“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.” ~Raymond Hull
Wow, I was a cute lil kid, and I love the bell bottoms!
Little did I know, one day in my family’s kitchen in Lake Forest, California, during a typical conversation with my mom and sister, I would finally admit to the world that I was what I had tried to hide for every day I had spent on this earth: gay. Today it’s called “coming out,” but I thought of it as the day that could change my entire life – for the better, or for much worse.
“Coming out” is something you don’t forget. It’s like a birthday – or I guess a re-birth, since it’s the day that you START living your life and stop pretending to be someone you will never be. Some people are out, open and proud quicker than others. I consider myself to be a late bloomer, since I was 23 and well past my high school years. Then again, some people NEVER come out, and I just knew I couldn’t be one of those people. I was sick of saying “what? no, not me” when people asked me “are you gay?” It only seemed to make things worse, since inside I was screaming “OH MY GOD, YES SAY YES, IDIOT!”
Flashback: It’s November 2003, 8 years ago – almost to the day. While chatting with my mom and sister about something that isn’t important anymore, my mom brought up the topic I always dreaded, by saying “you do know that if you were gay, we would still love you just the same, right?” For some reason, this was different than the other hundreds of times I denied it. I looked at her, and said “I don’t know, am I gay Mom?” in a sarcastic but yet humorous tone. She had a slightly shocked look on her face, probably not expecting anything but the usual response. She quickly said “I don’t know, are you?” with a smile on her face. I smiled back, and responded “yes,” followed by a long internal sigh. Finally, it was out there, and I wasn’t hiding anymore. I’ll never forget the next words out of my mom’s mouth: “Oh my god! I am a 21st Century mom! Can I call everyone and tell them!?” And that was it, a few hours later most of the family knew my big secret, and just about everyone said they had a feeling my whole life. Umm, then why didn’t anyone tell ME!? HELLO! But one more person still didn’t know: my father.
Both of my parents have always been so supportive of their children. They divorced when I was very young, but whenever I was in Arkansas with dad or California with mom, I felt loved. They always encouraged their children to follow their dreams and be adventurous.
But let’s face it, my dad is a retired Marine, and a very manly guy. I was terrified at how he would react. I did the only thing I could think of: I emailed him to tell him I was gay. Yes, looking back at it now, I feel like it was the fool’s way out. But at the time, I thought this would be much less of a blow to my dad. In the email, I said I was gay, and that I understood if it wasn’t something he could support. A few minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was my dad. And the only thing I remember about our short conversation was my father saying “son, you are my son and I will always love you no matter what. This doesn’t change anything.”
Looking back at my life, I have one regret: that I didn’t come out much sooner. Now, I am living a happy life, waiting to win the Oregon lottery and retire. Hey, we can all have our dreams!
This story is devoted to all of you who are terrified to be yourself. You may think that your life will change. You may think you will lose friends and family. That’s entirely possible, but the people who stick by you through it all – by the way, that will be way more than you think – are the people who deserve your love and attention. No one ever said being yourself was easy, but it’s so much better than the alternative.