Today is National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day was started in 1988 by psychologist Robert Erichberg. Observed internationally, it is a day LGBT individuals celebrate the fact that they live openly within their communities.
I came out late in life. For a variety of reasons, I could not accept the fact that I was gay. Denial can be powerful, but due to some life changing events, I began to work with a therapist in 2005. During one session I said the three words that would change my life – I am gay. The first time I said those words out loud, I had a rush of adrenaline so powerful, I almost passed out. It was one of the most frightening experiences I had ever experienced, but at the same time, it was a relief. It was something I had hidden, even from myself, from the time I was very young. Over time, I practiced saying it to close friends. I changed my password to “IAMGAY” to help get used to it. Coming out to my wife of over 21 years was very difficult. After the initial shock and sadness, she became my closest ally and helped me accept myself. We told our two children together. Again, this was very difficult – but my kids were amazing. They were devastated that we would be getting a divorce, but they wanted me to be happy. When I told my daughter I was sorry, she said, “Daddy, why would you ever be sorry for being who you are?”. My son said, “Dad, I am so proud of you”.
Our marriage was probably the best one that has ever ended in divorce. We continue to be close and involved together as parents, but more importantly, as best friends.
Being out has lead me to be truly happy and at ease for the first time in my life. I am happily (and legally) married to love of my life, Michael. The issues and problems that come up as a part of life are much more manageable without the weight of the closet door holding me back.
My dad died last week. I am so sad about losing him I have a constant ache in my chest – but I have no regrets. My dad accepted me completely as a gay man. He loved my ex-wife like a daughter, but equally accepted Michael as a part of our family. We had no secrets or barriers when he died – only love and acceptance.
Coming out never really ends for a gay person. Each time you meet someone new, or you see someone from your past, you need to come out all over again. It may be by introducing your husband or mentioning that you belong to an LGBT running group, but it still comes up. But it gets easier and easier. And people are more accepting. Over 70% of Americans know or are related to someone who is gay, and as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people continue to come out and live their lives openly, that number will reach 100% soon. I believe we will have marriage equality soon. I believe the bigots that shout and shake their fists will go the way of the racists of the 60′s and be judged as villains by our children studying history. I believe more athletes, actors and public figures will begin to come out. And within a few a decade or two, being gay will be about as exotic and notable as being left handed. I can’t wait.