The first person I came out to was my gynecologist.
It happened in a moment of both weakness and slight panic. I had never met the woman before, but there I was, sitting in front of her in a scratchy gown that barely managed to cover my ladybits on a cold steel exam table, equipped with stirrups that looked like something out of a horror film, answering a battery of extremely personal questions.
Then it happened:
Doc: “What form of birth control do you use?”
Me: “Um… None… BecauseIlikegirls.”
She shrugged and noted it on my chart. As she reached for the speculum, I had a very small and silent panic attack. I’d fought fully admitting my sexuality to myself for my entire life, but all it took was a moment of near-nude terror to bring to light my deepest, darkest secret.
Now, I’d like to think I’m usually pretty self-aware, but it took me 26 years to figure out I like girls. By all accounts, I should have known years ago. I remember when I was little and my friends and I would plan our future weddings. They could always picture a guy’s face, while I literally never could. It took me years to figure out that it’s because I can’t imagine a future with a man. Later on I felt mildly lost when my friends would huddle in the school cafeteria at our usual table and compare crushes, like “Josh made eye-contact with me today! I think he wants me!” OK, sure, but I totally saw Josh pick his nose and eat it last week when he thought no one was looking, but if you want to make out with that, more power to you.
In my circle of friends, I’m known for being rather loud and rarely censoring myself, so many of them were rather surprised when I explained that I wouldn’t admit my sexuality to myself, and actually found coming out to myself harder than coming out to anyone else in my life. They immediately wanted to know why that is.
It’s because you give up a lot when you come out to yourself. You give up the sense of security that comes with being “normal.” You give up the fairy tale Disney sold you as a little girl, that on your wedding day, you’d be wearing a dress that resembles a puffy marshmallow cloud and walking toward your handsome, beaming prince at the altar.
My reality is different. I live in a red state. I’m not “normal” and will probably spend the rest of my days looking over my shoulder, just in case. I can’t get legally married where I live. If I didn’t work for a great company, I could be fired for being gay.
All negatives aside, I came out on January 29.
Because I’m a mature adult, I came out to my mother via text. She, and the rest of my family, are extremely supportive. (I know how lucky I am; trust me.)
I came out to the rest of my world in a Facebook status. In total, I’ve received more than 100 texts, Facebook comments, likes and messages of support. I lost only one “friend,” and had a few glaring absences in the likes, comments and text departments, but I think my life is better for it. I wouldn’t change a thing.
My point in telling my story is this: Coming out relieved a physical burden from me.
I could literally feel holding in my secret physically taxing my body. I got physically sick from anxiety. I was depressed. I was constantly angry at everything and nothing. That largely disappeared January 29.
My coming out was important. Everyone’s coming out is important. We’re living in a time where governments see fit to treat members of the LGBTQ community as second-class. Even here in the US, there is new legislation being passed to keep us downtrodden. Children are killing themselves because society is teaching them that they’re worthless. Don’t stand for this. I’m begging you: Come out, come out, wherever you are, because there truly is strength in numbers.
It’s time to teach those who would hate us that our only difference is who we choose to love. We’re their friends. We’re their neighbors. We’re their idols. We teach their children. We heal their sick. We protect and serve. We die for their freedom. We bless their dead.
If you’re in a position where you can’t come out, I get it. Hide and hide well, friend. I hope you can eventually lead the good life you deserve.
And if you’re in a position to come out, please do. It’s so much better on the outside, I promise.
…Just maybe don’t do it when you’re mostly naked in front of a stranger.