There are times when I’m quite envious of people who never have to come out.
The ease of a life where you don’t have to declare your identity because it doesn’t stray from the norm.
While coming out was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, it was also one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
Looking back I would describe my family at the time as homosceptic. I had a happy childhood with a loving family but we never knew any openly gay people, and they were generally othered. Not in a hateful way, more in a misunderstood way.
I have so much empathy for people with families that openly despise the queer community. My coming out was difficult and heart-wrenching enough with a relatively open family, I can’t imagine the dread and fear of knowing your family will react negatively.
Anyway, ever the late bloomer, I had a girlfriend all through high school, and started to think that maybe I was different towards the tail end of that experience. As I went into my first year of university, I came to realize I was a gay man.
As a quick aside, the death of Jamel Myles hit home pretty hard this week.
I was bullied as a child. The most frustrating part of that was my tormentors knowing I was gay before I did. It helped turn being gay into something I wanted to rage against, rather than something I wanted to embrace.
Even in my first year of university, well-meaning friends would ask about my being gay before I was ready to tell them and it pushed me backwards rather than propelling me forwards. Either way, that year I came out to my university friends and started to dip my toe into the big gay ocean.
I had planned to tell my family upon my arrival back from my first year away at university. On the drive back from Edmonton to Calgary my Dad told me about some serious issues they had all been dealing with in my absence and I quickly bottled out of that plan. I rationed that I didn’t want to add any stress to the situation — really I was just scared.
Scared that I would lose my family — the people that I love more than I can represent here in words.
In my scared (and at that point depressed) mind I decided that I needed to mentally prepare myself for the worst. I rationed that I needed to love myself enough that I could survive without their love if it came to that.
Frankly, it was a ridiculous notion, and I would’ve been crushed had they rejected me. But what it did do was force me to think about myself, and my value, and why people would love me.
It was an extraordinarily introspective time for me and I worked through many of my own self-esteem issues pretty head on — some related to being gay and others not. Coming out the other side I realized that I was valuable, and worthy of love, and above all enough.
I am enough.
This is the most powerful thing I took away from the whole coming out process. I am lifted up and loved and supported by many people, but at the core of it I am enough.
I ended up telling my parents about a year and a half later. I’d put off telling them for so many reasons (because it was Christmas, because I was only home for a weekend, etc) that I ended up telling them after doing the dishes after dinner one night when I was visiting.
Unsurprisingly (if you know them), they were loving and supportive, and have been ever since. As was my brother, who’d actually figured it out a bit early and kept my secret until I was ready to share it.
I’m so lucky to have them.
There’s two things that always stick with me about my coming out journey:
- No one should ever have to fear that people won’t love them for who they are. The world seems to be moving forward but then you hear heartbreaking stories like Jamel’s and it’s hard not to think things are moving backwards.
- While I wish it hadn’t had to be under those circumstances, learning to love myself was a powerful experience for me. It’s also one that’s now inextricably linked to my own queer identity.
Coming out is something that I don’t think will ever end for me — as I move through life I’m always meeting new people. My coming out journey gave me the confidence to share who I am with the world, and for that I can’t be anything but grateful.