I started my coming out journey ten years ago at the age of 18. It started with friends and extended family members, then moved to immediate family, and still unfolds in new friend circles and work environments. Queer-identifying people are always coming out, and it seems it will never stop.
There are so many instances that are quick and simple, like coming out at work. It has to happen soon when in a new work environment, because people will invite you to happy hours and ask where you and your “husband” moved from. I find it best to out myself early on so that it saves some awkwardness.
When starting my newest job, I asked the boss, “What’s the vibe like if I hang a pride flag in my classroom, or put a picture of me and my wife on my desk?”
I didn’t have to sit anyone down, with my stomach in knots and fear being as palpable as my clenched fists.
That’s how it felt for the first three years.
Some moments were incredible, like when coming out to my sister, Caitlin. She immediately smiled and hugged me. Or like when I came out to my good friend Lauren. Her first words were, “I respect you so much. This takes so much courage.”
But there were moments that were not joyful and still twist my stomach when I think back on them now years later.
Seven years ago, I was on the phone with a close family member who found out I was gay a week prior. We hadn’t talked since they found out. I had to call for a quick logistical question about paperwork or insurance or something so mundane, but once I got the answer to my question, things shifted.
I heard the words, “And ya know, I’m shocked. I can’t talk to you. I don’t know who you are.”
They said they needed time.
I was shocked, too and had no rebuttal. I couldn’t even say, “I’m still me. I’m the same, ya know?”
Instead what came out was, “Okay. We can talk when you’re ready.”
They said, “Bye.”
I said, “Bye.”
And that very simple “bye” wrecked me.
It’s a signature in my family that whenever we end a phone call, we always say “Iloveyoubye.” One word, one breath – our signature. Even when the call is, “Hey I have groceries, can you meet me outside to unload? Okay, Iloveyoubye.”
There is never a call where this is skipped. Never was, never is, never will be.
Except for that call.
Knowing at that moment, they couldn’t say they loved me, that continues to hurt. Even though we have rebuilt our relationship, even though they have accepted my wife with open arms, even though we have never talked about that moment,
As much as I bet they wish they could take it back, I wish I could forget.
Those first words that we say to people when they tell us their gut-twisting news, those words matter more than anyone gives them credit.
When someone has that look in their eye and says, “I need to tell you something,” prepare for kindness.
Prepare for graciousness.
Prepare to still love no. matter. what.
Because years later, they will remember.
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