When Honesty is Bravery

I saw this post on Freshly Pressed about a month ago.  I thought it was great and wanted to share it here.  Please click on  Queer Confessions to read more from this great blogger.

I remember the first time I came out to anybody. I was a socially awkward fifteen year old boy living in Texas. I had no athletic prowess to boast, and my musical tastes were closer to my father’s than to my peers. For three years, I kept my sexuality a secret from everybody because I was terrified of being gay. I didn’t know any other gay kid or adult, so I felt lonely and misunderstood. The only thing that scared me more than my solitude was the very real possibility that others could hurt me with their words or fists if they found out that I preferred boys over girls.

At fifteen years old, I decided that I had lived under fear long enough. There was a reality show on TV back in 2001 that documented the lives of average high school students, including one gay youth; his visible gayness gave me the courage to share my secret with one person. When I came out to a friend in my youth group, I was frightened that he would make my life a living hell – and because my friend was the most popular youth in our very large church, he had the means to do so. But he did not make my life miserable; he said, “Thank you for telling me. This doesn’t change who you are. You are still my friend.”

That was almost 12 years ago, and since the winter of 2001, I have mastered the art of coming out to friends, coworkers, and family. I have told my conservative, evangelical friends about my sexuality, and I have come out to my liberal friends and colleagues. I have come out in intimate conversations and in public speeches before large crowds. I have come out to straight neighbors and gay neighbors, rich friends and poor friends, Christian friends and doubting friends; by and large, I am a better man for being honest about myself. I feel better knowing that I can be my true, genuine self around my peers, because I do not have to hide something that is a profound part of my existence. I can simply be, and I can simply be gay.

My friends remind me that I am a brave man for coming out. A friend of mine regularly tells me, “You are the bravest, most courageous person I know;” this same friend has a story of being delivered by the grace of God from a life of crime (including murder), counterfeiting money, gang banging, and homelessness. Another friend said that my decision to tell my story to a crowd of evangelical Christians numbering over 200 was, perhaps, the bravest thing he ever saw a person do. These comments puzzle me; I am simply being honest. Aren’t Christians supposed to be honest? And yet, in this society, honesty is bravery; it takes courage to tell the truth.

Two realities – one societal, and the other personal –  remind me why it is so important for my LGBT brothers and sisters to come out and make their sexualities known to their network of friends and colleagues. Extremists from the far right will call us monsters, abominations, and sick perversions; their subordinates will tacitly (or not so tacitly) agree with them. The extremists are content to shove us into boxes made of fears based on ridiculous stereotypes and assumptions, and they cannot see LGBT people as such – people. When we come out, we force all our neighbors to see that we LGBT people are their neighbors, their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers, their brothers and sisters, their aunts and uncles and cousins. We show the world that we are their teachers, doctors, accountants, scientists, politicians, theologians, preachers, dancers, musicians, and athletes. We show the world that LGBT people, like our straight brothers and sisters, can have hope, can believe in God, can walk in faith and not by sight, can embrace a peace that surpasses all understanding. We show our enemies and allies alike that we are human like them: we breathe, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we hope, we dream.

However, I am constantly reminded two days a week why I must be out and why making my sexuality visible is so vital to my well-being. I work in a church that is hostile to the LGBT community, where the parishioners will sometimes make overtly homophobic comments, where I would be fired if the leadership knew my sexuality. I do feel like I live two lives – my normal life at home where I can be out with my friends and school colleagues, and a closeted life (although the closet is transparent) where I am trapped in fear and isolation. Because I am not out to anybody in my congregation, I feel like I have no connection to anyone, for I cannot truly be myself with those people. It’s enough to make me want to leave the church (but not the one, holy, apostolic Church); for the sake of genuine relationships and my own health, I must be honest about myself to my neighbors and friends.

If you are an out and proud LGBT person, I celebrate you and your courage!

If you are a closeted or partially closeted LGBT person, I am with you. Stay strong, and may you one day find a safe place to leave that prison of fear.

If you are a straight ally, thank you of your support and love. We need you as friends and advocates.

Happy National Coming Out Day!!

The History of Coming Out

In the Beginning, There Was a March

On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE.  The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O’Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

To this day National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBT individuals to live truthfully and openly.

2012- Come Out. Vote.

