Happy National Coming Out Day 2016 – GayRVA’s Editor shares his story
It’s National Coming Out Day and I remembered I never really told our readership how I realized that I love dudes. There’s an incredibly sappy video HRC is throwing around (it’ll be at the bottom of this post) and it does a great job of showing what its like coming out today which is awesome.
But the reality is things weren’t always so great.** There were a number of Gay Straight Alliances back then, but broader acceptance was limited to that, Ellen coming out on her sitcom in 1997, and whatever love advice I could pull from the weird/queer music of Marilyn Manson and Placebo. Spoiler alert, the advice wasn’t good.
More specifically, it was the summer between 7th and 8th grade where I’d spent the last two years embarrassing myself in a private parochial school. I was the fire-topped new kid quoting Howard Stern to impress people. I’d spent more time getting in trouble than studying and that would continue for the duration of my scholastic career.
But there I was: chubby, pale, and into dudes. (top image is me a few years later)
I remember whispering to folks at an end-of-the-year party – “I think I like guys…” and hoping they’d say the same. They didn’t. Who’d guess telling kid’s I’d only met a few years earlier after transferring from public to private school wouldn’t go well? They didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t either – I didn’t even know what to call it really, but I knew I was different and it was too different for the new friends I’d made.
By the time summer had entered full swing, I was in a theater arts camp back in the public school system. Below is the line I usually tell people when they ask me how and when I knew I was gay, it’s a bit after my broader realization, but it fits nicely in social situations:
A traditionally beautiful girl walked into the main hall of the massive Northern Virginia secondary school and as I looked her up and down (as any puberty-ridden high schooler would). I found myself admiring her boots the most. Christ, I can still close my eyes and notice every detail of her outfit except her face.
In the words of the famed red-neck philosopher – here’s your sign.
From there, it didn’t take long for my rambunctious and hard to manage ass to make a splash at my new high school in the worst way.
Around this time my mom got sick with Lymes Disease- she’d stay sick for most of my teenage years with me changing her IV bag daily. I was getting in trouble in school and learning how to smoke pot. I was also trolling websites like Gay.com and XY to find dates. I still wasn’t out.
I remember asking for rides to the mall to meet strangers from the internet – yea, things haven’t changed that much.
Then there was some particularly stressful gym class that finally broke me. I remember getting so mad at someone, but I was mad at a lot of people back then. I threw something or I shouted something I shouldn’t have – maybe I just started crying. Either way, the next thing I knew I was telling my gym teacher I was gay. With tears in my eyes, my parents were called in.
Now, my dad is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever known – a Jewish pharmacist, he’d owned his own business only to have a bigger brand roll through and force him out. From there, and too this day, he’s worked hourly (for good pay, thankfully) – but retail work at 70-90 hours a week was a regular occurrence.
So when I say my dad came home from work when I came out at school it was a big deal. He’d only ever left work for me two other times, both involved me getting suspended or in some other kind of trouble I regret to this day.
So there I was, balling my eyes out in the principals office, flanked by my mom and dad. They tried to understand it – dad went back to work and mom called a therapist.
Obviously the therapy didn’t work – I’m still gay. Or maybe it did work and I’m still alive.
Teasing, bullying, ostracization, an even more complicated puberty; these were all the things I had to look forward to in the coming years. But I survived.
My parents eventually came around. Just last month, my mom came to her first Pride festival here in Richmond (if you walked by the GayRVA tent you probably met her, she can be aggressively friendly.)
A terrible picture of my mom and I at Pride
It took me a while – I was goofy and awkward till pretty much my late 20′s, though some say I probably still am. They say “it gets better” and they’re not wrong. I’m employed. I’ve got a career and job I love and a boy who might marry me some day.
So for those of you still in the closet, sitting behind your desk unsure who to tell or where to start, just know it sucks for everyone. It hurts to keep these feelings inside and it hurts even more to burry them under guilt and concerns of what others might think.
We’re all born naked – and hopefully we’ll die that way.
And for those of us who identify on the LGBTQ spectrum, we owe it to ourselves and those who came before us to not be afraid to speak our truth. To stand up and be a symbol of something bigger than ourselves. Not that being LGBTQ has to define your life, but never forget who you are and never let anyone hold that part of you back.
Cue cheesy coming out day video:
**I know this is still worlds better than the folks who came out before me, but this isn’t the discrimination Olympics. I’d love to read some of your coming out stories too, please feel free to email them to us at Editor@gayrva.com or leave them in the comment section below this post.
“I’ve told very few people in my personal small circles because I don’t know how to talk about it, you know?”November 9, 2015
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