I’M COMING OUT!
When I think about coming out I can’t help but to think about Diana Ross’ song “I’m Coming Out”.
…I’ve got to show the world
All that I wanna be
And all my abilities
There’s so much more to me
Somehow, I have to make them
I got it well in hand
And, oh, how I’ve planned
I’m spreadin’ love
There is no need to fear
And I just feel so good
Every time I hear…I’M COMING OUT!
Don’t judge me, lol! If only my coming out journey was as liberating….
When I came out, the first time, I felt like my life was playing out in a really bad, melodramatic soap opera. It was the summer after my freshman year of college. I had just returned home from a successful first year of undergrad and I had landed a coveted internship and one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the country. I felt like I could conquer the world. However, that feeling was about to be annihilated by three seemingly simple words…Mom, I’m gay.
I felt like I was on top of the world during the summer of 2001. Almost everything in my life was going well. However, I was carrying this secret that was weighing heavily on me. I figured there would be no better time, than the present, to come out to my mother.
My mother and I have always had a really great relationship. To call me a “mama’s boy” would be an understatement. Because of our closeness I was confident my mother loved me enough to fully accept me for me. Besides, there were moments growing up when I would hear my mother come to my defense when people would say things like, “that boy is soft” or “he’s a fag”. She never denied the possibility of me being gay. She would say, “That’s my child and if he’s gay, so what!” So, I thought I was good. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton
After my internship one Friday night I went over my best friend’s house as I usually did. He was like a brother to me. We did almost everything together so it was only right that we came out together. That night, we decided to come out to our moms simultaneously. The plan was for me to go home and text him when I arrived. We were then supposed to go to our mothers and reveal our truth. The plan sounded simple enough…until it went left.
When I left his house I was excited! I was about to begin my long awaited coming out process. As planned, I pulled up in the driveway and sent my best friend a text alerting him of my arrival. I got out of my car and proceeded to the front door. As I put my key in the door, the confidence and excitement I felt quickly turned to fear. Needless to say, I was having second thoughts but I knew I couldn’t let my brother down. So, I mustered up the little bit of courage I had left, walked in the house and headed towards my mother’s bedroom. When I walked in she greeted me as she normally did, “Hey son! How was your day?” I gave her a quick, “It was good.” Then there was awkward silence. I knew she could tell something was on my mind. She sat up in her bed and asked, “What’s wrong?” “Nothing is wrong, I just have something I need to tell you,” I replied. I looked down and before I knew it the words were rolling off my lips…“Mom, I’m gay.”
The loud, screeching pitch of her scream broke me out of the trance I didn’t even know was taking place. When I looked up she was engulfed in full-on hysteria. She jumped up from her bed, ran into the bathroom and released whatever she ate for dinner that night. She cried! She screamed! She begged and pleaded with God! She blamed herself for me being gay! Once she emerged from the bathroom she locked herself in her bedroom. I didn’t see her again until the next afternoon.
I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. I called my best friend to see how his revelation went. I assumed it couldn’t have gone too much better than mine because our mothers were so much alike. When he finally picked up the phone after what seemed like an eternity he immediately asked, “What happened?!” I gave him the full run down…blow by blow. After I finished I immediately asked him how his mom reacted. I couldn’t believe my ears when he said, “I got scared. I couldn’t do it.” Here I was, worried about letting him down and he let me down. However, I couldn’t be mad at him. After what I had just experienced I was actually glad he didn’t.
In that moment, I blamed myself for my mother’s reaction. How could I have been so selfish, I thought? I was so used to living my life for the comfort and approval of others that I couldn’t find the peace I thought my truth would afford me. That night I cried myself to sleep. The series of events that unfolded after I revealed my secret took me by surprise. I was given a curfew, had my car privileges revoked, and was forced to endure an ambush family intervention. Everybody was at this intervention. I couldn’t believe my mother told the entire family. I later found out she also told our pastor. The summer that started out so great, quickly took a turn for the worse. Back to the closet I went.
Looking back on my coming out experience there’s only one thing I would change. Instead of retreating back into the closet, I would have fully embraced my truth despite the reactions I received. Being LGBTQ, in addition to being a person of color, makes life even more challenging. We are required to develop the courage to honor our own experience of love and self-identification above anyone else’s judgments.
Coming out to ourselves, our friends and our families is a huge part of the journey toward being honest about our sexual identity. But coming out is more than just telling those closest to us. It is a challenging process that continues throughout life and its many facets. Many opportunities will arise where we will need to choose whether or not to come out. Whether it’s on the job, at the dinner table, at church, or when filling out a form at the doctor’s office. Almost daily, we will have to make decisions about when, where, and how to come out.
I’ll be the first to admit that coming out can be difficult; however, it can also be a very liberating and freeing process. As we go through the journey we start feeling like we can finally be authentic and true to who we are. If we’re lucky, along the way we will find a community of people like us that support and inspire us. Even if it’s scary to think about coming out to ourselves and others, the reward is well worth the challenges that coming out presents.
Coming out was the second step in my journey to freedom. The first was self-acceptance. After I came out again at the age of 27, I realized I always possessed the power to remove the scarlet letter that was placed on my chest. Once I removed it for good, I made the decision to never again stand for just being tolerated or accepted. We deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as every other human being. LGBTQ LIVES MATTER, too.