In a week of victories and set backs (I’m looking at you South Carolina) for the marriage equality push, National Coming Out Day seems to fit in quite well. Coming out is a process or at least it was for me. I am still working my process but I am leaps and bounds further than I was on this day last year. My story is not perfect…it is riddled with stops and starts. I have been at this for nearly 9 years. Of course, I would do a million things different but it is my story…so I have to own it!
Coming Out to Myself –
It took me 27 years to fully come out to myself. It was the saddest day of my life. I was riding in the backseat of the car with my mom crying beside me…my mind reeling from the moments that were unfolding before me. My mother, uncle and cousin had just driven an hour to give me the worst news I have heard in this life so far. My brother was dead.
From that moment my physical body just checked out…I was panicked and clear all at the same time…sound around me had disappeared and my thoughts were loud and clear in the back seat of that car. There was one person I wanted to talk to, there was once voice I needed to hear…and it was clear to me in that moment why. When I was finally alone, I paced in the backyard…it was there by the fountain made out of a fancy stainless steel espresso machine that I accepted what I had known – I was a lesbian and I love myself.
Coming Out to the First Person(s) –
I chose to tell my friend Amber. We had been friends since high school. She came out to me by introducing me to her girlfriend. I was sitting on my dorm room floor freshman year of college talking on my Mickey Mouse phone with my friend Donald when Amber bounded through my door hand-in-hand with a girl whose face I can see but name I can not remember (I think it starts with an A).
I found myself again sitting on the floor…but we were 11 years older…she was with living with her then partner and I was the one coming out…after an episode of the L Word (tee hee)…Her/their response, “Duh, we knew that. We’re glad you realize it now.” I’m paraphrasing obviously but it was easy and slightly embarrassing. It was not surprising that she still loved me but it was nice to know in that moment.
Coming Out to a Best Friend –
Coming out to a straight friend is as hard as it is easy to come out to another LGBTQ friend. I remember coming out to Dianne in her car…it was night…and we were on our way home from the bar(s)…I was in love/like with someone and completely messed up about it so I had to tell her. Her reaction as always was calm and rational while using what I’ll describe as her wise teacher voice. She was not even surprised but she accepted the news with grace and love as she heard it from me for the first time. I am sure her first clue was when I watched Kissing Jessica Stein on a nonstop rotation for like a year. She is still disappointed that I do not find her attractive in a special way and never had a crush on her. Telling her was harder for me than it seemed it was for her to hear. She is my friend and she loves me no matter what.
Coming Out to Family –
I have turned coming out to my family into an epic novel…This by far has been the hardest thing to do for me. I have only been out to my mom for two years and to my dad for not quite a year. I told my mom in person and my dad in a letter. For years I was scared to tell my parents because I did not want to cause them any more pain than they had already felt. I knew that my being gay was not going to be the best news in the world and it certainly would not be the worst news they had ever heard. There was never going to be a right time to tell them. I knew parents well enough to know their responses…and I knew my dad’s word for word before he even put pen to paper. They were honest in their responses and I did not lose their love.
Coming Out is Important (AND SO ARE YOU) –
Like I said at the beginning, coming out has been a process for me. The stories above aren’t dramatic or traumatic…even those that felt like it at the time. You are going to come out to people in your lives and it all won’t be the same way or even the same day. I would not suggest a Snapchat to all of your contacts.
No matter the reaction to your news…each time you say it…a little bit of your heart opens back up…your soul begins to lighten up…your mind becomes a brighter space. Keeping that secret hurts in so many ways. The secret can be just as damaging to your relationships as the truth. I read other coming out stories to give me strength (Wish Me Away by Chely Wright is a favorite)…read the blogs about coming out…talked to my friends who were out…watched Oprah…You name it I was using it as a resource. All the resources in the world won’t take away the fear…You have to overcome it.
It is normal to fear what you might lose. There will be some people in your life that will not have a positive reaction. You just have to come to terms with that and still push forward. Have a friend/mentor/trusted confidant in place – you may need a shoulder to cry on or just an ear to process your feelings afterwards. It won’t all be negative but it is OK to be prepared.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – We’re not perfect! You deserve to be happy, to feel light, to find love and share it! Give yourself that by coming out! You are braver than you know and stronger than you think!
There are resources out there to help support you in so many ways. Reach out! Do not let yourself feel alone because you are not!
Human Rights Campaign
The Trevor Project
Out For Health
Believe Out Loud
If you have questions about my coming out, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to answer any questions but I am not a professional anything so it’s all opinion and experience.
And because everything needs a soundtrack…My Coming Out Soundtrack!