My Coming Out Story (Pride Month 2016)
Wow, this is probably the most difficult blog post that I've ever written.
But.... I wanted to write it. I considered making a Youtube video explaining this topic, but I thought I would get too emotional and not be able to explain this coherently.
Today, I am telling you my coming out story. These are very common around the internet, but if you haven't read or watched one, they are the story of someone "coming out of the closet." This usually means they are revealing to their friends, loved ones, and the internet that they identify within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
Well, I did this. I came out of the closet...all the way back in 2012. Almost 4 years ago.
Now, why am I writing this post on a random day in June? Well, this month is known internationally as LGBT Pride Month, a month to celebrate the beauty, strength, and progress of the LGBTQIA+ community. This is usually done through huge parades and parties across the world.
Richmond's Pride event isn't until September unfortunately, so I'm going to be celebrating a different way... by coming out to the internet.
Now, wait, didn't I just say I already came out?
Well, yes, I did come out. I've told my friends and immediate family, but I haven't explicitly told the internet. There is nowhere on my social media accounts where I say the words "I" and "am" and "gay" all in the same sentence. Wait, I just did: I am gay.
Woah, that feels weird. I've always talked broadly about the LGBTQIA community online and my support of it, but I've never stated that I specifically identify with one of the those letters: GAY.
Why did I wait? Well, a few reasons... first, and quite honestly, there were some people in my life that I didn't feel completely comfortable telling. However, I'm at the point in my life where I am so proud of who I am and who I've become that homophobic minds don't phase me. If someone doesn't support that significant part of who I am, I'm not forcing them to.
The other part about this is the fact that I don't want my sexuality to define me. As flamboyant and proud as I am, sexuality is only ONE PART OF ME. There is so more that Feisty Fletch has to offer this world. It sometimes bothers me that the first word people associate with me is "gay." I'm more than that.
However, it is something I am proud of, and I'm certainly not afraid to talk about it.
Now, enough blabber about that... here's what you clicked on this for: my coming out story.
** I've split this up in chapter-like sections because it's such a long story.**
1. Growing Up
Now, the first person that you have to come out to is yourself - that is something people forget sometimes. This is the part that takes the longest time because you are wrestling with your inner emotions about who you are and whether you want to reveal this to the world.
While I was dealing with growing up, understanding the fact I was adopted, grappling my parent's divorce, and more, I was also living as a flamboyant young boy in a sea of "normal" boys.
From the moment that I entered this country, I was noticeably different.
Growing up, I remember whenever we went to the toy store, I would always want to get the girl super hero figures and even sometimes sneak a Barbie into the cart.
I remember sneaking into my mom's closet to try on her shoes. She would yell from downstairs - "Take off my shoes and get out of the closet!" (Ironic, huh?)
I remember struggling in gym class because I wasn't interested in sports like the other guys and just wanted to draw.
Now, of course, none of these memories have anything to do with sexuality, but they showed that I was different. I wasn't your typical young boy. (This was before I even hit puberty.)
I noticed that I was so different, which caused a lot of self hatred.
Yes. I hated myself for a very long time.
Why? Because I wasn't like the other guys. I wasn't tough. I didn't have a deepening voice. I didn't like sports. I just wanted to fit in and make friends.
My difference from the other guys that I knew even had me question my own gender. Now, I was so so young and I didn't fully understand the difference between sexuality and gender, but I do remember thinking that maybe I was supposed to be a girl. I felt comfortable in my skin as a boy, but I didn't feel like my personality matched my body. For a year or two, I would wish and pray that I was a girl. However, once I hit puberty, I understood that this didn't have to do with the fact that I was a boy. This had to do with sexuality.
So, I would wish and pray. I would wish I was "normal." When I would blow the candles out on my birthday, I would wish I was straight.
2. "You're Going To Hell"
One of my most distinct memories pertaining to my sexuality happened when I was around 11 or 12, and it involved my relationship with God.
