In honor of October’s National “Coming Out” Day (Oct. 10th) and #SpiritDay (Oct. 17th), I thought I would invite you, my lovely friends to share your own coming out experience or your experience with a loved one or friend who came out to you.
I'll go first...
In a time, long, long ago, better known as the 20th century, I lived in a small, southern town where people rarely dared to be different or strayed too far from the "norm". It was a boring place, filled with muted pastels, and lacked true vibrancy of expression and originality, where having an open mind meant you were a trouble maker or one of those "bad" kids, destined for prison or to be found dead in a gutter, whichever came first
Fortunately, for me, I'd been raised outside the box, by parents who grew up during a time when sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were frequently explored and shared by the vast majority of youths in our great nation. (A.K.A, The original trouble makers)
I was born at the tail-end of this glorious movement, and just as I entered my teenage years in the 80s, the flower children and hippies of the previous generation had begun to fade away or sold themselves out, turning their backs on everything they had stood for by conforming and giving into "the man".
Meanwhile, older conservatives (our parents’ parents) were becoming lawmakers and endeavored to whip the product of their offspring's frivolity back into submission by doing what they could to put an end to the liberal "free love" movement and all degrees of progress, despite the great strides that had been made regarding civil rights. In reality though, keeping up appearances were about all they were able to accomplish.
I like to refer to this time as the “everything’s just swell” era!
Despite their efforts though, the seeds had been planted. So, while on the outside, families gathered in front of cameras posing for their annual Christmas cards with their big hair and matching sweaters, behind the rose colored lenses, those who dared to be different, by actually being themselves, were learning how to survive while living lies and keeping secrets, thus expanding the ever-growing proverbial closet.
Now, mind you, my parents were rather open people and whether or not they'd intended to teach us to be the same, it still happened regardless. I grew up aware of their lesbian friends and even understood that those women dated other women, not men.
The lifestyle was "normal" to me, no different than my parents or my parents’ straight friends. So when rumors started going around that my best friend was secretly seeing a girl, I shocked even myself by being upset about it.
There was no reason for my unhappiness and no reason for what I said to her when she attempted to tell me her truth.
I'm ashamed of myself now, though in my defense, I was very young and confused. Add in a ton of teenage hormones and coming to terms with my own sexuality, it's now a bit more understandable why I rejected her by making it quite clear that if she were gay, I would no longer be her friend. Yeah, I really said that.
I immediately hated myself for it and it wasn't long before I apologized.
My actions were based purely on fear. Fear that if she was gay, I must have been as well, especially considering how much I really loved her. That too, opened up a new can of worms…
Was I jealous? Was I curious? Was I angry? Was I even more confused than ever?
The simple answer to all of the above is a resounding ... YES!!!
Yes, I was jealous because now there was this other girl in her life. A girl she was closer to than she was with me ... okay so it was a different kind of close ... but still.
I was curious, naturally, as most people are. I wondered how things were "different" for them than it was between girls and boys. And the fact that both of them had been with boys too, confused me even more.
Then there were my own feelings to consider. Questions about my own sexuality. I found my friend attractive, and yes, I even wondered why she'd chosen another girl to "like" when I was right there. What the hell was wrong with me? Was I that hideous?
I mean, if she was gonna experiment, why not go for the one who had been there all along rather than a completely new person?
It might not make sense now, but back then, during a time when most adolescence are just coming to terms with who they think they are, I had even more crap on my plate than usual, and nobody to really turn to.
What if my thoughts and feelings weren't normal at all? What if I was a lesbian, too? What if my other friends didn't understand or what if they rejected me the way I had originally rejected her?
As you can see, there was a lot going on in my head and it took a few years before I figured it all out completely.
After I accepted that she was who she was, and that it really had nothing to do with me, I was able to accept that there would always be other girls/women in her life in "that" respect.
It actually made it easier for me to resolve all of my own questions and curiosities. It also made it easier to be honest with her and let her know that no matter her sexuality, I supported her and always would no matter what, because I loved her and her happiness was as important to me as she was.
Separating my identity from who she was, and realizing that although we were close friends, we were individuals and that no matter our differences we were still the same people, made it much easier to accept myself.
When I look back, the experience still brings back those feelings of angst and worry, but after a lot of soul searching and some "scientific" experimenting of my own, (*wink wink) I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, although I've kissed a girl and I liked it, I like MEN even more.
In fact, I enjoy men so much, creating my pseudonym, Tyler Robbins wasn't as tough a decision as I first thought it would be. Tyler has even allowed me to explore just how much I like men ... and even better, how much I like men who like men!!
Today, I have four fabulous kids who've all been raised with the same open-minded, unconditional love that I had been raised to believe in. I've made it quite clear to all of my kids that no matter who they choose to love in life, it will never effect how much I love them.
I hope they never experience an ounce of hatred or prejudice, and although that's a tall order for one mom, it isn't so hard to imagine if we all work together and do our part by supporting equality for all humans.
It's just the right thing to do.
*Has someone you love come out to you? *How did you deal with it? *Did everyone in your family or circle of friends feel the same as you?
*Did you come out to your family and friends? *If so, how did it go?
*Do you want to come out to family and/or friends and just aren’t sure how to do it?
Let’s talk about it. Leave your story in a comment.
If you or a loved one is struggling with your/their sexuality, check out the sites below.
This is a new era and the closet doesn't have to stay closed anymore. Someone's waiting just outside, ready to take your hand and show you the love and acceptance all humans deserve.
Parents, Families, Friends and Allies United with LGBT People
The Trevor Project
Gay Christian Network
LGBT Community Centers