Saturday, November 3, 2012

"How Did You Find the Courage to Come Out?"

One of the most gratifying aspects of owning and running this blog has been that, even as I can't spend as much time on it as I did almost a year ago (since I'm busy working on the second draft of a novel), I continue to receive unexpected emails from people around the world.  Most of the emails I receive thank me for what I've written, and tell me how helpful my words are.  Often, I get an email with a question, as happened last week from a young man (country unknown).

His question was, "How did I find the courage to come out?"  I want to share my response to him with you, in the hope that something I wrote will help you on your journey to self-acceptance and to living your life as an out and free gay man or lesbian woman.

Here, in part, is what I wrote:

You’ve asked me the question, where did I find the courage to come out as a gay man?  Below are some of my random thoughts on the subject, which I hope will be the answer you’re looking for.

I need to go way back here, because I’ve been out since January 1, 1986.  But, as I recall, for many years, I’d been getting closer and closer to accepting that I was gay.  At various times, I’d gone through denial and anger–I refused to believe I might be gay.  I call this my asexual stage, when I tried not to think about women, men, or sex at all.  

But, by the time I got to my early- to mid-twenties, I had to face the realization I wasn’t like other young men my age.  I wasn’t interested in young women, even though I found some of them physically beautiful.  When I saw myself being sexual (because I wasn’t until I turned twenty-six), it was always with another man.  And when I saw myself being emotionally connected to someone, settling down, and building a life, it was also with another man.

So I was different, and, no matter how I tried to turn my back on that reality, I couldn’t.  With that information, what could I do?

For me–and I’m not saying it’s like this for every gay man, but I’d be surprised if there isn’t an element of it in every one of our stories–I think I found the courage to come out when I realized it would take more courage to be what I wasn’t (straight) than what I was (gay).

Said another way, the risk of pretending to be what I wasn’t, at some point, became greater than the risk of losing those who were most important to me, when I shared with them the truth of who and what I was.  Think about that.  The risk of not being true to myself, and dying a little more inside every day that I wasn’t, was greater than potentially losing loved ones, because I told them I was gay.  Do you get that?  Does that make sense?  Have you gotten to that place yet, in your own journey to self-acceptance?

I’m not saying you should wait to some out until you're so desperate to be who and what you are, you simply can’t take living a lie one more day (like I did).  

I don’t know your particular situation, but I suspect coming out today isn’t nearly as bad as it was in the 1970s and ‘80s.  Every day, it seems, there are stories in newspapers concerning gay and lesbian people, and how things are continuously improving for them.  In some countries, like Canada, where I live (and states in the US), gay marriage is now legal, sending the message to the population at large that being gay isn’t what people thought it was all those years ago (thus breaking negative stereotypes).  There are numerous series on TV now depicting gay characters in more or less positive roles.  In other words, being gay isn’t what it used to be.  So I don’t believe coming out has to be as traumatic as it once was.

At the time I came out, I wish I had known a number of things (they would have made the job so much easier).  They are:  

1).  That it’s okay to be gay.  It really is.  Gay, straight–it’s all the same.  At the end of the day, all of us want nothing more than to love and be loved.  There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it’s with someone of the opposite or same gender.  First, give yourself permission to love yourself. Then, give yourself permission to love someone else.        

2).  That just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m not worthy or valuable.  I am.  I am just because I was born, because I’m alive, because I draw breath.  I am because all the horrible things that have been said about me, as a gay person, over the years, simply aren’t true.  I’m not an abomination.  I’m not immoral.  And I’m not going to hell because I live with and love another man.  How can love be wrong?   

3).  That life on the other side of coming out is so much better.  The world won’t end just because you’ve come out.  It really won’t.  Depending on your loved ones, it could be a little rough for a bit, but that will pass.  It’s the rare occasion when someone loses a parent or sibling or friend for good just because he’s come out as gay.  

Think about it this way:  You took time (I'm guessing a long time) to become adjusted to the idea of being gay, so give your loved ones time too.  In all likelihood, they will see you the same way they did before, and nothing will change between you.  Except you will be who you really are, and that can only improve, deepen, and enrich your relationships with others.

As far as the specifics of gathering the courage you need to actually come out, well, if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take a look at the posts I’ve written on my blog under the heading Coming Out.  You’ll find a lot of resources there.  Some will apply to you, some won’t.  Use what you need.  All of them are intended to help you through the process of knowing what you’re getting into and how to go about doing it.  Being prepared will help a lot with mustering the courage you asked me about.  

And if you have any questions about anything I’ve written here, or you want to keep the conversation going, I invite you to email me again.  I’m here for you.  I want you to know I’ll support you in any way I can.

Thanks for your email and your question.


By the way, no matter how busy I am working on my novel, I'm always happy to hear from readers, and I always respond back.  So if you have a comment or a question, feel free to contact me.  I'd love to hear from you.  

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