I went to several Christian camps growing up. They were great at the time. I was young. I enjoyed going outside, meeting new people, and stuff like that. At the time, I would say that I identified as Christian because I went to church and read my Bible occasionally.
There was one year that I went to camp that I will absolutely NEVER forget. I was having my "final reflection" with my counselor. This was where we sat outside of the cabin and talked with them about our relationship with God, what we learned at camp, and how we can take it home with us. Well, I was talking with my counselor, and he asked me if I wanted him to pray for me about anything in particular. This was while I was still trying to figure everything out pertaining to my confusion about sexuality. It was really confusing and upsetting me, and I finally needed to tell someone. This was one of the first times I had ever talked about it out loud.
I remember being so nervous and shaky and telling him that I was feeling homosexual feelings. I was hitting puberty and feeling ways that I didn't feel were right. I explained how I knew they weren't what God wanted and how I wanted to get rid of them, but each time that I tried to ask God to take them away from me, they would keep coming back.
He stopped talking. The nurturing, calm nature of the conversation changed immediately. He quickly turned to me and explained how what was happening to me was pure sin and that we needed to pray or I wouldn't go to heaven. He explained how with prayer and therapy that I could be cured and my life would be so much better for it. He wrote me a letter with several recommendations of websites and services I could use, as well as a list of the verses that told me that homosexuality was a sin.
I can still name all of the bible verses that tell me that I am going to go to hell because of my sexuality.
I remember crying tears of joy for the next hour about that... because I felt SO GREAT. I felt so relieved: I was going to be saved. I was going to be normal.
Well, I hate to break it to that counselor, but that's not how this works. That didn't work.
For years after, I kept going to camp, church, and youth group, still trying to rid of these feelings. I talked with a therapist that I was going to about it as well (I had been going to therapy my whole life because my parents wanted to make sure that I was fully comfortable and healthy after adoption).
The feelings still wouldn't go away.
3. "Are you Gay?"
I had three or four "crushes" in middle school. Haha, these were girls that I thought were beautiful and kind that I "liked." These were a coverup in order to make the other people in my grade think I was "normal" as well as try to convince myself I wasn't feeling anything out of the ordinary.
These crushes are quite humorous now because they are good friends of mine who never thought of me more than that wild kid that needs to shut up.
While these crushes were happening, my classmates would ask me if I was gay. Through middle school, I was asked MANY times. Now, some of these questions were asked to make fun of me and some were just out of pure curiosity. However, my reaction was always the same.
I would deny the claim, get mad at them, and then run somewhere to be alone and cry. I would look at myself in the mirror and keep telling myself it wasn't true.
I hated that question. I remember even being able to tell when someone was going to ask it and saying "No, I'm not" and run away even before they asked.
Everyone was asking me a question that I didn't know how to answer. I was so young. I wasn't ready.
Let's just say, middle school was rough.
Eventually, one day, I realized that there wasn't anything I could do about it. This was who I was. I was born gay. Accepting it felt good, but I still felt left out, different, and alone amongst my peers. At this point, there wasn't anyone else I was close to that identified as LGBTQIA+.
Two years after that, I came out.
4. The Car Ride
I picked my 15th and a half birthday to tell my parents. Why? Because I wanted to make sure that I would remember the date forever.
I realize now that it didn't have to be that date because you NEVER forget coming out.
It was a Sunday. I had come home from something and I asked my dad if we could go for a drive and talk. I remember sensing that he knew what was happening as well.
I remember being so nervous and almost talking myself out of it. I remember the tears filling my eyes before I even began to speak to him.
We talked about some normal stuff and then I said... "Dad, I'm pretty sure I'm gay."
I remember exactly what road and what spot in Richmond we were when I said that. I remember bursting into tears and closing my eyes, ready to hear him scream at me.
I didn't know what to expect. Was he going to pull over and tell me to get out? Was he going to accept me? Was he going to not believe me?