Celebrities Come Out for Equality in 2012

Whether it’s coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or as an ally, countless American musicians, athletes, politicians, news anchors and actors have advanced the movement for equality this year. In honor of National Coming Out Day, here are a few of this year’s standout coming out moments in pop culture.

Frank Ocean

Singer, songwriter, producer and hip-hop icon Frank Ocean came out this summer as bisexual. In a beautifully written letter on his tumblr, Ocean said, “I don’t know what happens now and that’s alright. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.” Ocean’s coming out garnered support from several hip-hop artists and media moguls, including Russell Simmons, who tweeted, “Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. His gifts are undeniable.  His talent, enormous.  His bravery, incredible.  His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.” Ocean’s coming out helped to prompt an ongoing dialogue within the hip hop community about sexuality and equality.

Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe not only helped lead the US Women’s National Soccer team to an Olympic gold medal this summer, but she’s also played an important role in paving the road to equality for LGBT athletes. In an interview with AfterEllen earlier this year, Rapinoe spoke with joy about her life as a gay woman: “I’m obviously very proud of who I am. I couldn’t be happier with who I am. [Coming out] was something that was important to me.” Rapinoe’s likability and charm has earned her a widespread fan following since 2011’s World Cup, and the self-confidence she projects continues to steer the sports world in a direction of openness and acceptance.

Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel)

Against Me! lead singer Tom Gabel came out this year as transgender and began her transition to living as Laura Jane Grace. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Laura recalls coming out as trans to her wife, Heather, and Heather’s reaction is an example of unconditional love: “He told her he was transsexual, and her response was, ‘Of all the things you could have told me, that is the least worst.’” Heather notes, “My friends have been like, ‘What about you?’ But I’m fine. I just want him to be who he is, and for us to get on with phase two. You know. Just… charge!” Laura and Heather have a young daughter, and Laura explains, “The thing I keep coming back to is that there’s no better example I can set as a parent than being true to myself. I hope…that’s what she learns from me.”

Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper came out this year and emphasized the joy his identity brings him. “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.” He went on to explain the significance of being recognized as an equal human being: “In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted.”

Barack Obama

Perhaps the most famous of this year’s coming out moments came from President Obama, who came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News. His announcement came on the heels of North Carolina’s vote to pass Amendment One, which barred same-sex couples from marrying, banned recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships, and stripped away other vital protections for unmarried North Carolinians and their families.  Obama is the first president to ever declare his support for marriage equality, marking a historical moment for the LGBT community. President Obama declared, “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Read more on the Human Rights Center page

PRIDE at the White House

I found this article about President Barack Obama having a reception at the White House to celebrate gay pride month.  I thought it would be a good idea to post it on my blog since the Pride Parade is in Chicago this weekend.  For those who are unaware, June has been celebrated as Gay Pride Month since the Stonewall Riots in 1969.  I think this is huge step forward.  Things definitely aren’t perfect, but they are moving in the right direction.  I’m hopeful for more positive change for all LGBT people in the future.

Proud About Pride at the White House

Simi Singh JunejaSimi Singh Juneja

My sister emailed me her invitation to the White House to celebrate LGBT Pride. I had to take a pause. Never in my or my children’s lifetime would I ever have imagined that a sitting president would stand up and welcome her — that he would see her.

I have issues with being seen…

As the third daughter of Punjabi Indian immigrants who landed in Statesboro, Georgia — a one-year-old with wavy green lines across my baby-faced, curly-haired green card photo — I figured as I grew, the best had already happened because we reached the land of opportunity. In a family of five daughters, it was easy to get lost in the sheer volume of siblings, and the intensity of my parents establishing a new life.

When I learned that my younger sister was gay, I was terrified, confused, angry and worried. As the years progressed and I realized that this was not a passing phase, and more of a growing into who she was meant to be, part of her identity, I felt protective. As her big sister, I worried for her future and feared for her career. I know her heart and her strength. Living in the closet was never an option for her. It felt to me like a death sentence for her dreams. How was such a brilliant and talented woman going to navigate a country and a world that might not give her the dignity, respect and inclusion she deserved? She has never let anything stop her from living her life with integrity.

When she and her Southern Belle sweetheart decided to commit the rest of their lives to each other with a three-day traditional Indian wedding, my parents, sisters and I decided to “come out” to our communities and the extended family in India. My mom called her 60-something younger sister in Gurdaspur and wrote a letter to her 80-plus older brother in New Delhi explaining that love was love and that her daughter was marrying a girl. We held our breath and waited for the worst. Instead, my mom’s sister showed up bearing gifts welcoming the newest Arkansan members of our family. My aunt danced the night away and joyously took first prize at a very competitive game of musical chairs after the rehearsal dinner.

