I sat in my car a little longer than normal. Just a week ago, at the same time, I would have happily left the parking lot behind to bound upstairs and discuss that week’s revelations from therapy. But this week was different… this day was different. Instead of hurrying to my coworker, and dear friend, I found myself needing to discuss this truth bomb with a few different people.
This is my coming out story.
I took my phone from its little holster, finally pausing the music I used to pump me up on the drive home, and I opened a group chat with my family.
As I typed, I thought aloud the following things:
I want to sound stoic, unapologetic yet excited…
Perhaps with a touch of my signature levity…
Maybe I’ll add a bit about nothing really changing, people like cliches…
Definitely turn your phone off immediately after sending the text.
I didn’t think this day would come… seriously. I had fantasies about my life drastically changing and somehow my mindset, desires, and love changing with it. I often thought that if I denied on the outside hard enough it would just go away, I would wake one day less gay – something I would later realize to be internalized homophobia.
On the other hand, I felt that if I truly lived my life, in the gayest way possible, they would just see, nod in understanding, and thus an explanation circumvented. Why can’t I just live whatever life I wanted to and they would just understand that, in its entirety — no judgment? To be honest, I don’t think I’m giving them enough credit. There’s a certain level of privilege, I recognize, in that I don’t fear my reveal will shake our family’s core, encourage their disownment, or leave me abandoned, but there was fear of rejection and strong disapproval of who I shaped up to be.
When I left my home state for another just slightly further away, I thought that was my opportunity –finally some peace — but I found it hard keeping ties to the life I was so desperately not myself in and the new one that felt so freeing. Was I really free if I had to keep looking over my shoulder wondering if the wrong person would see me drenched in gayness? Could I find peace if I didn’t reveal my big truth to every stranger I met or to an old friend I only communicated with via Instagram? Over time it was an argument I had often with myself but refused to conjure any good solutions. I was planning a party I didn’t plan to attend.
Why today, I pretend you’re wondering. Well, today my therapist and I decided that telling this truth was my last frontier. In reflection, wow, I have so many more frontiers, but I agreed that despite moving even further away I could never make the jump to being authentic without saying this very thing to the people who mattered the most to me. Typically I leave my sessions with a smile, wanting to shout from the rooftops that THERAPY IS GREAT but today I felt the shout turn whisper because, for the first time, I needed to admit that there was something different on the horizon for me — and that I shouldn’t shy away from it.
I drove from my session in a funk, crying a little, and playing the only thing that makes me feel grounded — sad pop music. I’m not sure at what point I decided that I would tell my family, it could have been at any of the exits, so for that, I apologize for the lackluster detail. All I knew was that the second I parked, a message needed to be sent and it needed to be sent then… and to definitely turn my phone off immediately after!
What was I so afraid of? I’ve had boyfriends, many first dates, and crushes as deep as the Grand Canyon! I’d fallen in love and been rejected a few times (okay a lot, I’m a hopeless romantic AND it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted). This was nothing. I’m just telling the people who allegedly know me best that I’ve led them on about who I was for years. Oops, that doesn’t sound like nothing.
Part of it, I convinced myself, was that I shouldn’t have to say anything. Coming out shouldn’t be a parade or party if you didn’t want it to be. It should be “ope, he’s dating them” and then everyone moves on to bigger and better things. Instead, to me, it always felt like a crowded room of people immediately stopping, dropping their drinks, gasping in fear, and then demanding that I leave my own party right away. That was my fear. I would be instantly rejected by this crowd because I revealed that in order to be happier I needed to date a particular subset of people — gay men.
But here’s the thing, I hate crowds so why would I even need to be at that party in the first place? Why couldn’t I be one of those cool celebrities that just gets to walk the red carpet with someone and everyone watching could just get it? I don’t need a tabloid feature or to be cast in roles that now fit my distinguished talent of dating people of the same sex, I just wanted to take my wristband and fall in line. There are a lot of mixed metaphors here, I hope it’s not too hard to follow.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that – unfortunately – that is the coming out story for some. We just have to mingle in the crowd until it’s time and even then you don’t get decide how everyone will react. One minute you were the funny guy giving the toast and the next you’re sin incarnate, worthy of getting a drink thrown at you. You just hope people grip their glasses tighter and have some restraint. Maybe after the party is over they decide to leave you off the next guest list but they didn’t make a scene. Sometimes, it’s all we can hope for.
So there I was, in my car, trying to avoid attending this coming out party, where my family was getting invited — not last! — but definitely not first. I hit send and watched as the text was sent hurtling towards their unsuspecting phones. Next, I wait in antici– didn’t I agree that I should turn my phone off after I sent the text –pation.
After what felt like an eternity, I got my first response, and then my second, and then a third, and then, oh, a call! I won’t bore you with the details but I will say it was a major relief. It was like Jennifer Garner in “Love, Simon” saying to now out son, “…these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I could feel you holding your breath. I wanted to ask you about it, but I didn’t want to pry. […] You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time.” I was holding my breath for some time and finally felt I could exhale. The people who know me most got to know me a bit more and it felt good.
Side note, in this movie I’d be both Jennifer Garner AND Simon (too lazy to look up actor’s name).
There’s something absolutely wrong yet absolutely right about how I felt the party would go. Partly, I got this positive reaction, one that when I give my family credit was spot on, but also I’m reminded that there is a little fanfare involved when you are coming out, even if you aren’t wanting it. Whether you are deciding to have a low-key kick back with a few close friends or the next Met Gala, there are *streamers, *drinks, and *costumes in each of these situations.
I feel I was given the room to breathe. I was given the space to dance. And I was given the time to work through the crowd until I was ready. This isn’t always the case, but I’m grateful for everyone who continues to share themselves with a room full of people, who keep dancing, and most importantly, keep breathing.
*I don’t go to a ton of parties, obviously.