Friday, October 11, 2013

The Other Side of Coming Out

It pretty much goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: being in the closet sucks, and it sucks for a number of reasons. The closet forces you to lie and deceive. The closet forces you to mind every word you say, every move you make, and every habit and hobby you have. The closet forces you to keep your friends and family at arms’ length for fear of them finding you out. The closet forces you to do many things you would not otherwise do, while simultaneously keeping you from doing many of the things you wish to do. The closet is a prison, and living there is no way to live.

Being out is wholly different. Being out means you can be honest about yourself. Being out means not having a secret to weigh you down every day of your life. Being out means you can express yourself without scrutinizing every word and very action. Being out means being closer to your loved ones because you have nothing to hide. Being out means living your life as YOU see fit. Being out means being yourself because being out means being free, which is the best way to live.

Of course this is not to say coming out will be all sunshine and rainbows (well…maybe a few rainbows…and a unicorn or two). While most of the coming out stories I have come across are generally positive, there may be someone in your life that is less than accepting. Many people see this potential rejection as a roadblock to coming out and this is perfectly understandable. It is easier said than done but instead of looking at it as a roadblock, look at it as the opportunity that it - more often than not - is (the exception being that you have legitimate reason to think your parents, on whom you depend financially, might kick you out). Not just an opportunity to live your live just like your heterosexual counterparts but also an opportunity to change hearts and minds around you, and possibly dispel some of the misconceptions about the LGBT community. 

Case-in-point: Senator Robert Portman of Ohio - a staunch social conservative - became the first sitting Republican senator to publicly support marriage equality, followed shortly by a handful of his fellow Republican senators. What was the catalyst for this change of heart? Two years prior, his son Will came out to the senator and his family. You probably don’t have high profile politicians or other such leaders in your circle, but you have that same power. Many people have said that their thoughts on homosexuality, the LGBT community, and equal rights were anywhere from influenced to diametrically changed as a result of knowing someone who is out of the closet. Once the relatively amorphous concept of homosexuality (at least to some) has a name and a face, preconceived notions can be dispelled and a person’s perception can and often does change. You can be that face.

Even in the coming out stories that involve negative reactions, the person who came out virtually never regrets having done so. Once the dust has settled, coming out is often described as the best decision the person has made in their life, even when a family member or a friend was lost in the process (in the case of the lost friend, your real friends are the ones that stick with you). Though it may have initially been awkward or even been worse in the beginning, it got better overall. Though everyone should come out in their own time - be that in grade school, university, or whenever else - moving towards coming out is moving in the right direction. Once you have put the darkness of the closet behind you, the light of day will be that much better and that much brighter.

Besides, you don’t want to end up like Larry Craig…do you?

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