In my lifetime, my sister has been recognized. She is seen. President Obama celebrated Pride at the White House and she was there. Words can’t express my pride in our president and our country’s courage. Nobody should be invisible to their own government.

And I can’t stop the tears…

A long time ago, on a sweltering southern evening, we sisters played on our smooth concrete driveway. We weren’t busy judging whom we would marry; we were laughing and counting nickels for the ice cream man. The world was spinning and we were home. As my sister and her spouse — and many other LGBT couples were welcomed to the White House, the world was still spinning and they finally got to go home.

Is Being Gay a Choice?

It’s not easy being gay.  In a world where heterosexuality is the norm and homosexuality has often been seen as wrong or disgusting, the LGBT community has worked tirelessly to declare that sexual preference is not a “preference” at all.  There are several studies linking genetics as part of the biological reason some people are born gay.  Some people still want to argue nurture vs. nature, however most of those people are straight.

Lately there has been more debate about this in the public due to the actress Cynthia Nixon, who states there’s more than one way to be gay.   Actress Cynthia Nixon, whom we know as Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City, has always been a peculiar case study for the LGBT community: she was happily in a relationship with a man for 15 years (they even had two kids together), but she’s been in a relationship with a woman since 2004.  Though her sexual orientation seemed to have made a switch, she has said in the past that she didn’t feel like she was necessarily lying to herself or hiding anything.  “I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman,” she told The Daily Telegraph in 2007.  “But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”  

Many gay activists call her midlife switch in sexual orientation disingenuous, and Nixon chose to defend her relationship by controversially stating that for her, homosexuality is a choice. She explained to the New York Times Magazine:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.”

Cynthia Nixon also refuses to call herself bisexual.  She genuinely states that she was straight before, but she’s gay now. Political blogger and gay activist John Aravosis called her out on the supposed misnomer of her sexual orientation: “It’s not a ‘choice,’ unless you consider my opting to date a guy with brown hair versus a guy with blonde hair a ‘choice.’ It’s only a choice among flavors I already like.  And if you like both flavors, men and women, you’re bisexual, you’re not gay, so please don’t tell people that you are gay, and that gay people can ‘choose’ their sexual orientation, i.e., will it out of nowhere.  Because they can’t.”

My opinion is that I can’t judge what Cynthia Nixon feels or believes.  All I know it isn’t how other people feel or believe.  Maybe some people are able to choose to be attracted to the same sex after many years of being attracted to the opposite sex.  I’m not sure, Cynthia Nixon is the only one I’ve read about or talked to that claims this.  So, I do think this is very rare.  I do know that until recently a lot of LGBT people felt they needed to hide their sexuality.  A lot of them worked hard to deny certain parts of themselves.  They fell in line with their family or cultural beliefs and got married and started a family.  However, inside they still knew they were living a lie.  Some of those people finally came out and are now in same sex relationships.  They would not define themselves as bisexual or say that they chose to become gay later in life due to stresses in their marriage. They’ve known for a very long time they were gay, and only chose to live their life out as a gay person publicly later in life.

It is true that some people in the LGBT community realized they were gay when they were very young.  Others were ignorant of the fact until they were in their teens or twenties.  This still doesn’t prove it is a choice.  All I know is what people tell me about their experiences.  I don’t know too many gay people who would willingly choose to upset their families, lose friends, give up certain hobbies or sports, be discriminated against, always feeling out new situations and jobs to see how receptive others are to them being gay before coming out publicly.  It isn’t easy.  If you talk to anyone who has been through it, you would know there are a lot of times they wish they could choose to be straight.  Just read Ty’s blog post, If I Had A Choice for confirmation.

If I’m going to believe anyone, I’m going to believe the people who are actually going through the experience of coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  They are the ones who can tell me what they know and what they feel.  I can’t judge for them.  They all tell me they know they were born this way.  I know I didn’t choose to be straight.  I can remember crushes on boys in kindergarten.  I don’t think I really knew why, it just happened that way.  It was most likely stamped in my genetic code.  So why would I think someone who is gay would have a different experience?  They just like to rebel against society?  I don’t think so. 

