“These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed” -Ricky Martin
It was March 2014. Snow was falling for what felt like the 20th month in a row in West Michigan. I was immersed in writing what those so close to me have been waiting for me to say, for far to long. You see, for me I had to write a letter explaining to my family that at 34 my not being married was in deed because I was gay.
I sat there typing my emotions, my fears, my brokeness in a letter that even in the last minute I was trembling to hit send. Something, deep inside gave me the courage to hit send to just three people. Mom, Dad and Sis. The letters that came back, where so suppotive. They where messages of love and support and knowing for a while.
I can’t remember if I sent them in an email or Facebook Messenger, and honestly, I haven’t had to read them yet, so I haven’t bothered looking for them. It was a resound to me that they have and will always love me. To this day, no matter how different thier thinking is than mine, I always approach things from this. We don’t always get it right, but we try.
Wednesday Night, an old coworker was in town on business, she and I went to the Coming Out Monolauges. (This was a fundraiser for Basic Rights Oregon, More on them in a later blog.) We heard stories of folx journey of coming out. A tweleve year old trans person told their story after their mom. In the end of their moms portion, she was worried how the “Gun toting, truck driving, Wood shop messing husband” would react, to which “My kid is my kid, and I love them just the same” was the answer.
We are the lucky ones, me and the folxs on the stage, we have the support of family. Many in my circle didn’t and still don’t. Ive heard horror stories of friends who have had to endure conversion therapy, family who call them names, or worse disown them. Unlike many of the folks on stage, I came out much later in life. As much as that sometimes is regressive in my development and is the main focus of a lot of therapy sessions, I did it, it was in my own time, in my own way, and I’m so glad I did.
My life has become exponentially better since. Theres alot of energy expelled when you compartmentalize life. Even more when you are trying to keep a big secret,especially one that people already know. Since coming out; I have dated freely and openly; I have kissed a guy in public, I have moved across country (This one is the third hardest thing Ive ever done behind Coming Out and Fighting Cancer). I trained to be a powerlifter, then fired my trainer for some very transphobic comments he made, (neither of which would have been accomplished in the closet), Ive called people out on racist, mysogonistic comments. I have done Pride Marches, and been an activist all because I found strength I never knew I had.
Coming Out in some aspects was much more difficult that my battle with cancer. At 23, no one its really giving cancer patient shit about “live style choices” I often reflect that I thought about coming out or telling my family i had cancer, either/or, never both. These two things were hidden for far too long, I waited nearly 8 months to get my tumor looked at. When you’re good at hiding things, you can hide things. Denial is sometimes much easier than truth. Denial was my jam.
Just recently, Someone I worked with in the past contacted me on Facebook. This person thanked me for helping them realize that they may not be entirly straight. To me, this was full circle. I was able to help someome the way countless helped me before. It also made me remember how mean others still are. This person was raised in very conservative parts of the country, families where conversion therapy was surely the answer to the gay child.
Maybe its fitting that National Coming Out Day is also during LGBTQ History Month. Maybe it serves as a reminder for us that are on the otherside of the closet door waiting to cheer, that we still aren’t free to just live our truth in many areas of the country. With the Supreme Court this week hearing three separate cases that could really hinder LGBTQ folx right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the fear of coming out is still a real fear. I get it.
If you are reading this, and you need to talk, Im here. Know that my experience is all positive. If you need support to come out, I got you. If you just can't yet, that’s okay, let’s talk about that. Please, though, start talking about it. You deserve to live your authentic life. You deserve to make the changes to do that. I had to move to the next big city, then across the country. I still come out a bit more everyday and its been 5 years. I can’t emphisize this enough, though life is much better in the light of day than it was in the closet.