I don’t have a recipe to share with you today and this post is
kinda really long but its important and near
and dear to my heart. Today is the 25th
Annual National Coming Out Day. To me
coming out, today or any other day, is not a political or religious thing
but an incredibly personal journey that somebody who identifies as gay,
lesbian, bisexual, or transgender has to take and it is not an easy road.
Too often we hear of people being disowned by their families, bullied in school, running away, or committing suicide. National Coming Out Day was created to build community and awareness and I hope that one day nobody will have to “come out” but instead everyone will be accepted for exactly who they are, without questions, judgment, or fear.
I asked a few people to share their stories with you today – sharing such personal details is not easy especially when you don’t know who will be reading it so I commend their bravery. I would also like to thank each of them from the bottom of my heart, they mean the world to me and have shaped my life in some very profound ways. My hope is that as you read their stories, whether you are gay or straight, somebody just came out to you, or you are struggling to come out, you will be able to identify with something somebody said and use it in your own life.
Who was the most significant person you came out to? Why?
L: When the time came I decided that I would tell my mom first, this was for two reasons. First her being my mom I hoped that she would accept me, and continue to love me. Secondly I knew she would tell a few people that were close to her, which would take a bit of the burden off of me. I was so nervous and scared, I was shaking but knew if anything the 200+ miles and the time before I would see her again would serve as a good buffer. Once I finally got the nerves I called her, from a Panda Express, once I finally got the words to come out of my mouth I was greeted with a response that was more than favorable. She said that she already knew, that she just wants me to be happy and that she was pretty sure more people in my family suspected as such. PHEW! My family is amazing, I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who love me. Telling my friends however did not go as smoothly. I was a pretty serious athlete, playing softball, basketball, and have spent a substantial amount of time within a close group of girls. When they found out some of them were very supportive, some of them were upset that I did not tell them sooner, and others became very uncomfortable around me. That was the part that hurt the most.
D: Many people ask me, “what’s your biggest coming out story” and although I have a few “big” coming out stories, the most important one was the moment I came out to myself. This “moment’ I speak of was a culmination of twelve years of inner doubt, anxiety, depression, and internalized homophobia. Denial is a wonderful thing, until you wake up one day and realize that there is nothing wonderful about denying yourself happiness, joy, peace, and meaningful connection and love. Me coming out to myself was the catalyst for much needed change in my life, and although it came at a cost, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I don’t have to live a double life anymore (it’s so exhausting), I don’t have to keep track of who knows or doesn’t know (it’s so confusing), and I don’t have to pretend to be in love with someone because I know it makes others happy (it’s so unfair). I have the opportunity to be 100% me, authentic and genuine, which is all I ever desired to be
H: The most significant person I came out to was my mom. She was also the first person I ever told. I called her on my way to work one day knowing that if I didn’t tell her I was going to explode. It was early so I am sure she knew something was up (I am not a morning person!). If I remember correctly she flat out asked me “are you gay or are you pregnant” and I think she was kinda relieved when I wasn’t pregnant!
S: Does coming out mean telling somebody or somebody finding out? Because really I didn’t tell anybody they all just found out. I don’t think I told anyone and it was under terrible circumstances so if I knew the people I was surrounded by were more accepting I would have told them instead of hiding it and them finding out.
How did you feel during your coming out process?
H: Terrified and unsure of myself – I really don’t have a typical coming out story. I can’t honestly say that I knew for years and hid it. I developed feelings for a person who happened to be the same sex as me. And then I came out really fast to a lot of people. I also come from a pretty conservative family I knew my immediate family would probably be ok with it but I didn’t know how others would react. Some of it felt liberating like I was being honest with myself but a lot of it was nerve-wracking.
S: I felt isolated I felt like I lost everyone. Eventually I felt relieved but not for a long time. It had to happen eventually because I was living a lie or fighting feelings of being gay so basically it was like living a fake life to please everyone around me. I knew in the end it would be better and it is but at the time there wasn’t much immediate relief.
D: My daily life consists of me “coming out” on more than one occasion. Although it has been over seven years since my first big coming out experience, I still at times feel a subtle hint of that deep rooted anxiety as I tell people that I am gay or that my partner is a girl and not a boy. How will the person take it? Will they treat me differently or be uncomfortable? Will our relationship still remain as it is, despite this? I can’t help but run through the laundry list of questions as I tell them about my sexuality. There’s this other part of me, too...the one that thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous to feel ashamed of my sexuality. The part of me that hates that I even have to tell people my sexuality. What’s that about? I have never had someone come out to me as being straight. So, why does my sexuality even have to be a topic?
How has coming out impacted your life?
