Not only is today Columbus Day, (is it the real Columbus Day or is it just “observed”?), but it’s also another holiday of sorts – it’s National Coming Out Day. It’s on this day that gay men and women, regardless of age, strive to come out of the closet and announce to someone, be it the world, their family or even themselves, that they are gay. National Coming Out Day was designed as sort of a support mechanism, to let people know that they are not alone.
I don’t think National Coming Out Day was around when I “came out”. Well, I actually didn’t really come out, for the most part I didn’t really feel the need to. I guess people just assumed. After all, in high school, I ended the morning announcements with phrases like “Have a Wonderful Wednesday” or “Have a Fabulous Friday”. I mean, come on, all that was missing was the flashing pink neon light. When I lived in Massachusetts, my dear friend Donna told me that coming out was only a big deal because gay men and women made such a big deal about coming out. If it’s not a big deal to you, then it’s not a big deal to anyone else. I can sort of see the logic in that and it’s a theory that I subscribe to, though I don’t think it fits in every scenario. For example, I don’t think that a teenage boy living in the middle of the Bible belt is going to be able to drop a “That was a wonderful six hour sermon today. I really liked Maude’s punch at the church social afterwards. By the way, I’ve been sleeping with the farm hand, we both like boys, but it’s really no big deal” and not have the family get their panties in a knot. It would be wonderful is the Mother and Father then embraced the boy and welcomed the farm hand into the family, and the positive energy in me tells me that this has happened at least once in a great while, but I fear that there’s not enough of that type of support in the world.
So here it is, National Coming Out day, so I’m going to share my story. I knew my sexual orientation in my early teens. Actually, now that I think about it, I knew I liked other boys when I was in elementary school. Second grade to be exact. I always opted to be on the girls’ team when we played “shove the kids on the ground” on the playground because after all, the girls needed help (wink wink). I actually wanted to be pushed around by the boys and I wanted to wrestle them to the ground. But it wasn’t until my early teens that I knew what all this meant. I figured it was just something that all guys went through. God Bless my mother and father, they never talked to me about how these things worked so I had to figure it out myself. It wasn’t until my later teens that I figured that whatever “this” was was here to stay and I might as well just live with it. Even though I had a girlfriend at the time. Luckily, my girlfriend dumped me (guess I didn’t put out for the prom or something) and I was free to pursue my true feelings. I had a crush on a classmate named Dave, but he ended up going out with my sister. She always got the cute ones back then. Towards the end of high school I accepted the fact that I found some of my male schoolmates attractive, though I didn’t really do anything about it. When my parents dropped me off at college, I made a vow to myself. I was never going to hide who I was again and I would always allow my inner feelings to be. And boy, was I “out” in college. It’s all I ever talked about! Small wonder I failed out of school, I was too busy trying to be gay (even though I didn’t go on ANY dates!). Someone should have dumped a bucket of water on me because my pilot light was flarin’ WAY too high. So much for preconceived notions on how gay men should act. Luckily I was at a music school or else I would have been beat up a lot.
I didn’t really talk about my homosexuality with my family until Earl came along, save for my mother, my sister and my cousin Stephanie. I told my mother my first break home from college, with the usual dramatic flair, but she told me she knew all along and that she still loved me very much. I can still picture sitting in my parents’ living room having that discussion with my Mom back in 1986. My sister just knew. Perhaps it was the discussions years earlier about how cute Rick Springfield, Jack Wagner and the guys in Duran Duran were. And my cousin and I were very close and she always teased me about being gay so I finally just confirmed it. I finally calmed down a bit and ended up having one boyfriend in the year or two after college that I brought around once or twice, then a half hearted attempt at a relationship after that, but until my commitment ceremony with Earl it was just an unspoken assumption, I suppose. I just went out and did my thing and everyone worried about me. I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Earl and I began wearing our wedding bands after our commitment ceremony. Then it was like the closet doors just blew off their hinges, even though no words were spoken. I was in love and I was happy. And am even more so to this day.
I wish everyone had an easy path with their homosexuality, coming out and acceptance. I cringe when people say that being gay is a choice. It’s not. It’s part of who I am. Without the “gay”, I would not be the man I am today. It is just as inherent to us as eye color or left- or right-handedness.
So on this National Coming Out Day, whether you’re contemplating, talking or listening, know that there are others in similar situations. You are not alone.