The first time I was aware there was such a thing as “National Coming Out Day” was the year before my son came out to me. I’d probably heard the phrase before but it didn’t stick with me because it lacked significance. Four years ago it became extremely significant and very personal. Someone I loved was carrying a secret he wore like heavy hooded sweatshirt at the beach in July. It hurt to watch him hide himself in broad daylight, wishing I could ease his pain. I remember reading a caption about “National Coming Out Day” and beginning a conversation I hoped would provoke dialogue. I may have said something about the “It Gets Better” campaign or repeated an inspirational story I’d read online, but I’m pretty sure I was treated to an eye roll and a “whatever Mom”. Complacency and disinterest weren’t to blame, however. I knew it was a matter of timing. He simply wasn’t ready.
It took another ten months for my son to say “I’m gay” aloud. He told me recently that he didn’t repeat them again for another year after that. I couldn’t believe it. “Why not?” I asked. I was completely taken aback that he’d essentially spent another year in the closet without my knowledge. In my mind, being open and honest about yourself was the beginning to a long, happy life. I was sad to think he wasn’t ready to embrace that for himself. Maybe it was my fault. Perhaps I was vocal enough about my support.
I decided to get a little louder and speak more openly. LGBT concerns were important to me too because I’m an ally. And not just any kind of ally… I’m a mother. I figure that must trump the garden variety ally, but it certainly wouldn’t if I didn’t open lines of discussion with my friends and family. Knowledge was key. Sharing our story, educating those we cared about and spreading our truth were vital. There was no shame, no reason to hide.
Here’s the thing. It still wasn’t that easy. It took time, but over the past couple years I have witnessed first hand the beautiful transformation of a young man who has slowly begun to accept himself as a whole person. He has a large community of ardent supporters, and though I think that helps, it doesn’t erase fear completely. That tells me the community isn’t big enough. It must be bigger than close family and friends. It should by rights bleed from big cities into small towns throughout the country like some kind of crazy rainbow flood. In a perfect world, people working at a county clerks office would congratulate every couple who professed a desire to marry regardless of skin color, religion or sexuality. As recent headlines suggest, we don’t live in a perfect world. We do however, live in a time of tremendous change and we’re privileged to live in a nation where we can raise our voices in support of human rights and equality. The fight isn’t over. It’s just beginning. It takes a great deal of courage to say who you are and even greater courage to live your truth. In the words of e.e.cummings, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
Congratulations to those who will come out today and share their story with a new generation. Your bravery is appreciated. May you live beautiful lives filled with love and happiness.
Happy National Coming Out Day, 2015.