In 2005, my senior year of college, it came to me as a simple thought. I’m not sure what brought it on or when it first entered my brain. I suppose it had always been there. But when it finally occurred to me to come out it was obvious that I had no other choice.
So at the suggestion of a friend I listed the four people I knew would tell everyone else. The next morning I found them and took the largest step of my life with suprisingly simple words: “Hey, just so you know, I’m gay.” Their reaction was exactly what I expected: “huh?” But it worked like a charm, and before the day was over people I didn’t even know were coming up to me, some to congratulate and some to confirm the rumor, but nobody really seemed to care. What I thought would be the scariest time of my life was a non-event, at first.
My first hands-on experience with homophobia came about a week later. Brave students at Duquesne University were attempting to start a GSA on our Catholic campus and one student, Ryan Miner, stood in their way. He took to facebook and lead the charge against the GSA with characteristic arrogance and filled our community with anti-gay animus, even going so far as to say that gays were subhuman. A bully, to be sure. (Check out where it got him.) His words and the controversy surrounding the GSA were the backdrop for my coming out and taught me an important lesson: Some people will fear, resent, and misunderstand the simple truth I had found.
But it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Right away friends and fellow students were telling me that I helped to change their perception of gay people, just by being myself.
I often wonder what took me so long considering how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve learned. I wish I had done it sooner. For me it was simple and invigorating. Not every story is dramatic, but all are important. When we tell our story we win.
This being National Coming Out Day I want to send a message to those still in the closet: Be you, be whole, and be honest. You owe it to yourself to come out.
You never know who will be waiting to support you.