When I came out to my family and friends in 1979, I did not have the forethought to realize that I had committed myself to a life long series of coming out experiences.
I came out in my first corporate job in 1982 and that changed the trajectory of my experiences throughout my career as an open gay man.
I remember both of these first times of Coming Out as if they happened earlier today mainly because of the emotions that were imprinted in me while saying those words to other people; I am gay.
For years when I came out, I had a hard time opening my mouth to let the words out. I felt a pain in my gut that begged me to not put myself in harms way by telling people my shameful secret. I remember the anxious and overwhelmed feelings that raced through my body whenever I was about to tell someone for the first time that I was gay.
Some time early on I realized that my Coming Out had to have started with a Commitment that I made to myself unknowingly, that I was going to live with all of who I was out there for people to have access to. Only in being out could I really know who was with me and who was not.
I am grateful for the Courage that I garnered each and every time I found myself meeting someone for the first time who I thought was important enough to share my I am gay statement.
My Coming Out experiences were met more often that not with massive support from others. As a result of the support, I built a strong network of family and friends who were fierce allies.
My personal Coming Out was punctuated by a loving and accepting mother and three sisters. Each of them played a big role in showing me that I was still lovable after coming out.
My mom is my strongest supported and most ardent advocate. She has been there for me and with me for the past 41 years as an out gay man in ways that I never would have imagined I would have needed her to be for my well being. My mom shared with the ways to show with courage, confidence, and compassion for myself and for other people.
To be fair, not everyone in my family had a positive ‘reaction’ to my Coming Out. By the time I came out in 1979, I had already had a tumultuous relationship with my dad as a result of my parent’s divorce when I was 11 years old. My dad showed me ways of being that helped me understand how to be independent, inquisitive, and insightful.
I have experienced the joys and heart breaks of Coming Out to my family and believe it has only made me stronger in my conviction to live a way that might support others in similar experiences.
My professional Coming Out Stories were highlighted by some awkward and empowering experiences. I found my voice the first time to say I am gay and then continued to speak up for the next 35 years.
When I came out for the first time professionally in 1982, I can honestly say that I did have the intention of doing so. It seemed to just happen when the words came out of my mouth while talking with some of my colleagues.
I am grateful for some of them still being in my life all of the years later.
I came out on the first day of a professional development retreat in 2000 with a room of all male cohorts. During my introduction I shared with them that I had a partner and two pups. When the words left my mouth and I looked out to the room and saw glares facing back at me. The air in the room had escaped and I was convinced int that moment that I would suffocate.
Each month when I made the trip to the program’s session I questioned my sanity for going back to a place that seemed unwelcoming. The coaches for the program and a select few of my colleagues showed me the acceptance that energized me to move beyond my fears.
I know today that my coaches and those few other men made a difference in my journey as an open gay man.
I remember starting a new job and within the first 30 days being asked to travel to an all employee town hall in another city on a weekend. I was excited about the opportunity to experience the best of the leadership and culture all in one experience. One of the reasons I accepted a role with that company was the engagement of the senior leaders.
When I arrived in the hotel lobby on that Saturday morning the leader I worked for introduced me to the local leaders and the senior leaders from the home office. I was excited to meet so many of them in one place so early on in my tenure.
Somehow I ended up in the backseat of a 2 door coupe with the COO and Senior Vice-President making my way to the venue. During the drive they asked me about myself and I came out. I was terrified when they were both silent for when seemed like a very ling time only for them to come back with more questions which normalized the conversation.
I know today that those senior leaders played a role in building my confidence for sharing my Coming Out Story.
My Coming Out Stories have developed their own stories over the past 41 years each with all of the elements one would look for in an inspiring and motivating accounting of my experiences.
I am humbled by the fact that I have lived as an open gay man for two-thirds of my life. I have lived most of my life free from overwhelming and debilitating fears.
I share my Coming Out Stories and the stories related to them in an effort to support others who find themselves in a similar situation with struggling over speaking their authentic truth or not. I can only say from my experience that I would choose to come out all over again without hesitation.
I cannot imagine my life playing out in any other way than as an openly gay man who in his own way has been a trailblazer.
With much gratitude and love.