I’m very happy to share that I’ve just passed the 1 year mark of being “out” to my friends and family! My 19 year old self is probably losing her shit back in 2007. She’s likely in disbelief, wondering how I could get to a point of celebration at age 24. She’s still muddling through the perplexities, wide eyed and scared. She doesn’t ever picture this kind of excitement, 5 years later.
I was so afraid of coming out. In my mind, coming out was just something I needed to do. Being gay was a truth that I deliberately hid from the world, almost entirely because I wasn’t sure how coming out would affect my life. Would people treat me differently? Would my sexuality be the only thing that defined me? Never mind all the straight people, what about the queer community? I hadn’t done much to reach out to such a beautiful community; would they accept me and include me, despite this?
It was mind boggling. I spent most of this time being confused and overwhelmed. What was surprising to me were the feelings of anger I felt as well. I was irritated that I had to wade through all the bullshit of coming out in the first place. Ideally, the “rules” of sexuality that currently exist in our society (ie: heterosexuality is the norm) would self-destruct. If people would just understand that sexuality is fluid and forever changing, I wouldn’t have to come out in the first place. All my fears would be gone if this system just didn’t exist.
These frustrations acted as a bit of a catalyst to coming out, oddly enough. I decided to view my experience of coming out as something productive; just one more voice to vouch that heteronormativity is not fixed and there is a whole community of individuals who live happily without this structure dictating their existence. That, and I was exhausted from “hiding” from others.
I started off my telling a few close friends. They were encouraging and accepting, which was a giant relief. Their reactions ranged from: “I’m proud of you,” to “I’m glad that you’re happy,” to “it’s about time,”to “I told you so!” (All in good humor, of course!). The absence of negative reactions made it much easier to keep going. I told my other friends. They cheered me on with hugs and fist bumps.
Coming out to my friends was easy for me. I can honestly say that 100 percent of my friends supported me and continue to do so. I was never put in the situation where I had to re-think any friendships if they reacted in a disheartening way.
Coming out to my family was a completely different story. I was at a loss of what to do if they were unsupportive. I couldn’t just re-think our blood relations. The Black community isn’t really that supportive of homosexuality. My family, excluding my siblings and some cousins have all grown up in Jamaica. Jamaica is beautiful and I love my cultural background; however, it’s definitely not the most accepting place if you’re queer. Needless to say, I was a bit frightened to tell my family.
I decided to tell my brother first, because we have an amazing relationship. His reaction was so typical of him; supportive, humorous, but also protective. He was happy and just wanted the best for me.
Telling my sister was harder; we are much closer now than we used to be, but I didn’t know how her faith would impact her reaction. When I told her, she said “I know.” (O rly?! That surprised ME). She admitted that she was used to thinking of me in a certain way (ie: heterosexual) and said that she would need time to challenge this way of thinking. I thought that was very honest and fair. I definitely wasn’t hurt by that. At the end of it all, she says “you are still my sister!”
In case you haven’t realized, my siblings are awesome.
My mom? Well, you all know that story about “The Safeway Incident”
My dad? We don’t have a relationship at this time so I actually don’t know if he’s aware. It doesn’t matter to me if he knows or not.
The rest of my family was made aware during my last trip to Toronto. I’m still sort of waiting to see how that’s going to affect my relationship with them. So far, they’ve acknowledged it but they like to avoid talking about it.
The only people I haven’t told are my grandparents. I know my track record for reactions hasn’t been too bad yet, but somehow I don’t think that telling my grandparents will be as easy. I am still in the midst of deciding what to do about that.
Anyways, the point being: I’ve survived telling most of my family. Woo, still standing!
Believe me; I know how lucky I am to have had this experience. It was not as painful as I would have imagined.
One of the things I’m still dealing with is the idea that I’m perpetually coming out, in some shape or form. I can “pass” for straight and most people assume that I am for some reason. It gets awkward when I’ll talk about my relationships and they just assume it’s a male. “Oh, what does he do for a living?”
It’s amusing to me now! I know I shouldn’t enjoy catching people off guard like that, but they brought it on themselves. Surprisingly, I didn’t experience this at my workplace. I think I casually mentioned it one day and that was that. Again, I’m lucky!
My “coming out” was better than I could have ever predicted. For that reason, I wish I could sit down with my 19 year old self and give her the wisdom that only time can provide.
I’d tell her to stop imagining the worst case scenario and to consider the best. I’d say that the confusion will pass. I’d likely mention that she should give herself a break and not let her self-esteem take a hit. I’d tell her that *if* she decides to define her orientation, it’s on her terms. She’d probably come to the realization much earlier that her sexuality is about who she loves and wants to be with, not who she’s slept with. Most importantly, I’d tell her to relax and be confident. She can take some credit for having awesome people in her life that do support her, regardless of the situation.
Finally, I’d tell her that the world is waiting for her to arrive.
Time for her to soar.
Re-posted with permission from I Dig Your Girlfriend.