L: Life since then has gotten easier, I am happier, the people that are still in my life respect me the same as they did before. As far as when it comes to meeting new people I go with the flow. If I feel comfortable exposing that part of me then I will, if not then I will just choose gender neutral descriptions of the person I am with and just let those people figure it out on their own.
S: It has completely changed it. Now I’m not as close with my family as I would say I was and compared to before I have a completely different set of friends but everything is more honest more me I don’t have to hide anything. It has made me less judgmental or at least I try to be towards anything because I know how much it sucks and hurts to be judged.
What would you tell somebody who wants to come out but is afraid of the repercussions?
L: Being gay is only a part of the person that you are, always remember that. It has nothing to do with, if you are a good or bad person, nothing to do with being honest or trustworthy. It is only the fact of who you choose accept into your life as a partner. That, contrary to popular belief is nobody's business but your own.
If I could go back in time the only thing that I would do different it not wait so long to come out. I am so much happier and content with myself since doing so that the opinions of others bother me less and less everyday. I know that I am a good person, that is all that matters.
Stay strong. Be proud. You are not alone. Life will always change, make it change for the better for YOU, make your future what YOU want it. The people who want to or are meant to be in your life will be. Just be the person you are when no one is looking, that is the person that will make you the most happy.
S: Well its gotta happen eventually so its better to happen sooner than later because you are only delaying your own happiness by waiting. Even though it might suck it will be worth it in the long run and you will feel freer – but that feeling may take a while.
How, if at all, has your faith/religion played a role and/or been impacted (positively or negatively)?
L: The age old argument of religion/ faith and the impact it had on my experience. I would have to say that it has both gotten stronger and weaker at the same time. What I mean is that it made me question a lot of things from a different perspective. I know the Catholic faith fairly well since I was raised within it, despite it not being very progressive as far as gay rights/recognition goes I still claim it as my own. I was a Catholic well before I knew I was gay, or what being gay really meant. I was not even old enough to know what straight sex was. Being catholic is a part of who I am. To those who struggle with their faith and their happiness what I have always clung to is that we are taught that we are all made in God's own image. If we were not meant to like someone of the same sex it would not be so. If we were not meant to be able to choose for ourselves we would not have been given the power of will. I advocate that people should stop blindly believing what is taught by pastors/priests and do your own searching.
S: I would say that I was actively involved in the church now and I am not know because most churches are very judgmental, not all but a lot. But believing in God that didn’t change. I think that somethings I struggled with because the church wants to point out certain verses that being gay is wrong but those same people are ignoring other verses that talk about unconditional love and not judging.
What advice would you give somebody who has a loved one who recently came out (like advice on how to be supportive)
S: You should do your best to be nonjudgmental and to love them no matter what even though its not something you agree with because you would want their love and support if you were in their shoes. Its not easy for them either. I think it shows a lot about your character if your loved one comes out and you abandon them but it says a lot of good things about your character if even if you don’t agree you love and support them. I think that’s how I found out my true friends. It’s not a choice because if it was nobody would choose it – its so much easier to be straight in every sense of the word. I didn’t choose my race, my sex, and I didn’t choose to be gay.
H: Realize that telling you is probably one of the most difficult things they have ever done in their entire life. It might be hard for you to hear or accept but they need you to love them just as you did before they told you. Ask them questions, understand their story, work to use language that fits for them – like me I hate the word “lifestyle” because it sounds like it’s a choice instead of the way I was born so I correct people that I feel comfortable with.
L: If you are a family member trying to come to terms with news of a loved one coming out, all I can say is, just love them. They are the same daughter, son, brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle hell even a grandma! They are still the same people you have always known and loved. The only thing that has changed is that they are sick of the lies, and they trust you enough to be honest with you. They need you, they need your support, they need your love to continue. The world is hard enough on the outside, these people who come to you in their time vulnerability are hoping that you will be that solid place for them to come to, to confide in, to see hope for them in the world around them. Don't let them down.
D: It hurts so bad when people decide that it’s necessary to tell me I am going to hell or that I am “choosing to be gay”. This coming out thing wasn’t just a whim, and it wasn’t a “choice” for me. In fact, the only choice I had was whether to live in silent turmoil or be honest about who I am and who I love. If I chose the first one, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. I wouldn’t be here at all. I made the choice to live the day that I came out.
If you are still here - thank you! I know it is a long post and I tried to shorten it but each person's story was unique and they had such great things to share!
I'm going to keep the comments for this post open but, as with all of my posts, if please keep it clean and kind - inappropriate comments will be deleted.
If you are a person who is struggling to come out and need some helpful resources - shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I would be happy to pass some along!