I hope LGBT people continue to speak up and fight for their rights.  The more people see it and start to become aware and more educated, the less controversial this whole issue will be.  At least that is my hope.  I give them my support and hope I can encourage them in any way I can.  Live and let live.  Love people for who they are, not who they are attracted to sexually, because at the end of the day does that even really matter???

Coming Out Stories #3

Story #3 is from a former Marine Corps at Texas A&M.  This is his story:

“Semper Fidelis”

I didn’t grow up with much, but values were instilled in me at a young age have been the guiding light for every decision that I have made.  I firmly believe that it is those principles that compelled me to eventually join the Marine Corps.  When I was seventeen, I decided to meet with a recruiter and quite honestly he couldn’t have been more disgusted with me.  I know this, only because he told me.  I was not athletic.  At 5 feet 2 inches I weighed a mere 85 pounds, and was able to complete one complete pull-up.  One.

Despite lacking in athleticism, my recruiter, committed to his efforts to helping me become a good Marine.  He motivated me, called me his “prodigy’, and before long I was in love with the Corps.  I learned about Texas A&M and their Corps of Cadets.  I joined the Corps, was part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, and was even Commanding Officer of my outfit during my senior year.  To say that I was in love with Texas A&M would be an understatement.  In fact, I never wanted to leave.

As college went on, I became more and more aware of my sexuality.  I talked to a few close friends along the way, but still considered myself “in the closet” as I came to terms with the fact that I may be gay.  This fact played a small part of my decision making when I decided after my junior year that I still wanted to join the Marines.  I had an idea of what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was, but my aspirations and hard work meant more to me at the time than the struggle of understanding my sexuality.  At twenty years old, like many young adults gay and straight, I just wasn’t sure about who I was.  Years later, I think I am still figuring it out, but the difference now is, I know that I am gay.

After three years of the Corps at A&M, I was in excellent shape and never once faltered.  Even during the 10 mile hikes, with 80 pound packs on my back, I stayed as close to the front as possible.  I was enjoying college, enjoying the Marine Corps and I had no complaints.

However, shortly after, things began to take a turn for the worse.  It started when I went out with some friends to a local bar.    I was around a lot of people, a few who knew I was gay, and some who didn’t.  The fact that I was gay was brought up in conversation and was at first shrugged off.  Some other Marines began heckling and started making inappropriate comments towards me.  It became aggressive.  The days that followed involved me worrying that the Marines at the bar would tell my command chain about my sexual orientation.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forced me into isolation and into a point in my life where I thought I couldn’t trust anyone.

After a few weeks I reluctantly talked to a Corporal from my unit, and E-4 who I felt comfortable around.  I told him what had happened and consequently told him that I was gay.  He told my Sergeant the story and surprisingly, they calmed me, reassured me and told me it was not a big deal.  To them, the only thing that mattered was that I get to the unit in Waco for the weekend drill.  I did as instructed only to find out that my story had spread and reached my 1st Sergeant and Commanding Officer.  The two Marines I had confided in were asked to write written statements and they complied.  This began a ten month investigation.

When I walked in to my 1st Sergeant’s  office that day the first thing he asked me was, “Are you gay?”  I stood there in what was immediately a hostile environment.  I hesitated, but answered honestly.  He proceeded to tell me that there was no way he could protect my privacy, as he could not stop the “grapevine” and that he would not be responsible for what people within the unit said or did.  When I met with Commanding Officer later the same day he went over everything I had said and told me why I should be getting discharged but said nothing to confirm it.  I was simply told to “hang tight” and wait on what the Battalion Commander would say.

I hoped that the two Marines that I had confided in would be the people that would help protect my privacy.  At that point I did not feel safe and I did not know who else to contact.  I wasn’t out to my family and my pride kept me from telling my friends in college about it.  I was alone, I was depressed.  I waited and waited to see what would happen to my position in the Marines and did not hear anything for months.  Ultimately I contacted a friend from the unit and asked him to find out my status.  He got back to me about a week later and informed me that I was discharged from the Marine Corps in April of 2010.

It took everything I had in me to call home.  My family still didn’t know about my sexuality, and they didn’t know that I had been discharged.  When I finally called, it was a conversation that I hadn’t expected.  Growing up in a devout Catholic household, I didn’t know how my family would take the news.  Once I told them everything that had happened, I started crying and tears were coming from both ends of the phone.  There was no anger or betrayal.  The biggest concern that my family had was that I had to endure the struggle alone.

