Coming out is different for everyone. It may take years from a person’s point of self-acceptance to verbalizing their sexuality to the people they love. It is a process that can be painful yet freeing. This process can be dangerous for some; it also can be safe and full of love. It varies. It is a double-sided coin that requires the utmost vulnerability. It is the face to face stare down to the decades of systemic fear the LGBTQIA+ community has experienced. The closet holds feelings of resentment, denial, sadness, self-hate, and every piece of baggage a gay person internalizes, but it is a safety net that provides self-preservation in face of adversity.
I was not born into a family that shamed me for being myself. I was born to a mother and father that loved me unconditionally. Two people who embraced all parts of me. At three years old, my mom knew I was gay. For the next 15 years, she had to stand on the sidelines–watching me navigate my identity in a place that would never fully accept who I was.
I always knew I was different from the rest of the boys I grew up with. I was fiercely sensitive, learning hardness. I was wildly creative and imaginative. I wasn’t competitive, but collaborative. I had mostly girlfriends. I hated hunting. I loved design. I was intimidated by most men and could talk to any woman. I wanted to lead organizations, not play sports. I was/am liberal as hell. Because of this, I had to pushback and prove my power–always, always proving I was enough. I was kind and respectful to most and fought for fairness. These differences from the social norms that surrounded me, isolated me. It made me a target for unkind words, bullying, and the constant fight for self-worth.
Fourth grade was the first time I was called gay–all because I wasn’t the same. I didn’t even know what it meant and I remember going home and asking my mom. I loathed that word. I despised that word. It followed me. For 7 years, I was stubborn enough to never analyze my sexuality and internalized it until it was so deafeningly true. I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t want to succumb to the realized thoughts of others. I wanted to be normal because my life was nothing but.
Thanks to my ride or die friendships, I was able to find a safe space to admit my deepest fear and realization. My friends took me with open arms and wanted to know my thoughts and feelings. Even though I was raised in a home that accepted me for who I was/am, I withheld this truth until I went into my first year of college; a place of complete and utter freedom to be myself. I even lived on a floor that focused on social justice and LGBTQIA+ issues–it was amazing!! I was surrounded by people who understood who I truly was and didn’t have to apologize for it.
The act of coming out gave me permission to love myself unconditionally. I was able to radiate the light I’ve always strived for, become the healthiest person–mind, body, soul, and inspired people to be their wildly beautiful selves. This was the rise.
The reckoning was the navigation of the gay community.
Who was I, but a fish in a huge ass pond. How was I going to meet young men like me? Grinder? Tinder? OkCupid? Had to have them all. So naive to the dating seen yet so excited to meet the love of my life. Turns out, I needed to fit into a marginalized part of the gay community–was I a twink, bear, cub, otter? Who knows. Also god forbid I didn’t have the desired body of most young white gay men. I was a person whose body had been through years of physical and emotional trauma. It is/was a story, not a photoshopped magazine imagine. After my encounters with most gay men, I found myself a bit broken and asking why? Was it even worth coming out?
I realized after all of the ghosted messages, the shitty things men said to me, the guys in Iron Range bars calling me a fag, and also after, the people who I inspired, the love that was shared, the deep conversations, the friendships, the activism. It was. This crazy ride was worth it.
My coming out was a rise and reckoning of self.
As Merle Miller wrote in On Being Different: What it Means to be a Homosexual,
Gay is good. Gay is proud. Well yes, I suppose. If I had been given a choice (but who is?) I would prefer to have been straight. But then, would I rather not have been me? Oh I think not, not this morning anyway . . . on such a day I would not choose to be anyone else or any place else. (23-24)
I am proud to be gay and I hope you never discredit the LGBTQIA+ humans you meet. I hope you embrace them and learn from them. In the end, we all just want to love and be loved.
Be inspired. Stay positive. Love yourself.