October 11th is National Coming Out Day, and I wanted to write some cute list article to commemorate it. I was thinking something along the lines of “27 Things All LGBT Who Have Come Out Understand” or “18 Different Things Everyone Who Has Come Out Has Experienced.” I toyed with the article for days, and became frustrated with how little progress I was making.
Then it struck me, the truth so close and plain it could have been hitting on me at a club. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the article because there probably are no 27, 18, or even 3 things that universally unite everyone who has had to come out about a sexual orientation or gender identity, and if there are, I certainly don’t know them.
The truth is that every person who has had to “come out” about something in their life has had unique experiences for which there is very little common thread. For sure, we can compare and contrast our stories, or how supportive loved ones are, or how we felt when talking about our secret for the first time; and we all might identify with certain parts of other’s experiences, but they are all distinctly separate.
There is only one thing that everyone who has ever come out has experienced:
We did it.
One way or another, through hysterical laughter or baited breath, through erratic breathing or trickling tears, through awkward conversations or heartfelt letters, we tentatively opened a closet door and “came out.”
And you can too.
I can’t promise what your experience will be like. I can’t promise it will be easy, or that you won’t face hardships. I can’t promise that everyone will accept you, or that you won’t face heartbreak in light of rejection. What I can promise, however, is that you can do it. I don’t know you, but I know you can do it. I don’t know your background, or life, or your story, but you can do it. I believe in you.
That doesn’t mean you are ready right now. Two years ago I toyed with the idea of coming out on October 11th, but I hadn’t fully come out to myself yet. It would be months later before I would meekly mumble the words “I am bisexual” to my best friend from underneath a nest of fleece blankets. You might not be ready, and that’s okay. Take your time, you deserve it.
One by one, as if I were scheduling appointments for job interviews, I crept out of the closet to each of my friends. My identity shifted from bisexuality to homosexuality. I had a relatively privileged coming out experience, and know that I suffered much less rejection and pain than others did. Most of my pain was self-inflicted, a by-product of years of internalized self-hate.
We will all have different stories, but we all have stories worth telling. We all have lives worth living. And lives are not fully lived unless they are experienced authentically. You owe that to yourself. We all owe that to ourselves. Maybe that’s what we all have in common too.