National Coming Out Day: A Day for Love to Win Out

handsOctober 11 is National Coming Out Day. On one hand, it is pretty awesome that there is such a sense of community engagement that there is a day of national awareness. On the other hand, it is really sad that there has to be a national day of awareness in the first place.

The first National Coming Out Day was in 1988, when I (and probably the majority of people who read this blog) was still young enough that I wasn’t really sure about the difference between boys and girls yet, other than if I hit my older brother it was OK, but if he returned the favor he got into trouble. Not that I ever used that to my advantage …

There are so many reasons for members of the LGBTQ community not to come out:

The list goes on and on, punctuated by violence and discrimination, hate and fear.

But somewhere between 1.6 and 10 percent of people identify as LGBTQ, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is lesbian or gay. Planned Parenthood says one out of four families has a member who is LGBTQ. To put those numbers in perspective, in Tucson, that means, statistically, between 16,000 and 90,000 people identify as LGBTQ.

The process of coming out is different for everyone, and different every time. It is also something that, on average, LGBTQ people are doing at a younger age than previous generations. And, thanks to the Internet, there are some amazing resources to help.

In honor of National Coming Out Day 2014, I have something to say: I am gay.

That is a terrifying thing to say, no matter how many times I say it.

The thing about coming out, and why there needs to be a day of awareness, is that coming out is not a one-time thing. Sure, I said it once, but I will need to say it again. In my life, I have had to say it multiple times, just to myself.

As the youngest daughter in a family that was about as straight as you can get (military, law enforcement, fire department, etc.), being gay was something that happened to other people.

My parents would talk about how being gay wasn’t inherently wrong, but … There was always a but. Without even recognizing it, I came to understand that being gay was fine for other people, but not for me.

Growing up, sure, I knew I liked girls, but I wasn’t “gay”! I was “experimenting,” or I would quote the Kinsey Institute about the fluidity of women’s sexuality. I would insist that it wasn’t gay if you had a boyfriend. And I would do all this to myself. I never talked to anyone else about my confusion.

In college, I tried to come out, and it went so badly that for the next 10 years, I worked really hard to convince myself, and everyone else, that I was 100 percent heterosexual. That is a hard thing to do, and it takes its toll.

Finally, two years ago on my birthday, I said it, aloud, to my best friend: “I think I am not straight.” I was also more drunk than brave. Luckily, the next day when I sobered up, she wouldn’t let me off the hook. It was terrifying, but also wonderful. I told my sister-in-law next, and her reaction was the best: “I have known you were gay since we were kids. Thank God you finally admitted it. Now you can start being happy.” She used the term “gay” before I did. If it weren’t for the two of them, I would have crawled back into that closet pretty quickly.

I didn’t plan on telling my parents. I have two sets of parents, the “mom set” and the “dad set,” which makes it that much more nerve-wracking.

I was seeing someone, and pretty happy about it. One day I was at the mom set’s house, and my mother said something about how things seemed to be going so well for me, and now all I needed was to meet a nice man. It just kind of came out, no pun intended, that I was seeing a nice woman. Again, it didn’t go well. My mother said that I just hadn’t met the right guy yet. My step-dad still thinks I am going through a phase. When my mother told me that she would rather see me spend the rest of my life alone than be “that way,” I left. It took a while for me to speak to her again. Now, they are still not happy, but they pretend to be OK with it. Hopefully one day they actually will be.

I still haven’t told my dad set of parents. My dad thinks that the only reason someone is a lesbian is because she can’t get a man. My mom says that it “just isn’t OK.” I am terrified of losing them, though I know that they love me no matter what. For me, like a lot of people, there is that part of you that wonders which will be stronger: their love or their beliefs?

I think what makes the dad set so hard is because I am closer to them.

Unique family dynamics like my own, as well as the prejudice that still permeates our society, are some reasons why there is still so much fear surrounding the prospect of coming out. There are so many reasons to remain silent, but there will never be change, never be acceptance, as long as people still give into that fear.

And there are so many more reasons to be honest with yourself and the world about who you are. Parades would be at the top of my list (and are also why I love that I am Irish).

If you are LGBTQ, and you feel safe and comfortable doing it, happy National Coming Out Day, regardless of whether it is the first time or the hundredth time you have said those words.

If you are straight, reaffirm your acceptance of the people in your life, because whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time they’ve come out, those words are hard.

