Come on, come out!

October 11th was National Coming Out Day, and it is also around this time of year, eight years past, that I first began to be honest with friends and family about my identity.

I came out when I was fourteen. I lived in Mooresville, Indiana, and the number of other people I knew to be queer at the time couldn’t fill the fingers on one hand. I remember the first time I let the words fall out of my mouth. How exhilarated I was to have said them, and how absolutely ter¬rified that I couldn’t ever take them back.
I am gay. I always have been gay. I remember being a young child, so young that my memories of the time are more impressions and flashes than a record of events, and knowing in my heart that there was something fundamentally differ¬ent about me that set me apart from other boys. I couldn’t name it, I had no words to describe it, but I knew it was there, and I knew it was true.

As I got older I realized that this difference was at once such a big part of me that I couldn’t hide it if I tried and so incredibly shameful that I could never, ever talk about it. People like me were fodder for off-color jokes and the subjects of pity, they could be clowns or they could be criminals, but they could never, ever be respectable community members. I did everything I could to conceal who I was, even from myself, because every spoken and unspoken message I received, every minute of every day, told me that being queer was wrong.

Coming out is more than saying the words out loud. First you had to come out to yourself, and accept that despite all you know about the rest of the world, this is who you are, and it’s never going to change. It means standing in your truth even when friends and family are not shy about doubting you, questioning you, insisting that they know you better than you know yourself even years down the line from the first time you crack the closet door. Coming out can mean losing people, but it also means gaining yourself.
For all the pain and rejection and con-fusion and misunderstanding that came after, I have never once regretted coming out, and I would never take it back. I love my life. The acceptance and affirmation I have found in my community and the purpose I have found inside me has more than made everything else worth it.

I am gay, I always have been gay, and I am proud.

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