Today is National Coming Out Day. There are probably many gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, and a variety of other people claiming their identities today. There are probably many who are voicing for the first time that they are different than they have admitted and are risking losing whoever it is that they care about enough to tell. I know most of the world is oblivious to just how terrifying and risky that can be. If someone is coming out to you, even if you are having a hard time with understanding, don’t use the gift of their trust in you as a weapon against them. Retreat to neutral corners if you have to, but at least recognize that this isn’t easy on either side.
I came out September 22nd & 23rd of this year. I was out to part of my family and friends for a while, but I made the final phone calls then to the ones who didn’t know. I knew it needed to be done, but I didn’t know how to do it. You don’t want it to be too casual because this could be a huge turning point in the relationship, for better or for worse. You don’t want it to be too dramatic because it shouldn’t be a huge turning point at all since you are still the same person inside. There are as many ways to say those words as there are reactions to them so it never turns out quite how you script it in your head. The only thing that should change in an ideal situation is that you are no longer hiding yourself. I was fortunate that the people I needed to tell handled it mostly well. But I didn’t know that until I did it.
Vicky Beeching has said many times, “I haven’t regretted coming out for a second. The only regret is that I hadn’t done it sooner.” You have no idea how badly I wanted to be able to say that when it was all said and done, but I couldn’t let myself truly believe it. Now, on the other side of that moment, and having experienced the continued normalcy in the relationships that I value the most, I can say that I absolutely do not regret coming out and I wish I had done it sooner! I also recognize that I wasn’t ready for various reasons until the time came. It was still terrifying and difficult, but I knew that I was ready for the risk. It is a freedom in my own heart and mind that is priceless. I wrote a poem in the weeks leading up to my coming out and I thought I’d share it here:
If Only I Didn’t Feel
If only I didn’t feel
like I was drowning in my own silence,
I could stay silent forever…
But I nod my head
and hold my breath for another eternity
and convince myself I don’t crave the air of your acceptance.
If only I didn’t feel
like my temporary comfort was not also
a death sentence of invisibility…
But I blend into the shadows
at the edges of your judgmental words
and convince myself that it is better than hearing your opinions tied to my name.
If only I didn’t feel,
For that is where this all started to crumble apart
because I felt different.
I tried to pray it away
and I tried to feel what I was told to feel
and convince myself that it could change,
that I could change,
into someone I’m not.
And I pushed who I was into that silence and into those shadows and I tried to watch her die,
But she is me and she wants to live and breathe and be seen.
And she keeps telling me that the truth will set us free.
That’s when I realized
That I am not ashamed of me, I’m afraid of you.
I love me more than I need your acceptance.
And it’s a gamble how you’ll react, but I will risk everything for my freedom.
And I hope that you’ll surprise me with kindness and understanding,
But I know that I will survive if you don’t.
If only I didn’t feel
the survivor inside of me,
knowing she may be all I have left when this is all said and done.
But I do, and I know that she is enough.
It is a strange feeling, going from hidden to seen. It is a scary thought that you may lose anyone who can’t handle seeing the real you. These are people that you love and you may find out that they don’t love you the way you thought they did. It is an overwhelming moment trying to tell your mouth to form the words and not chicken out, again. But it can be done. It doesn’t need to be done on a nationally celebrated day. It doesn’t have to be done now if you aren’t ready or there is any physical risk to you. You have to find it in yourself the when and the how. And I can guarantee you that you need to find within yourself the strength to stand alone if that is the way it plays out. Just know that you won’t be alone forever. You will be delivered into a new family of people who understand and will see value in you that others aren’t ready to look for.