My Coming Out Story
The thread I’m about to share with you is difficult. It requires vulnerability on a scale that causes me great pause, but I think I must.
I’ve contemplated this for some time, and there is a message I desperately want to share, in the hope it will connect with your heart. So in a sense, I’m asking you to be vulnerable with me, for a time, as I share this story with you. I hope to reach you in a visceral way.
Clearly, what I’m about to share is very personal. It cuts to the very center of my being, to the place we rarely let others penetrate. I’m doing this not for myself, but for others similarly situated. I’m doing this because there’s a lesson we on the left haven’t learned.
This is a story about my life, and the experiences that shaped it. I’d like to ask you to walk in my shoes, to see the world as I have.
I was born in 1977. And I was born gay.
I was raised in a liberal home, with two parents who loved me. I could not have asked for a more loving mother or a more devoted father. I grew up in a time before the internet, before cellphones — and I had a wonderful childhood. Everything from Scouting to BMX racing.
I was a good kid. I received good grades. And I displayed an empathy considered unusual for my age. My parents were quite proud of me.
And then I hit puberty. Discovering I was gay, that I was different from my friends, had a very profound impact on me. It changed me. I developed a cutting edge, an armor, a straightjacket. I lost the friendliness that defined me. And I became self-destructive.
This, of course, alarmed my parents greatly. They did not understand what was going on inside my head. They were powerless to help me.
I was so ashamed of myself. I was filled with darkness, a depression so deep that it consumed everything around me, everything within. I withdrew from the world, and turned within, like a turtle frightened by his surroundings. And I formed a virtually impenetrable shell.
I could no longer be reached. Not by anyone. My grades began to slip, and I spent most of my time after school alone in my room. I didn’t feel safe in the world. I was afraid of everyone. I thought for sure if anyone discovered my dark secret, the world would end.
I would cry myself to sleep most nights. I would pray to God. I would beg and plead with him, for hours, to please just change me. I bargained with him. Anything I could think of, I offered him. Anything. Everything. Whatever it would take. Please make me straight!
But my prayers were not answered. I never thought to question that maybe, if there was a God, he had made me as he intended me to be. No. I was convinced that I was damned. That I had failed him somehow. That I had done something to cause this curse upon me.
When you’re young, you can’t think critically. Your brain is still forming. You lack the life experience to see beyond the moment. When you’re young, you accept most things as true when they come from sources you trust or sources you have been told you can trust.
That means parents. That means friends. That means religious leaders, principals, police officers. Hell, that means adults in general. And what I had been told, in one form or another, from every adult I’d ever met, is that being gay was a sin, and I was going to hell. Even if the source was secular, it was still plain as day that being gay was seen as utterly disgusting, something to fear, to shun.
And so that’s the message I internalized. And that’s why my teenage years were filled with so much self-hatred, and angst, and fear.
My mother knew. She always knew. She’d even asked me a few times. Each time I responded with fierce defensiveness. I could not tell her. I could not tell her, because I was convinced she would hate me, despite her words. I was convinced of this because I hated myself.
My teenage years were hard. And writing about it now brings tears to my eyes. It’s not a fate I would wish on anyone. Absolutely no one. And so please trust me when I say that being gay is not easy, at any age, and that the very idea this could be a choice is nonsense.
I was so troubled by this affliction that it impacted every aspect of my life, every relationship, every action I took (literally). I dropped out of high school. I was thrown out of my parents house several times because my self-hatred poisoned everything around me. I drifted. I drifted for a long time. Periods of homelessness. Sleeping in parks. Just utterly lost. My life unrecognizable, derailed.
This was what it was like to grow up gay in my generation. We’ve made a lot of progress since those days. They’re bittersweet for me. I certainly never believed I would ever be able to get married. That was huge. I told myself I didn’t care about marriage all my life. But then I realized that was yet another way of protecting myself, from something I couldn’t have, something I couldn’t be.
When marriage for gays became legal, it hit me: an entire generation of youth will grow up knowing that they belong in this world.
That they are worthy.
That’s so huge.
(The tears are uncontrollable now.)
Please hear me when I tell you this. We’re not there yet. We still have more work to do. Gay youth are still killing themselves. And please hear me when I tell you that you may be part of the reason why.
When you post a photo of Donald Trump in drag, kissing Vladimir Putin, you are saying that being gay is shameful, worthy of ridicule. When you fail to stand up to a bully online who speaks the most vile things, your inaction tells a gay youth that he is alone.
Please care enough to always, always think about how your actions or inactions may affect an innocent kid struggling with demons.
That was the hardest thing I have ever written in my life.