Trying to figure out what to say
It’s been a little while since I posted more about my coming out and that’s really just because I didn’t know how to continue. Telling my story in this chronological order doesn’t really feel right at this point. There is so much more to it than just a sequence of events. There’s so much more feeling and struggle and joy and pain and happiness in it than just “I did this and then did that and then talked to this person…”
Plus, in my timeline of this story, I’ve already reached my college years. My internal struggle at this point was essentially over. Sure, I dealt with understanding how to exist in a heteronormative world, but I knew who I was and I no longer needed to deny it. I was dealing with so many other developmental tasks at this point that my sexuality really wasn’t that salient.
If you’ve read any of my thesis, then you’ve read about how difficult it can be for a gay person to exist in the hyper-masculine fields of the sciences. And yeah, it is, but I was so much more focused on my faith development, my studies, moving toward self-authorship, and changing my professional focus from meteorology to student affairs.
By the time I was a senior at KU, however, I’d settled in my faith development, my studies were quickly winding down, and I was well on my way to finding and getting accepted to a grad school. Suddenly, my sexuality was the most salient thing in my life. I finally took the plunge and really began my coming out process at KU’s Leadershape Institute.
For those who don’t know about Leadershape, the Institute is a week-long retreat for students that focuses on social justice, vision casting, and social change. The week is incredibly transformative so each participant is put into a family cluster. Your cluster is your home base and you become very close very quick. On the first or second night, I chose to come out to family cluster. I knew I couldn’t be anything other than 100% honest with them.
That really put the first crack in the door of my closet. Next, I confessed to my friend Sarah. Shortly after, I had that conversation with my friend Kathryn that I’ve detailed before. From there, I began to live more openly. When I arrived at Nebraska, I came out on the very first day of orientation.
Coming out to family is harder than it looks
But there’s a reason that coming out to your friends and acquaintances is separate from coming out to your family in the sexual orientation identity development models. Coming out to your family is so much more incredibly challenging. With friends, you know you can always find others, that people will always come into and out of your life; that is a family you can choose.
That’s the thing about irrational fears. They cannot be rationalized…suddenly every single fear you’ve ever had about coming out that you thought you’d already worked through comes flooding back and you can. not. stop. them.
Your actual family, on the other hand, is not something that can be changed. But they could cut off all connection. Your relationship could change. And really, what’s worse than making already awkward gatherings even more awkward. I sweat enough as it is…I don’t need the extra pressure of an awkward conversation. (To be fair, I now welcome these conversations because they make all of us better. And my immediate and extended family has been the most amazing.)
When you’re in that moment, though, where you’re trying to figure out how and when to come out to them all, there’s suddenly this irrational fear that you’ll be asked to leave that family Christmas celebration. Or that you’ll suddenly be cut off. That you’ll no longer have anywhere to call home. That you’ll no longer be welcome.
That’s the thing about irrational fears. They cannot be rationalized. I never had any doubt that my parents would be anything but supportive and loving, but I was terrified of having that conversation. Because suddenly every single fear you’ve ever had about coming out that you thought you’d already worked through comes flooding back and you can. not. stop. them.
The reason I cried when I came out to my sister over the phone in April 2014 wasn’t because I was suddenly so relieved. It was because I knew she could finally understand me. Because I no longer had to adopt some pretense for my actions and beliefs. And because those irrational fears were finally erased. It was the same feeling as when I cried after getting into a car accident. I was quite literally in shock. I shook. I cried. I sweated through three layers of shirt. I couldn’t breathe. I felt extremely nauseated. I had to hang up and focus on finishing the last two blocks of my drive home.
Coming out really never stops
This series could literally go on forever. Unfortunately, it would start to look a lot like “Well, today I had to come out to the mail delivery person. Huzzah.”
I think that’s partially why I chose this venue to “complete” my coming out. I was tired of having to tell people. My sexual and affectional orientation is extremely important to me and sits at the very core of my being, but those conversations are exhausting. I would much rather have that 437th conversation about why I left meteorology, or explain for the 9,663,234th time that calling heavy rain a “monsoon” is outright wrong, or explain for the umpteen-trillionth time what it is that I do than have to come out one more time.
But the thing is, I know I will have to come out forever unless I’m fortunate enough to become some major worldwide celebrity…which really doesn’t seem likely. I’ll have to come out to everyone at the doctor’s office once I finally select a new primary physician, I’ll have to come out anytime someone asks me to donate blood, I’ll have to come out to my future partner (which you would think wouldn’t be necessary but, believe me, it is). But this is all ok.
It’s ok if for no other reason than that I was able to tell my story myself. I didn’t have to deal with people spreading rumors and secrets behind my back (that I know of). I didn’t have to deal with the threat of physical, emotional, or psychological violence related to my orientation or perceived orientation. I didn’t have to deal with the questions, the disapproving looks, and the rejection.
It’s ok if for no other reason than I know that I will never be denied healthcare because of who I am. I will never be accused to just being too greedy and deemed untrustworthy by a potential partner because of my orientation. I will never have to fight for the right to exist in the first place.
It’s ok if for no other reason than because now I am able to focus the conversation on educating others about the coming out process. I am able to speak up about my experiences with the hope of encouraging or supporting someone else. I am able to speak up without fear of losing my job, my home, or my insurance.
In the future, I am hopeful that I will be a little more consistent with posting. I am also hopeful that I can at least temporarily leave this conversation behind and move to using this blog to discuss the issues that are important to me as a first-year professional, as a social justice journeyer, and as a person.