Over the years, numerous people have come out to me. Whether it was their first time coming out or their fiftieth, whether it was haltingly during a heart-to-heart, or nonchalantly in an email or yearbook message – each time, my heart would swell and contract almost simultaneously. I would feel about to burst in my desire to convey love, acceptance, a feeling of safety…and excitement for the freedom to celebrate one’s true self. And while I was so honored by the trust being placed in me with the unburdening of their “secret,” this sense of honor was always immediately followed by sadness and outrage. Why did this have to be a big deal? Why do we assume people are straight by default? Why do my friends have to worry about how to tell people their dating preferences? And why should they be denied certain rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity?
I have always been sensitive to people’s emotions. Perhaps too sensitive. That awkwardness you feel when trying to decide how to come out? I feel it, too. That rush of, “Ok, I’m just gonna say it Ohmygod I said it Ohmygod what is the reaction going to be? Ohmygod did I just come out?” Yup, I feel that, too, right along with you. And after years of experience, I’d like to think I’m a pretty awesome person to come out to. I know when to say, “Yeah! That’s Awesome!” and when to shut up and listen. I know when to High Five and when to grab the tissues. I know how to answer the, “Um, there’s something I want to tell you about me… can you guess what it is?” (Which, by the way, is not the best way to go about this…. because any decent person is not going to “guess” anything, for fear they are wrong!). I’ve been party to all kinds and types of coming-outs (comings-out?) over the years, and each time my heart breaks a little more, even as I rejoice in each person’s out-ness. It breaks because no one should have to keep who they are a secret. No one should fear the judgment of their peers. No one should worry that I might not love them if they reveal themselves to me.
I celebrate Coming Out Day because it is necessary to create safe and joyful spaces for coming out. Because each person’s story is sacred and needs to be heard. Because I have been trusted.
But I still look forward to a day when no one has to hide.