And, if you are LGBTQ and not ready to come out, it’s OK. We will be here next year, and the year after and the year after, until there is no more fear, no more hate, no more closets.

The most terrifying, wonderful, liberating words I have ever said: I am gay.

I am sending the link for this to my parents. I hope their love wins out.

11 thoughts on “National Coming Out Day: A Day for Love to Win Out

  1. Congratulations for your strength and courage. I hope your parents read your article. I am probably in your parents’ age group and I can say how proud I would be if you were my daughter. Best wishes as your family (mom’s side and dad’s side) continues to evolve and as you gain “family” beyond your family of origin.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story on this blog! I hope sharing it here helps love win out in your family–and helps give others the courage to do what you just did.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story.

    I’m not to my family either because I know they won’t react well. It nice to read about how life goes on even if your family struggles with it.

  4. The part about quoting the Kinsey Scale and talking about “fluidity” is very disturbing in certain ways. Why single out women? Men can be sexually fluid as well, why not just call it “the fluidity of human sexuality”. And it’s disturbing because women have been trying to get our sexuality taken seriously for years. And for MANY women, their sexuality is not fluid. So yes, some humans can be fluid, but for most humans, that’s just not true at all.

    • I can’t speak for the author, but the mere mention of an idea is not necessarily the endorsement of an idea. In my interpretation, she was talking about the idea of fluidity in the context of struggling with her sexuality when younger, and latching onto it as a way to deny being gay. That clearly takes place in the past.

    • To answer your question about why I talked about women’s sexuality, simply put, I am a woman. I can’t talk about men because I am not one, so I don’t feel that I have any right to talk about their experience.

      I also can’t talk about any other woman’s experience. I had thought I had made it clear that this is my story, and mine alone. I am not trying to speak for all women. Not all women are gay. Not all women who are struggled with coming to terms with it. I am and I did.
      I am sorry if there was confusion in the post, or if I was ambiguous about anything. This is my story and mine alone. It is not meant to speak for anyone else’s experiences but mine. There is a whole spectrum of human sexuality. Some people are who they are and never question and never move along that scale. Others do.
      I hope that what everyone takes away from this is that each of our experiences are our own. Each of our identities are our own. We can not judge another person, who they are or where they come from. All we can do is accept ourselves and help support others as they learn to accept themselves. No matter who they are. And really, that is what National Coming Out Day is: a time to reaffirm our acceptance of ourselves (no matter what that identity is) and support those around us (no matter what their identity is).

    • So, is true that women can be purely heterosexual? especially in sexual imagery such as erotic/romantic fantasies and dreams, in sexual attractions. All exclusively about men? exclusively attracted to men? I mean women to desire males and ONLY males sexually?

  5. Wow! Your dad’s words hurt a lot. He actually thinks that way about gay women? What does he think about gay men? Does he think it’s the same way, and that only men who are gay are like that because they can’t find a woman? If not, then why wouldn’t he think that way too? Although the fact that he says that as a man, indicates that he truly believes that as a man he is superior and therefore any woman who doesn’t want a man means there is something wrong with her, and it’s despicable that some people think that way. And would your mom say any of that to you if you were a gay man? Geez I’m so sorry you have to put up with family like that. It is so hard dealing with family who can’t accept queer men and women. 🙁

  6. Great post! Although I don’t know about the “fluidity of women’s sexuality”. Not all women are fluid. And the Kinsey Scale/Institute is suppose to be about ALL people. So there are an equal number of fluid men and women and an equal number of men and women who are not. So I really hope that whenever you talk about that with people that you always mention that it’s both males and females that this relates too. And I really hope that when you were in school and talking about that with others about the scale and you “experimenting” and “fluidity” that you also mentioned to them all that it’s the same with men. Although, when you said at the end that you were planning on showing this to your parents got me a little worried. Because after what you’ve said about your parents thinking this way, now I’m afraid they’ll read this and (especially your dad) think to themselves, “Well I was right! People are never truly gay, they’ll just end up changing their minds anyway”; after they read about you talking about fluidity. I hope you tell them they’re wrong. And I hope that you have told your dad (and others) that all gays and lesbians means that they are homosexuals and therefore are born that way, and that they feel no attraction to the opposite sex no matter how hard they try. And I agree with the other poster, why exactly does your dad feel that way about homosexual women? What are his views on homosexual men? The same?

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