t ever actually told her I was gay. She couldn’t have been more supportive. Her kindness and excitement for me was something I had never envisioned for myself. I still tear up thinking about it today. My circle of trusted people was finally getting bigger. We are still close friends to this day. Sadly, I was still reluctant to share with others. That was my insecurity, my fear, the internal struggle again. I can’t help wondering what I’ve missed in my life because of that fear. I didn’t give people the chance to accept me out of fear of rejection. It was better not to know.
Being gay means having an invisible identity. That means I have the privilege of deciding whether or not to put myself in the position of being a minority to other people. Some refer to this as “passing.” In the past, I acted, dressed, and reacted in a more cautious manner. People could assume what they wanted but I maintained a “don’t ask don’t tell” mentality. This was my choice back then because I didn’t see any other options. It was hard enough being the only female musician in many of the scenes I was working. I didn’t want to add another layer of being different. I should mention that choosing to keep my true self invisible was painful in the long run. Slowly that has changed for me, and with it I have found true inner peace. I’m more open than I should be sometimes, a nod to my desire to never go back to hiding my true self. What you see is what you get, and I think my Home Depot-loving, plaid flannel shirt-wearing self is pretty accurate.
When asked to write this assignment I was given two suggestions. I could write about LGBTQIA topics (history, activism, laws) or I could write something personal. My reason for writing my personal journey is simple. I didn’t have many visible role models who were lesbians in the Broadway community. I need to step outside of myself and be that for others. A year ago, a younger, gay male colleague spoke very sweetly to me about how much he admired me being so comfortable with my sexuality in our work scene. I laughed. I guess they never need to see how hard the journey was, just that you arrived at your destination. I did actually share my journey with him as I am sharing it with others now. It does help to know you’re not alone. Lastly, to all of those wonderful allies out there who make people like me feel safe, I love you too.
Woodwind doubler Kristy Norter has been a member of Local 802 since 1999.