Well, he took a deep breath and the first thing he said was, "Are you sure you're not bi?"
Now, that might not make sense to be the first thing he asks, but he asked it because he wanted to know if there was a glimpse of hope that I would be able to live a "normal" wife and kids life. I don't blame him for stating that. I explained to him that I had figured this out and I was definitely not bi.
We then talked about how I was so young and not ready to realize something like this, but I explained how I had never been more sure about something in my life. Something was causing my inner sadness and fear, and this was definitely it.
After that, he started crying. I asked him why he was crying. He explained how scared he was for me because he said life was going to be hard. There were going to be people that hated me before even meeting me. He was scared for my safety. However, he said he loved me and would protect me if need be.
I told my dad to let me tell my mom. He said, "Of course, son." We then drove home.
That night, I told my mom. I remember sitting in the backyard and telling her. I don't remember all the words of our conversation, but I do know that one of the last statements of the discussion was "FINALLY."
My parents reacted out of love and support. They knew that this was who I was and they wanted to support me. This isn't the response that every child gets, and I am so grateful and thankful for that.
5. Telling My Classmates
Coming to school the next day was both the scariest school day of my life as well as the most exciting. This was the day that I would answer that question people had been asking for the last 4 years.
I came out to people in the DUMBEST WAY, but it was still because it was hard for me to say the phrase "I'm gay." Basically, I would point to a storage closet and say "See that closet there? I just came out of it" Then it would the person between 5 to 30 seconds to understand what I was saying. Once they did, they mostly said "I knew it!" or "Finally!" or "Congrats!"
I did have one experience where one of my friends didn't talk to me for a few weeks because I was the first gay person she had ever met and she wasn't comfortable with me. However, she wrote me a letter and apologized and said it would take her some time because she had always been taught homosexuality was wrong. We are still friends to this date.
After telling my classmates, I was free. I had done it. I was out of the closet.
I felt like the heaviest weight was off my shoulders. I wasn't conflicted with myself anymore. I was a more authentic version of myself after September 24th, 2012. It felt pretty damn great.
6. Telling My Brother
I didn't tell my brother until the following summer. I waited because he was dealing with his own life - medicine changes, school changes, and more. I didn't know if he would fully understand it and accept it.
Ironically, I told him at that same Christian summer camp from before.
It definitely took some explaining, but ultimately, my brother loved me and supported me. He kept saying how he wanted to help me get a boyfriend! That was such a sweet reaction.
My brother and I are very different, but one of the things that brought us together was the fact we had been dealing with our own battles.
7. Now what?
Well, I've been out of the closet for almost 4 years. I'm confident in my sexuality at this point.
Eventually, I (hopefully) will start dating someone, but I'm young and have plenty of time for that. (At least I keep telling myself that, anyway)
Maybe I'll even get married one day. Who knows??
I'm not going to lie and say I feel completely accepted and normal now. I still feel a sense of loneliness because being LGBTQIA+ is definitely still a minority of the American population. Of course, I'm glad that the LGBTQIA+ community is being more vastly accepted politically and socially in the United States. (However, actions like HB2 are taking us backwards.)
It saddens me that there are so many countries where it is actually DANGEROUS to be part of the LGBTQIA community. For example, if I wasn't adopted and had come out of the closet in Russia, I would be putting myself in a whole lot of danger.
With that in mind, I really try my best to be a representative and ally for the LGBTQIA+ community. I want to help explain and answer questions about anything regarding the community. It's important to remember that gender and sexuality are just PARTS of human beings. There is a lot more to people who identify as not straight or not cisgender.
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? CONCERNS?
If you have ANY QUESTIONS about anything regarding Pride Month, sexuality, gender, coming out, or anything else, please please don't hesitate to reach out. I can't answer every question, but I can definitely help direct you to someone who can. There are many resources for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Check this out for starters: http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm
Thank you all so much for reading my story. If you have a coming out story, I would love to read yours! Share it with me on social media :)