Coming out. This is something that most of us in the LGBTQ community must face at some point in our lives. Is this milestone something that we do to show our true colors, or the true colors of those around us?
Today I will be sharing my opinion on the reality of coming out and my personal experience in the millennial age. Please share your story in the comments if you relate or feel differently. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing for everyone, click that contact link and tell me privately.
Individuals in the LGBTQ community come out at all different ages and times in their lives. What does it really mean to be in the closet? Everyone’s closet is different, just as each individual is different. Some closets have no doors. Everyone can see through to them, they just have to find the strength to step outside and show everyone what they already know is inside. Other closets are closed, anyone could open it if they wanted but more than likely you will have to come out on your own. Many are locked and padlocked and no one will ever find out until they are ready. Some are locked from the outside requiring someone to come unlock it and guide you out. My closet however had more of a swinging door. When the wind was right it would make it swing back and forth and if you were looking at just the right moment you may catch a glimpse of me inside.
Some people never come out of their closet. They fear the reprimands of their community and what their loved ones will think of them. Some never need to come out and it’s just a matter of time until they bring their first boyfriend home. Others only let a few people inside their closet but never expose themselves to what lies outside.
When did I leave the claustrophobic confines of my sexuality? Well this question has three answers. The first answer is quite funny looking back on it but horrifying at the moment. I was fifteen years old hanging out at one of my best friend’s place. My flip phone was dying and I needed a charge. As the good friend that she was she gave me a charger and I plugged it into her computer. Sweet, “innocent”, naïve Zach at fifteen did not know that my pictures would upload when plugged in. Fast forward a few days to Tae Kwon Do practice that we both had together and she approached me after class. She says “Um, can I show you something?” I said sure not thinking much of it and she pulls out her phone and shows me a picture of a naked man. A picture of someone I was talking to at the time. I froze. All the breath in my body escaped me and I never thought I would breath again. Long story short she didn’t care and we moved on, secret kept. But man, was I embarrassed and I thought that was the end.
The next point in my life that I came out was to my parents. I grew up in a small town. I upgraded to a smart phone, an IPhone 3! GRINDR!!!! I was sixteen years old. I know, I know, I was too young to be on Grindr. The closest person was 25 miles away all the way up to 50 miles away. I lived in the middle of nowhere! Well, to meet anyone I would have to drive a significant distance to explore my sexuality. I lied to my parents saying I would be staying at a friend’s house. Sorry mom if you’re reading this. At this time I was seeing someone that lived two hours away. It was winter and I stayed over at his place. I had to work in the morning and I woke up to a snow storm that blew through overnight. I panicked. I had to be at work and the road conditions were awful. I started driving and, as you may have predicted, I wrecked my car about an hour away from home in a place I had no business being. Now, prior to this, my parents have found gay porn in my history before and probably had an idea even though I swore up and down I was just looking and curious and that I wasn’t gay. Yeah right, Zach. I called my dad and he was livid! Livid that I wrecked my car an hour from home. My sister was crying and thought I was like, dying. I wasn’t hurt at all I was completely fine. I was just mortified at the truth I was going to have to tell. Luckily, they were so pissed about the car that when I told them I was gay and at a guy’s house it was kind of blown under the rug while they punished me for leaving town. But they also couldn’t punish me as much as they wanted to because I was a raging queen now and they couldn’t punish me for liking what I like. So the conversation kind of went like…” YOU ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE ZACHERY KYLE WHITSEL.. but we still love you for you. You’re still our son… BUT GODDAMNIT YOU ARE GROUNDED… but it’s okay.” I was very fortunate that my entire family was accepting of me. I will elaborate more on that in a bit.
I never came out to anyone else other than my immediate family and my one other friend. I let them into my closet. I couldn’t face my school and going through the rest of high school in that close-minded town. When I went to college, I never hid the fact that I was gay but I never announced it either. I played quidditch for my university and was the only gay one on the team, surprisingly. The culture was very androgynous in the fact that everyone was goofy and didn’t care. We were one big family so the idea of me being gay just didn’t register with some people. My last coming out was more of a formality. I wasn’t hiding, I just wanted people to know. I made a Facebook post for whoever cared to read it and that was that. No more being in the shadows. Of course no one cared and it’s really the least interesting of the three coming out stories for me.
Now, back to family. I am lucky to the highest degree. I never had an ounce of negativity towards me for being gay and I know that is, although ideal for everyone, not even close to what some and maybe even most people go through. I will not pretend to empathize because I don’t know what it’s like to experience that hate. But what I can do is offer some advice to anyone that is going through that or something similar. Advice that could actually apply to many facets outside of just coming out. The advice is that family isn’t defined by blood. It can be of course if you are close to your family like me, but family consists of the people who love and support you for you. If you come out and they shun you then they never truly loved you. They loved the version of you that they attempted to mold and failed at. People who truly love you will not try to mold you. They will try to mold themselves around you. Don’t get hung up on people who don’t get hung up on you. Don’t live your life pleasing other people, focus on what and who makes you happy. Obviously that is easier said than done, but putting yourself in that mentality may help you take that one step towards happiness. If someone can’t accept you for your true self then they aren’t worth being a part of that truth.
So that is an insight into coming out. Ideally in the future we won’t have to come out. In a Utopia sexuality is not defined by a gender but by a concept of individual interest. In the fact that the macho masculine quarterback brings a boy home for his family to meet and there is no shock value or double take. It’s normal that this may be an outcome. We all know this is not the case but in a perfect world it is. But until we reach that point of unity, be loud, be proud, be you.
Hasta La Pasta,