Happy National Coming Out Day y’all!
So, coming out is a long and lengthy process for a lot of LGBT individuals. It’s not always like there’s one, singular, grand moment where you magnificently walk outside your closet door and you officially declare, “I’m Out™.” You have different social circles such as your friends, family, and co-workers. When’s the best time to come out to each one? And of course it also depends on the individual friend/family member/co-worker. Perhaps one friend has more traditional views, or one co-worker has said homophobic comments before? There’s a lot to consider when coming out, and some LGBT individuals are more particular than others on who knows and who doesn’t.
My coming out was one of these rather drawn-out affairs, and I’m not even sure if it’s completely over yet. It’s been nearly eight years since my first year of high school when I started to confide in my friends (and then it spread rather quickly in those circles). For my family, my full coming out has been more recent, and generally more anxiety-producing. For co-workers, it all depends on the situation and the job itself.
But, I’ve decided not to focus on the full, all-encompassing story of my coming out, because that would take all day (and trigger many different emotions). I would, however, like to tell you about my coming out to one particular person, and a very important one at that: my brother Kevin. He was the first person I told in my family, and one of the first people I told in general.
My brother and I weren’t always close. We had some rough patches when he was in high school, and there was also a sizable seven-year age difference between us. As I entered high school he moved back home and both the physical proximity as well as the overlap in our (artsy-fartsy) personal interests brought us closer.
I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 2009. Kevin was in his room on his computer, working on something art-related (my brother’s an artist, you should check him out at kevinsmalley.com), and I was in my room. We were home alone. I had been thinking about telling him for a while, and I finally mustered up the courage to do it. Kind of.
I made the first step by going into his room and simply laying down on his bed, with his back turned to me. Okay, great—I was in the room, I had located myself properly (pat on the back to me). However, I froze and couldn’t say a single word. I just laid there with a growing knot in my stomach. Moments passed, then minutes.
After a while, Kevin asked a simple “What’s up?” and I don’t really remember what I responded, but it probably was “Nothing.” I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I stared at the ceiling of his room. More time passed.
Probably sensing the strangeness in the air, Kev asked if I needed to talk about anything, to which I replied (rather quickly) “Yes.” Yes! I had an in. My stomach knot was the size of the state of Ohio.
“What do you want to talk about?” he asked. To which I replied, hesitantly, “I don’t know.” Great, that’s going to take this conversation somewhere (idiot).
Slowly, Kevin started to ask more specifically what I wanted to talk about. “Is it about Mom and Dad?” If I couldn’t bring myself to say it, maybe Kevin could lure it out of me. This might work!
“Is it about school?”
“Is it about love?”
Yes! Getting closer now.
“Is it about a girl?”
Oh, he just knows how to ask the questions, man.
“Is it about a… boy?”
Voila! Oh my god.
“Are you gay?”
Thank god. Oh boy, I was getting worried there for a minute.
And then it was out there, and I felt so incredibly light. The weight on my chest had been tremendous, it was hard to describe. Thinking about doing it was easy enough, but still came with obvious anxiety. However, when I was actually in the situation, everything became immensely difficult. The silence had become palpable.
Thankfully, Kevin was able to draw it out of me and we could talk about it. The whole affair took over an hour, but it is one of my fondest memories because that’s when my brother and I started to become very close. Which was (and is) so important to me, since in a family with more traditional views, coming out is not easy (hence, why it was a drawn-out affair). For the first time, I had a rock I could cling to in the very messy situation I considered myself to be in for most of high school. I often felt like I was living a secret double-life when I was with my family, and the fact that I could express myself openly, even to one person, made all the difference in the world.
Brothers like Kevin are a blessing, and I am so thankful to have him in my life. I don’t know where I’d be without him. National Coming Out Day is such an important day to be celebrated because coming to terms with your own identity, and being able to share it with others, literally saves lives. And makes living so much happier, healthier, and more enjoyable.