Everyone seems to have a favorite season. Though I claim summer as mine--despite it being hot as hell--fall and early winter are the periods that often conjure up strong emotions for me. Maybe it's because they mark the beginning of the end; the closing of one year, and the start of another. A time for regret perhaps, but also one for reflection, and hopefully, summoning an inner resolve to make the next 365 days better than the last. I often get to thinking about a time when it felt as if I had to gather up every ounce of resolve, reflection and introspection to leave one life behind and step into another. Coincidentally, I recently came across a post entitled "Who Do You Tell?" by fellow blogger Bama Boi, that triggered my memories of said time seven years ago.
When I think to back my closeted days, I see a person whose entire existence revolved around being "acceptable." Someone whose nerves would become frayed at being questioned about his taste in music, movies and clothing. A boy who was constantly studying others and adjusting his walking, speaking and gesturing to conform, with varying degrees of success.
But most of all I see someone who was not thinking, just doing. All of my energy was being poured into what I was supposed to be; I was supposed to be a good student, a Christian, believe in God and be active in church so I was. I was supposed to be masculine and straight, so I was. I was supposed to go out with girls, so I tried--damn those were some horrendous dates. But I digress. In retrospect I'm glad I went to college, but even that fell under required tasks. Meanwhile a heavy supply of an herbal pharmaceutical kept my mind cloudy for moments when I couldn't stomach being a one-man PR machine. Everything was done in service of my drug of choice--approval--and I was willing to sacrifice any semblance of self to get my fix.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself; hardly anyone knows who the hell they are at 17 or 18. However the difference between me and many of my classmates was they were at least beginning the process of discovering themselves, scratching beneath their identity's surface. I was consumed with making sure mine was shiny and perfect. Nevermind that the inside was hollow. Somehow in the middle of the chaos--the unanswered prayers for "deliverance," police run-ins, denials, self-deception, late nights and blunt smoke--I got a moment of clarity. One that opened my eyes to the harsh reality that every relationship in my life had its basis in or had become tarnished by lies. Though I was scared shitless about what lay ahead, something told me I couldn't keep doing what I was doing.
So out the closet I came. First to a new college friend who transformed to confidant then boyfriend. Then to my brother, then to a childhood friend who was also family (back in the day we were both so deep in the closet we could've found presents and a long-lost Ouija board), to straight friends and so on. I'm happy to say my life as a whole is so much better, and that I am a much happier person. Through coming out I've met people from all walks of life and had experiences--sex, drag balls, gay clubs, National Coming Out Day, Day of Silence, discovering gay films, books and bloggers-- I never would've been open to had I kept on in the same dead-end cycle. I've also felt love, joy, self-acceptance and peace of mind; emotions that for so long seemed foreign to me. Coming out has allowed me to take in the world, to explore it, to enjoy it.
Not that it's all sweetness and light for me now--life, both the good and the bad, still has to be lived. I think that's where we fail sometimes as a community. We sell the dream of it gets better, often without emphasizing that it takes time, courage and work to make things better. I don't regret coming out, but in hindsight I can see where there are some instances where I'd do things differently and instances where I wouldn't change a thing.
Things I'd Change
--I wish I hadn't came out to my straight friends all at once. I'd would told them individually. In a group of five or six, fronting and cracking jokes (i.e. what rappers do you have a crush on) takes precedence over truly listening. One-on-one we did much better job of coming to an understanding.
--I wouldn't have doubted my brother would have accepted me. Yeah, we squabbled and scrapped like all brothers do as kids, but aside one or two flippant remarks (that weren't even directed at me), he never gave me any real reason to think he'd stop loving me.
--I would change how my dad found out. He'd been suspecting something was up, and I knew that he might know, but I just couldn't bring myself to tell him, even after I told my mom and brother. Instead he found out via my relationship status on Facebook. I think that's part of the reason he took it all so hard. Though his religious beliefs and our general strained relationship probably also had something to do with it.
--Speaking of strained relationships, I often wonder if I'd be closer to my parents now if I had come out as a teenager instead of in my early twenties. We probably would've grown closer if I'd confessed my secret to them then and asked for their help in solving my "problem." Then again, having them cheer me on the path of self-delusion would've have me kept in the closet longer. So in that respect I'm glad I waited. This isn't something I would change so much as it is a "what if?" scenario.
Things I Wouldn't Change
--I'm glad I first came out to someone who wasn't related to me, and was also gay. No disrespect to my family, but coming out to a person I didn't have a long history with made it easier to reveal myself. There was no baggage or expectation other than a desire to be honest.
--I don't regret dating the first person I came out to. Although things didn't last, that relationship kick started the process of me becoming more comfortable in my sexuality and in my skin overall.
--Even though I'm an atheist now, I'm glad I boned up on the biblical passages dealing with homosexuality when I was still a Christian. It helped me put many a wannabe bible thumpers and Internet homophobe in their place. Moreover, it planted the seed that if those scriptures were subject to debate, what else about the good book and Christianity was...and well you know what happened next.
So what about your own coming out? What would you change and what wouldn't you? If you're planning to come out, what do you hope/want to happen?