Friday, October 11, 2013 is National Coming Out Day in the United States of America.
You may be thinking: Who Cares? Or you might be saying to yourself: why does this even matter? Allow me a few moments of your time to tell you why this matters.
Please understand that I can only speak for myself on this matter; as everyone who has ever come out has had to walk their own path, and inevitably has their own story to tell.
I didn’t come out until I was 50. In those 50 years I lied, cheated on a husband, denied who I was and tried desperately to be the daughter, sister, wife, cousin, friend that I was expected to be.
It didn’t work – it never works – and those who believe that to be gay is a choice we make; well, they will never, ever understand the struggle that takes place within most of our souls.
Truthfully – most people believe that just saying the words I’m gay means you’ve come out – in a sense it does – however – the real coming out, in my opinion, is when you look at that reflection you see in the mirror and say “I’m Gay” and you don’t look away in shame – that’s when you’ve come out.
When you can accept yourself and love who you are and understand that the world can be cold and lonely and ignorant and intolerant – and you can still smile at your own reflection – you’ve come out.
Don’t for one moment allow yourself to be bullied into coming out. It’s your life, your journey. No one – and I mean no one – has the right to tell you when and how and why you have to come out. Again – it’s your life – your path to walk.
For me – the more I was told I had to come out – the more I insisted I would not.
You have to be ready to face the world and not care about the consequences. You have to be ready to say: “I’m gay” and let the chips fall wherever they fall, and know that your life won’t end if people walk away from you or spew hateful rhetoric at you.
You have to be able to wear words like pervert, deviant, fag, dyke and anything else certain people may throw at you like badges of honor and you have to know that these words do not define who you are. The people who spew them are merely specks of dirt, not worthy of your time or energy.
There are those who will say it’s easier to come out now then it was in the 1960’s. In the ways of the world – maybe it is – but… in the dynamics of families – there is still pain, hurt, rejection and intolerance that one must suffer.
I could tell you “it gets better” but the truth is – sometimes it doesn’t get better – sometimes families just disappear or worse – they stick around and make sure you know what a disappointment and embarrassment you are.
What I can tell you from experience is this: Family isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your life won’t end if you don’t have these hateful, judgmental people in your life. You will surround yourself with people who will love you for who you are. People who will encourage you to grow and be and live the life that is yours to live. These people will become your strength – your support – your family.
There is nothing in my life I’m more proud of then that moment – under the 600ft flag at my first gay pride parade – when I knew I could no longer live a lie; 50 years was long enough. I was more than ready to face whatever the world could throw at me. With tears streaming down my face and a smile so big it hurt my face – finally – finally I was free.
I’ve discovered that along with my freedom has come responsibility. To help, to guide, to listen, to advocate, to write so that others know and understand they are never alone. We are all responsible for one another.
On this day – this “Coming Out “day – if you’re ready – your “family” is waiting for you.