I was a late bloomer by today’s gay standards as I came out of the closet at 19. It was 1994 in Odessa, Texas and I wasn’t sure what to do, say or trust–but a little voice inside kept telling me that I could no longer lie about who I was. The first person I came out to was my mother. Ah, poor moms always get the short end of the stick–but my mother was extremely supportive and just sat there as I told her my deep dark secret with tears streaming down my face. Her reaction was, “Are you almost done coming out, Days of Our Lives is about to start.”
Was it that she didn’t care? In a sense, but in a good way. To those of you who have yet to “come out of the closet“–your mother already knows. There’s a strong connection between a child and his mother and that connection will lead you through fire, lead you through rough patches, lead you through the lay-a-way section at K-Mart, but I digress. To my mother, me being gay wasn’t a big deal, not as big as Bo and Hope getting involved in a love triangle on Days of Our Lives–but she hugged me and told me she loved me no matter what–then asked me to find the remote control and grab her a Pepsi.
Looking back now, I wonder, “Why was it hard to come out? Why did I cry?” Because being gay then wasn’t as acceptable, in the media as it is now; and in a sense, it’s become fashionable to be gay in today’s world. There was a time when being gay meant you were disgusting and your family must have upset the gods because having a gay child was a curse. Today, kids are becoming more aware of their sexuality at a younger age and feel empowered to come out. I can only imagine what generations before mine must have gone through.
Regardless, I had a great support system–and I realize as I’m typing that is sounds as if I has cancer and needed a group to support this “illness” I had. But because my mentality of being gay has changed so has my outlook on coming out I feel it’s my responsibility to write my top 5 reasons to come out of the closet. (only if you have a safe space to go/be after coming out)
1. Honesty – You just don’t wake up one day and discover you’re gay. It’s a process, like baking a cake–except here you don’t get to lick the spoon. Coming out offers you an opportunity to live an honest lifestyle for yourself. I come across people who say, “It’s nobody’s business” and it isn’t–but sexuality is such a huge part of the human experience–that regardless of what YOU think–it’s already everybody’s business. Think of all the men in politics who are getting caught and then holding a press conference on their sexuality. Can you please spare us the CNN meeting and just do it now? Coming out isn’t about the world, it’s about you–and if you decide to come out–think of all the pressure that’s lifted; no more lying, sneaking, or carrying around the guilt. It’s that negative part of “the secret” that adds to stigma that being gay is wrong. Re-evaluate why you want to keep hiding and if it’s working for you–which it never does–then keep it hush hush, but being honest with yourself is a great superpower.
2. Increased Self-Esteem – Something happens after you come out–you discover other people like you and no longer feel isolated from the world. You feel better about yourself and your decision which adds value to your life. Looking in the mirror becomes a beautiful thing and it only gets better with time.
3. A Time For New Discoveries – You might not fit into the gay stereotype but being gay is about diversity so embrace it. In fact, no matter what type of gay you are (fem, butch, in between)–you’re bound to discover new activities and surroundings that will allow you to express yourself. Remember to surround yourself with positive influences, people who are accepting and who are encouraging of your new lifestyle–like Gucci, Armani and Versace.
4. Power of Tolerance – Coming out not only frees you from the bonds of secrecy but it also prepares you for life and all it throws at you. You become more tolerant towards others, unless they work for the government. Since coming out in 1994 I feel that the world has been good to me and I try to pass my knowledge to others on a daily basis; I try to be tolerant of those struggling with their own gay issues but it isn’t always easy–sometimes you want to just smack them upside their ignorant heads but then you realize that “once upon a time” you were having the same issue and magically out of nowhere–patience and tolerance arrives–like a good hair day.
5. Accept Your Sexual Preference – Although being gay doesn’t define you, it is a new part of your life and sex is only a small part of who you are. Think about it, we’re like a pie chart and it’s up to you to divide the pie and assign the values. Is your sexual activity going to take up 5% of your existence or 81%? There’s no correct value and trust me, it will fluctuate from time to time depending on what’s going on in your life. But however much value you assign always play it safe and never do anything that feel dangerous or uncomfortable–unless it involves whipped cream.