National Coming Out Day, My Story
It’s National Coming Out Day! A day where the community is united in support of those who have not been able to come out. I’m obviously out and proud – very much so – but I’ve never shared my story. So, for National Coming Out Day, read on. This is my story:
I didn’t come out until I was 23 years old.
Yes, you read that right. I did not come out to anyone until I was 23. Sure, I’d dated before then, but I had always dated dudes because that’s what I thought I was “supposed” to do.
I was working on a production of “Next Fall” by Geoffrey Nauffts, and Ari and I had been dating for a few months by then but I hadn’t yet come out to my dad. With me still living at home, there was a lot of sneaking around. Talk about nerve-wracking! I just wasn’t ready to have that conversation and I had somehow convinced myself that it would be the worst.
One scene in the play involves a son trying to come out to his father. This father has been incredibly unsupportive, said highly homophobic things and knows what’s coming. So, rather than embracing his son for who he is, the man says something incredibly offensive to throw his son off. His son never comes out and, as the play progresses, that window of opportunity closes forever.
Now you have to understand, one of my favorite things to do with my father when I was still working in theatre was to go out to dinner with him after one of my shows and have a really in depth conversation about it. I loved hearing a raw audience response to my work and he loved figuring out how we made the technical stuff happen. That particular show he hadn’t been able to meet up with me after for dinner so we ended up not having our usual conversation.
Instead, I sent him a text saying that whenever he wanted to talk about it, I was ready. He came into my bedroom later that day and we started dissecting the whole show. Tech, plot, actors, the whole deal. And then he brings up the scene I mentioned above. “I think parents should just love their children no matter what,” He said. “That was really stupid of him.”
Oh look, a beautiful window of opportunity!
“Well, since you say that… can I tell you about something? Sarah and I are dating.”
He was incredibly gracious and welcomed Sarah into the family immediately. As I came out to the rest of my family and friends, I was lucky enough to be met mostly with support. This ranged from past professors saying “If you ever need anything, please come to me. I’m here,” all the way to friends saying, “Cool. When do we get to meet her?” A few folks said they already had an idea and one in particular said their “gaydar just did a victory lap” which made for many giggles.
I’m incredibly lucky. Only a few people weren’t supportive and even then most of them came around after a time. But I am definitely on the happier endings of coming out stories. For many, coming out isn’t an option. For some it can compromise familial relationships, housing, job stability and physical or mental health. For others it can be incredibly dangerous. Even for those of us who are in supportive environments, it’s scary. You never know how folks will react and you can never can for sure until they do.
So if you’re coming out today, know that I’m here. I support you in however you choose to identify. Or don’t identify! Know that no matter what happens as you come out, there is someone in Chicago who unconditionally supports you. My inbox is always open and I’m always here.
If someone chooses to come out to you on National Coming Out Day, listen. Let them speak. Whatever they’re telling you is likely long rehearsed in their mind. Give them the chance to say what they have to say. Then continue to love them. Tell them you’re there. Give them a hug (if they want one). They’re sharing something incredibly intimate with you. And it’s not easy. Recognize how big of a deal it is that you’re chosen for this. And be the best you you can be.
Cheers. And a happy National Coming Out Day.
And keep an eye on Twitter and Instagram! I’m doing a National Coming Out Day “Ask Me Anything!” Tweet me questions and I’ll answer them in an Instagram Live starting at 7pm CST.