Friday, October 10, 2014

National Coming Out Day 2014!

My initial coming out story is kinda awkward. When I announced and actually uttered the word "I'm gay" to my parents after having had a Dawson's Creek moment of an emotional night earlier on when I ended up telling all my youth group friend, their response (which I blame for them being of an older generation) was a confused question of, "As in happy???"

A few of you may remember that I officially came out to myself right at 12:01am on my 16th birthday - where I took the bold steps to personally proclaim those words out loud.  Granted, I was alone on a remote archipelago island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (9* 57'N, 83*W) with no one around to announce it to, but to utter those words yourself is indeed the first major step of coming out. 

When one come out, the closet door doesn't just open - it floods you with every emotion known to human kind: from exhilaration of relief, to excitement, nervousness, and naturally fear. And while the world you once knew now becomes a whole new map to explore, there is this voice in your head that paralyzes you - fear of others discovering who you really are, fear of what others will think of you, and the fear worrying how others will accept you.

As humans, I think it's safe to say that we share a common desire of wanting to be a part of something - a need of belonging, especially part of a community.  We are not meant to be in total isolation.  Looking back, the desire to belong first meant that I had to accept myself - which I will admit to this day sometimes can still be a little bit of a struggle.  I didn't want to be labeled in a box. I didn't want being gay to simply define everything there was about me to others. I would rather be known for other qualities that I thought were much more appealing and news worthy.  I was focusing on the limitations of what I thought being gay had over me and I started to be ashamed of my own self worth- feared to embrace my true self - that I was the "other" that I had a pre-destined limitation in life.

It was only until recent times that I somehow turned all of these doubts and fears that I had into something that I just had to accept, embrace, and channel into something else. Perhaps it was when I first heard about the killing of Lawrence King in California that somehow woke me up from a bubble. Or perhaps the several stories about young gay youth and adults either being murdered for being who they are or committing suicide because they felt ashamed and alone for the fear of being themselves. And during my time in Los Angeles when Prop 8 took front and center stage, it dawned on me more that one cannot simply stay hidden in the background.

Coming out is being comfortable with yourself - to be willing to stand up for what you believe in yourself as well as standing up for others who don't have anyone else to help their voices be heard.  I find myself in fortunate positions where I have a platform to use for the greater good.  When I moved to this new town, I wanted to be a part of a community and I definitely got more than I ever thought.

My work with an organization like We Are Family which helps provide a safe space for LGBT teens and young adults is such an important experience that is always reaffirming my hope in this movement. In a few days we are organizing Spirit Day, which came about because of the effects of what bullying has on LGBT youth. I see the power of what this organization does - the empowerment that the youth display, their caring abilities to help their fellow peers, and the drive to really set forth in changing their communities and being productive leaders. This is an organization that is literally saving lives so that there can be no more Lawrence Kings and Tyler Clemetes of the world - where those who feel they have nowhere else to turn can actually find solace in being a part of a community that accepts them for who they are, where they can truly know that there is nothing about themselves that can limit the possibility of who they can be.

I think about how proud and lucky I am to have surrounded myself with such great friends - especially my straight allies who love and support me no matter what (for better and for worse, right?) and to be involved with organizations like We Are Family, Charleston Pride, and BEAU magazine that really set forth to make such a positive impact on the community around us.  
I know now that while being gay doesn't completely define who I am, but rather have learned to embrace that it is a part of my identity and I have no choice but celebrate it rather than hide away from it or feel like it needs to be kept on the sideline.  It has empowered me to want to do more for the community, has ignited the passion to get involved with causes I believe in, and has given me a unique perspective of life and compassion to want to help others. It's a strength that only comes in time and gets reaffirmed every time more LGBT rights continue to make progress in the world.

I take no shame or apologize for who I am.  I am a proud individual who is constantly finding communities built on love and respect.  I will tell the world every day that I will always fight for equality and strive to change hearts and minds with the positive actions that I do.

So to answer that question - YES, I am happy.

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To learn more about We Are Family or how you can donate towards LGBT Youth in Charleston, please visit: http://www.waf.org/




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