Since coming out I’ve been very vocal about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, having appeared on MSNBC, CNN and in newspapers and blogs nationally.  I have received a lot of feedback, especially from  people at A&M.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been positive.  Several said that I should keep my mouth shut and that I should have kept my mouth shut in the first place.  There were many times when I wondered if I had done the right thing.

Many will say that I have lived through a series of unfortunate events.  I won’t deny that statement, but I choose to look at it differently.  I am in my position because I decided not to compromise my integrity; because I chose to stand up instead of turn a blind eye; because I chose to say something instead of shutting up like many urged me to do.  I didn’t think I had it in me to do those things, but I can say I am a better man because of it.  I’m still growing, still learning, like everyone else, but for once I know this:  I will never again be silent, I will never back down and I will not waste any more time hiding who I am.

I am a gay man, and I couldn’t be prouder.

“Born This Way” NOH8

The NOH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest in direct response to the passing of Proposition 8.  (Proposition 8 passed in California on November 4, 2008 amending the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage)  Photos feature subjects with duct tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Proposition 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest.

NOH8 recently did their own video of  Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as a way to show support to the LGBT community.  I’ve posted it above because I thought the message was a good one.  A student let me know about NOH8 and came up with an idea to try to bring the campaign to AU.  The NOH8 Campaign takes their photo shoots to different cities all over the country.  Hopefully one day in the future they will choose Aurora, IL as a sight.  If you would like to show your support and hopefully get NOH8 to come to AU, feel free to send in your photo!

Join the NOH8 Campaign from anywhere in the world!

How can you submit your own MY NOH8 photo? It’s easy!

  1. Create a User Profile @ www.NOH8Campaign.com
  2. Take your own amateur NOH8 Photo. Your “NOH8” must be visible!
  3. Under the MY NOH8 Section, click “Upload & Manage MY NOH8 Photos
  4. Read the Terms & Conditions & Submit!

Coming Out Stories #2

Happy International Coming Out Day!!!  Here is my second post on coming out stories.  This is also shared from a Texas A&M student.

“Five Years of Honesty”

Honesty.  It is the pillar that we dance around, that we lean against, we push and pull, love and hate, avoid and ultimately learn to accept.  And in that very moment of acceptance everything changes, things begin to click and there is a boost of energy unlike any other.  In that moment I realized something great about honesty, that the truth that I once knew, the truth that was “stretched,” the so-called truth that became my daily norm was in fact just a lie.  In that moment I realized that lying only forced me to succumb to square one.  And in that moment I realized I should have dressed better for the occasion.

I’m currently 20 and have been out and proud for a little over 5 years now.  That is 25% of my existence that I have lived in freedom.  It was my former self, the facade and the lies that I created; it was myself that I broke away from.  In  retrospect I understand that the pressures society had on me of course influenced my decisions to do the things that I did but I was the one who took it even further.  It was I who created and fostered a toxic environment that led me to contemplate but never attempt suicide.  It just didn’t sit right that I lived this double life, never sought for help, would be fine externally yet go home to cry in the middle of the night.  I realized in those moments that we all inherently know the problems in our life and we as individuals have the abilities to fix them.  We are ultimately in control.

So let me set up when I first came out.  I had an extra push: a friend of mine came out as a lesbian during sophomore year of high school and I observed how her life changed dramatically.  She dressed differently, she shaved her head, and she had this liberated confidence that was intoxicating, and I wanted that for myself.  So there was a day in my math class where we had a substitute  teacher who fell asleep.  A group of us started to play truth or dare.  When it came to my turn that friend of mine decided to be my ‘challenger’ if you will.  She asked, “truth or dare?” and I’m not willing to pull off someone’s weave so I chose truth.  She asked, “Ryan, are you gay?”  I knew it was coming.  This wasn’t a question that slapped me in the face.  In that moment, it was right.  It was my time.  So I responded to her and others, “No, I’m bi.”  I had always known that I was gay but fear once again held its grip on me.  I knew it and they knew it.  But, I acknowledge that it was a step in the right direction.  I started to begin to free myself from the shackles that held me down.  I wasn’t completely liberated but the opportunity had opened its door.  And I understood that with patience comes transition.  By the time junior year came around I shed myself of the bisexual identity since I had come to grow into my homosexual self.

