Coming Out Can Be Tough – But So Worth It!

I posted about a letter a young man wrote to his teacher.  In it he came out as gay – and she wrote a wonderful response.  It was a touching exchange.   Like anyone, I was impressed with the teachers comments – the perfect response to such a brave move.  But what I kept coming back to was the letter.  The student’s fears echoed the fears I had when I was struggling with coming out.  He is in his teens, I was in my forties.  It made me realize that, even though the overall view of homosexuality has shifted toward acceptance, there are still enough prejudice that makes coming out frightening.

  • There is still the risk of family rejection – we know from the studies that an alarming number (40%) of homeless teens identify as LGBT.  Of those youths, nearly all name rejection or abuse from parents and families as the cause of their estrangement.
  • There are still no legal  protections from workplace discrimination for lesbian, gay or bisexual workers in 29 states.
  • There are still no legal protections from workplace discrimination for transgender workers in 34 states.
  • There are accounts of harassment, vandalism, assault and murder of LGBT citizens often in the media – and it is estimated that a large number go unreported.
  • Gay teens are bullied  -  Dr. Scott Quasha, a Brooklyn College  School Psychology professor was quoted in the ‘Ladies Home Journal as saying:
    • “Despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable. It’s not uncommon to hear fierce condemnation from politicians and preachers as they debate gay civil rights. Homosexuality is compared to incest, bestiality, even violent crime. This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs. A gay child is an easy target for classmates looking to make trouble.
  • Gay teens are at a higher risk of suicide, and many of those appear to be linked to bullying and family rejection.

In my own coming out process, I had huge struggles.  I carried a huge weight.   I, like the young English student, was -

“afraid of certain people finding this weight. I’m afraid of them finding the weight and thinking differently of me. Thinking negatively of me. Hating me. That’s why I carry it. I just don’t want to be hated. Or even worse, kicked out of people’s lives”.

I had a beautiful wife of 20 years.  I had two teenage kids.  I had a best friend who referred to gay men as “fucking faggots”  and lesbians as “dikes”.  I had another good friend who referred to anything he felt was unmanly as “gay”, and who referred to the idea of gay relationships as making him want to “puke”.  I had a father and two brothers to epitomized the stereotype of “manliness”.  I watched television and movies depict gay characters as either conniving, back stabbing jerks, or hand flapping,  whimpering and dependent simpletons who couldn’t open a jar of peanut butter by themselves.  But most of all, I had me.

My own internal homophobia was the biggest hurdle.  I honestly didn’t harbor any bad feelings about other gay people. I admired them.  But in coming out to myself, I struggled.  How can I be gay?  How will that change me?  Would I need to learn about antiquing and start listening to Madonna, who I don’t really care for?  Will I need to dress differently?  Talk differently?  Would I have to move to a ‘gay area’?

Looking back, these thoughts that overwhelmed me about myself were the same hate-filled stereotypical garbage that the religious right spews daily.  I had listened to their lies for so many years – and although rejecting them in my world view, I embraced them in my self view.

It took me a long time to come to terms that living openly doesn’t’ mean I’m “Gay Dan”.  It means I’m “Dan”.  For 45 years I answered to the name, but I wasn’t really me… not the whole me.

I came out slowly.  Everyone I told was wonderful.  Some were shocked and some weren’t, but all were accepting.  Even my wife, although devastated at the time, was supportive of me being true to myself.   My homophobic friends hugged me and told me they loved me and respected me.  My family didn’t change one thing…. they just kept loving me like they always had.

Coming out was tough – but so worth it!  I am married to an amazing man.  I’m starting a new LGBT business.  I have 2 amazing children.  My ex-wife is my best friend and champion.  I have acceptance from everyone i care about.

But the best thing of all… I’m finally “Dan”.

 

 

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