Today is Friday, October 12. I wanted to post something yesterday celebrating National Coming Out Day. The more I thought about the post, the more I found myself reflecting on what it meant for me to come out of the closet and self-identify as a gay man some fifteen years ago. The more I thought about it, the more I began to reflect on the person that I am now. And the one thing about me that kept surfacing as I thought about it was the word 'authenticity'.
Webster defines authentic as being “true to one's own personality, spirit, or character.” Coming out for me meant that, for the first time, I would reveal the one thing about me that few others knew. And, revealing this would ultimately change how others perceived me. And, it would forever change how I perceive myself. As a closeted gay man, I lived and expressed myself in a way that met the expectations of others. I laughed a gay jokes, talked about a girlfriend, and promised my mother that I would would day get married. All the while however, I didn't want a girlfriend and wondered what growing old would look like being forever single. I promised myself that even though I knew I was gay, I would never tell my family and childhood friends...ever.
And then one day I met a man named Tim who forever changed my perspective on what it meant to be gay and of the importance to sharing one's life with their families and families of choice. He explained how the secrecy of being gay can cut oneself off from their families and friends—forcing a person to live their lives in more solitude. He also impressed upon me the value of true honesty—even when some honesties can rupture expectations from those we love and who love us.
After much thought and prayer, I visited my family one weekend and told them that I was gay. It was a very difficult thing to do. And, being in seminary, at the time, provoked some very difficult to answer questions. And, the emotional reactions were intense. I did it though. I finally told them.
Over the next few months and in one case, after a year, I began to tell my dearest friends. Most responded as well as could be expected. One said, “Of course, now everything makes perfect sense!” Others “harumfd” (is this a word, I don't know) and a few were shocked but generally supportive. With each person I told, they wanted to know why I had been so deceptive for so long. My defense to this particular question led me to explain my fear of loss of being discovered. I also told them how so many people had so many expectations of me, I just couldn't possibly let them down. In a very real way, I had lied to my friends and done so for a long time.
Today, fifteen years later, I can say that coming out made me more authentic. I am now who people know me to be. Being authentic today means that I can pursue my goals surrounded by supportive people who encourage me. Having such support makes realizing one's dreams easier. Being authentic today means that I don't live with the lies I've created—and forcing myself to tell more lies to cover my old ones. Being authentic today means less stress and more energy for creative pursuits. It means that I can delve myself into new endeavors and find the joy in their realizations. Being authentic today means that I can love someone who I want to love—and find encouragement and support from those who love me in return.
If you have been wrestling with the decision to 'come out', let me say that doing so will be tough at times—but ultimately, the reward you'll gain will be reflected in your authenticity. This will provide you with more strength, more hope, and a peaceful spirit that will truly transform your life.