Once I felt the time to be right again, I decided to come out to my sister, she is my only sibling, and I thought she could be the step that would lead to coming out to my parents.  At the time I was sixteen, she had already left for college and we were having a conversation by phone.  I thought because she was hundreds of miles away if she didn’t accept me, what would it matter?  I was safe and there was a distance that kept it that way.  I remember watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy whilst talking to her.  I remember watching these people and thinking, “if they’re on television being who they are I can be like that in my own life.”  So I gathered my strength and this is how that conversation went:

Me:  “Lucy I have something to say.”

Sister: “What?  It better not be something stupid.”

Me:  “No it’s not something stupid.”

Sister:  “Then what?”

Me:  “I’m gay.”

Sister: pauses. “Well DUH!!”

It went over very well.  If it were anyone else I would’ve been highly irritated and ever more confused.  I realized the extent and virtuoso to the phrase “words have power.”  The way I dress, the way I talk, the way I listen, the way I move has impact in some form or fashion.  I realized that the few years I was out before coming to college I had started to gain control but had no idea what to do with it.  The moment I came out to my parents stemmed from frustration; I was standing in the garage with my mother and she had been questioning my friendship with one of my best friends.  My mom wanted me to stay away from her because she thought that girl was trying to ‘do something’ with me.  I told her that nothing was going to ever happen but she was adamant that something would.  This wasn’t the way I had planned on telling my mother but it just happened.  I said her “Nothing will ever happen because I’M GAY!”  The look on her face was purely stunned.  She didn’t say anything and then she gave me a hug that only a mother could give.  She took a step back and asked, “Does your father know?  I’m going to tell your father.”  And like a six year old she ran inside before I had a chance to explain myself.   That night my dad came into my bedroom and sat down and we conversed for a bit about how I was gay and the fact that they accepted and loved me no matter what.

I realized once attending college that I am now in control.  I am left alone to my own devices and nothing except for myself can get in my way.  As I continue to evolve and grow my confidence explodes, as does the cloud of glitter that surrounds me.  I want any sort of extension that I project to have positive impact to those who encounter it.  I like to think of myself as metaphorical beacon of light.  At the age of 20, I understand that this process is much bigger than myself and I want to pass this energy and opportunity to others, that honesty really is the best policy.  I’m in a position now that my experience makes me a self proclaimed wise soul, and I have the attire to match.  So in hopes that you’ll benefit I want to close with some words of encouragement written by Dr. Suess:

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.         Some come from ahead and some come from behind.             But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m all ready you see.                    Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”

Coming Out Stories- #1

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

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I’m doing some research to find materials to hand out for International Coming Out Day on October 11th.  I found a great website, LGBT Campus, which has a lot of great ideas and materials for helping campuses become more LGBT friendly.  I found “The Coming Out Monologues” written by Texas A&M students and downloaded the PDF.  I plan to share a few of these monologues in my blog.  Here is the first titled, “Nocturne”

It all started with the thoughts.   A fleeting word or feeling as I saw a guy from a distance.  “He’s kind of…, or I really like…”  Not even complete before I brushed them aside.  Not me, anyone but me.  I couldn’t be gay.  I thought to myself, “I can’t be gay because I’m smart, I’m cool, my mom won’t approve, I’m athletic, because I’m a percussionist, etc.”  Excuse after tired excuse, half of them made no sense at all.  The truth was, I was trying to say “I’m not gay because I’m not like them.”  “I’m not gay because that’s not what I want!”  Without even knowing who they were.

I had this idea of gay people in my head.  They were arrogant, narcissistic, promiscuous, feminine, and sinful.  I would sit on the bench outside my apartments in the dead of night, looking at the night sky and try to ponder the gay away.  In actuality, I knew these things weren’t always true but I held onto them because they were the only thing that kept me away from accepting the truth.  I was one  of them.  I knew the whole time.  I knew it but I tried repeatedly to rationalize the facts away, and this cerebral dance of the dusk I did every night was the only thing that slowed my path to the eventual truth.  But I had been doing some thinking for a long time.  I sat under those stars and I steadily began to realize that no matter how much I didn’t want it to be the truth.  It was.

