An appropriate soundtrack for this post:
A whole lot of people have been saying lately that it gets better. They’re (we’re) not wrong to say that. Life is not a prison, nor a canyon river with only one path.
But one of the ways it gets better is if you make it better for yourself. You have so much strength, so much power. You probably don’t even know it. There is so much you can do to create change in your life, but one of the most fundamental is to just be honest with yourself.
I still remember quite clearly the friend I had who badgered me about coming out. Even though I “knew” I was gay, I didn’t understand that I was gay. I hadn’t come out to myself. I hadn’t figured out that all the sexual and emotional attractions (including legitimate love) I’d had for men meant that I was gay. I thought “gay” was something else, something bad. I knew whatever I was, I wasn’t something bad.
And that’s what my friend hammered into me. I wasn’t being honest with myself. I was denying myself love. I was denying myself sex. I was almost 19 years old and I really hadn’t been out on a real date that meant something to me. I hadn’t flirted with somebody. I hadn’t danced with somebody. I hadn’t felt the heat with somebody. I hadn’t found somebody who loves me because I didn’t love myself.
All I had to say to myself was, “It’s ok.” All I had to do was realize that it all makes sense. “I’m gay,” and the lightbulb goes off. There’s nothing wrong with me, and all those people who don’t get that? They’re the ones with the problem. They’re just plain wrong. They can say the nastiest things and they can even hurt me, but they can never be right.
That’s when it all got better for me. On July 19, 2004, I said to myself, “I’m going to let me be me.” It was like I was reborn, and I don’t even remember who I was before then, because it feels like it was somebody else—somebody who carried this huge weight of guilt and shame for no good reason. I’ve stood proud and confident ever since.
Today is National Coming Out Day. It’s a day when we celebrate this important step in our identity development, the moment when we each break free of the chains of heterosexism. It reminds us that “pride” is about being true to ourselves and owning our identities no matter what the rest of the world says about us. We are here and we deserve to love and be loved.
A year ago I joined 200,000 on the streets of our nation’s capital to demand that love. I stood with friends, colleagues, allies, and a whole lot of complete strangers in the name of love. While today is not the day for an historic march, it is a day to again stand for that love.
You can only come out when you’re ready, but if you’ve been thinking about it, maybe today’s your day. Maybe today you’re ready. It’s not easy, and it won’t always be rosy, but you will not regret it. And you will never have to stand alone.
So come out, even if it’s just to one person… even if it’s just to yourself.
Make today the day life gets better.
Just take that first step.
Demand love for yourself and you will find it.