One year ago today I chose to endure whatever uncertainty lay ahead — whatever comforts I might lose, and the relationships that might be forever bruised so that I could live an authentic life.
My heart beat so fast, and determined as I was to say what I needed to say, the words felt stuck at every turn — in my chest, in my throat, on the tip of my tongue. But I needed to say them. I couldn’t go another second in that closet.
And inauthenticity is that. A closet. It’s stifling. You can’t spread your wings in there. You can’t blossom.
Telling my mom that I was “for all intents and purposes, gay” was the hardest conversation I’d ever had with anyone. It was awkward. And when she hung up on me, I knew that our relationship would never be the same.
But coming out to my parents was a necessary risk. I’d grown exhausted with hiding parts of my life — significant parts and significant people, and the significant experiences we’d shared. I’d built relationships that I was grateful for, and proud of. But for years, I sacrificed celebrating the full joy of those relationships, fearful that my folks would find out.
The catalyst for my coming out day was a question about why I didn’t own any dresses or skirts. My mom was aggressive in her incredulity about what, then, did I wear to work? What did I wear on special occasions? ”I don’t wear dresses,” I said. In that moment, that statement affirmed for me and about me so much more than a sartorial choice. I wasn’t the woman my mom had expected me to be, and the time had come for me to say that. Coming out was about telling the truth — my truth. For me, “I don’t wear dresses” also meant, “Mama, I like girls.” I was breaking the ice.
My double life jig was up. My parents needed to know the truth and I needed to live in the light, like, all the time. I needed to not need to change my phone’s wallpaper every time I went home. I needed to not need to explain why I was at Her house again, or why She was always with me. I needed to not have to worry about whether a picture I posted, or something I said seemed suspect.
Every time I switched pronouns or pretended lovers were only friends for the sake of maintaining comfortable conversations, I devalued the sincerity of my emotions. I reinforced the notion that there was something about my feelings that was shameful, that what I’d shared with the women I’d dated was less special because we were two girls. Hiding was a personal conflict I could no longer ignore. Love feels too good to not share and show off a little. But how real could it be if I wouldn’t risk a little consternation to tell the world, “Nah, that’s my lady. She’s much, much more than just my friend.”
I determined in a moment that I couldn’t concern myself with what “they” might think. It was a gut check; I wasn’t fit to live the life I’d envisioned for myself if I punked out when the road got rough. Greatness requires the guts to withstand trial long enough to reap the triumph. If I wasn’t willing to stand up for who I am, and protect who I love, then I didn’t deserve to be great.
I still struggle with anger and resentment at my parents’ reactions. Although my dad handled things better than my mom, his worldview and mine clash too, sometimes. So, to say it’s been “difficult” this last year would be a gross understatement, as all of my strength has been tested. And while the best lesson my mama ever taught me had to be learned at her expense, I am grateful I got it. I know without question that there is nothing “wrong” with me, or the way I think, or the way I feel.
I’m glad I came out. In fact, if I had to do it all over again knowing how difficult it would be and how much pain it would cause, I’d make the same choice I did last year. I am stronger emotionally and spiritually because of that choice. I am free because of it.