I liked boys.  I liked boys and I like them a lot.  I didn’t officially come out of the closet until my sophomore year of high school.  I remember it well.  It was the most perfect timing.  I had just moved to a new school, so I had free reign as far as creating my image was concerned.  But then a new conundrum occurred to me.  I’m gay, but what “kind” of gay am I?  What kind of gay should I be?  MTV and LOGO had filled my head with this idea that every gay belongs to a genre like a song or something.  Hmm, if I had to pick a type of song to describe me, it would definitely be the nocturne.  For those that don’t know, a nocturne is a piece of music that is inspired and usually evocative of the night.  It’s feel mixes with the night air flawlessly and it’s tone seems to make the stars sparkle all the brighter.  They are soft, lucid, dreamy, and ethereal.

I’ve found that I’m a different person at night.  During the day, I’m busy, rushed, full of energy and usually a bit out of it.  But when night-time comes, I’m calm, contemplative, full of a kind of daring, emotion,  and clarity of thought that only night-time seems to bring.  There’s just something about the brightness of the stars on the inky black of space and the night air that just takes me to my most comfortable place.  Takes me to myself I guess you could say.

But I eventually learned these thoughts weren’t quite correct.  Just like music varies and sometimes doesn’t fit into a specific genre, gays are very diverse.  Sure everyone has their favorite kinds, but no one listens to one thing only.  There’s no rule that says you must “choose” what kind of gay you are.  No one will strike you down if you aren’t really masculine or really feminine.  Lightning won’t burn you to a crisp if you’re not the most fashionable guy at your job, school, church, etc.  You don’t have to learn an art or play a sport or work out 24/7 if you don’t want to.  And you will not be executed if you dislike Cher and Lady Gaga!  I promise!  What’s important is that you do what you like to do, act the way you would like to, and overall, just be who you are.

The ones that matter don’t mind and the ones that mind don’t matter.  And you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more, trust me.  Things after that were smooth sailing.  I came out to quite a few other people.  Of course I had my rejections and of course people talked.  But just as I expected most of my friends didn’t mind at all.  One of the times that I really treasure is when I found out that my drum-line buddies knew I was gay.  Everyone knows that gossip spreads like wildfire in high school.  I never really told them, but of course they heard the rumors and a few of them were brave enough to ask me if they were true.  At this point I wasn’t ashamed, so I told them the truth.  They took it quite well.

I had expected to be ostracized and disrespected with the raw maleness of drum-line and all.  I had expected to be shunned and exiled.  But all of them were really cool about it, nothing changed about our friendship except for a gay joke here and there.  I was still invited to the football matches against the brass and the drum-line pool parties.  I was still asked to come do homework and just shoot the breeze.  I was still asked about how this or that should be played and how much did I like this solo or that ensemble.  I was still a part of the group and I was still the really awesome percussionist that they had befriended at the beginning of the year.  It made me feel really good that my sexuality didn’t affect the chemistry of the group as I had expected that it would.

Going into college, I felt secure in my sexuality.  I was proud to be gay, and coming out to people was something I had done before and something I knew I could do again.  But unfortunately I realized that coming out to people had become easier, but it was still not easy.  In high school, you tell like 3 people and the whole school knows.  In college, you tell 3 people and maybe 5 more people find out.  I found that college wasn’t so much different from high school socially.  People still had their social circles and the people they hung out with.  These groups just seemed to be a lot smaller than in high school and didn’t gossip anywhere near as much.  So it was up to me to come out to everyone I wanted to.  The last person that I recall coming out to was my good friend Tyler.  We had met in Physics 218 and had become good friends and percussion buddies.  It was coming out day and I had decided it was about that time in our friendship.  But I was lame, and scared of what he would think, so I texted him.  “Hey Tyler, there’s something I have to tell you…”  He responded, “What’s up?”  I texted back, “Tyler, today is coming out day, and the person I’ve decided to come out to is you.  I’m gay.”  He didn’t text me back for like 15 minutes.  I thought my life was over.  “So what, you hate me now?” I texted him.  “Oh sorry.  I was riding my bike to the rec and so I didn’t look at my phone till I got there.  No, I don’t hate you.  That’s really cool and I”m honored you decided to come out to me.  Thanks man.”

I don’t regret much in life.  And I must say, I definitely don’t regret the thinking, the pondering, I did in my youth.  I don’t regret the soul searching and the nights spent sitting in my bed awake thinking about who I was.  My experiences have made me who I am.  But my journey isn’t quite over, it’s just getting started, and I look forward to the future with my head held high and my eyes on the night sky.