I think one of the biggest misconceptions about coming out is that it only happens once, when in actuality it’s something that is done over and over again throughout your life. This is especially true once kids are in the picture – those buggers out me on a daily basis!
But there is one “coming out” that is particularly memorable for me. It was simple and brief, but the response I got was so perfect it has stuck with me. It was October 11, 2006 and I was in grad school. I had made friends with another girl in my program and we got together regularly for dinner and study sessions. It had gotten to that point where we were close enough for it to be weird that she didn’t know, but with our focus on school, it just never came up organically. So on Coming Out Day of that year I decided I’d let her know. I was ridiculously awkward about it and probably said something dumb like, “Oh hey, you might not know but it’s actually ummm ::cough::comingoutday::cough:: so I’d figured I’d ummm, well, let you know that I’m, well, gay.”
“Oh,” she said before pausing to process it for a minute. Then, “Cool. I’m glad you told me. Are you coming out to anyone else today? Do you need any help?”
Because clearly I was no good at it and, going forward, could use some assistance.
In all seriousness, I was so touched by her thoughtful response. Not only was she unphased by the news, but she immediately jumped into a position of support. An instant ally. “How can I help?” are words of gold to those of us in the GLBT community.
Another example of a great coming out response is in this father’s letter to his hypothetically gay son. Seriously, its wonderful. Go read it now – I’ll wait.
As in my coming out experience with my classmate, the part that struck me and brought tears to my eyes was #2. It’s nice to have a parent “accept” you upon coming out, but a parent that will support you, advocate for you, and go to war for you? That is just so much more.
So on this National Coming Out Day, even if you don’t experience the honor of having someone come out to you, I’d encourage you to think about what you would say, and how you would feel, if someone did. What if one day that person was your child?
I often hear from parents of gay children that there is a mourning period. They mourn the life they had pictured for their child and they are sad for the extra struggles they will now face. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Mourn if you must (all feelings are valid feelings), but being gay does not bring you an alternative life full of doom and gloom. I married my highschool sweetheart in a beautiful white wedding in which my father walked me down the aisle. We now live in suburbia with our 3 children, dogs and a cat and do super gay things like grocery shopping, playdates, and soccer practice. I’m happy, fulfilled, and glad to be who I am.
If you read that and still feel a little sad at the thought, I understand. Discrimination, and worse, does remain and surely no one wants that for their child. The good news is that there is a solution. A solution that my friend and that father immediately clued in on – advocacy, support, and change.
Why not start now? Statistics show that a good number of you reading this may have a child with a coming out story of their own one day and you have a hand in deciding what that story will be.
HRC Guide on being a straight supporter:
Listing of CT PFLAG chapters: