I first came out to my roommate a week after he moved into the house where I was renting in San Francisco. I was completely nervous and I repeated myself a few times in order for him to hear my words clearly. He responded by telling me that he would take it upon himself to expose me to the gay world and to show me all that it had to offer.
The second person that I came out to was my landlord. She was an elderly Asian lady who instantly asked me all these personal questions to determine if I was telling the truth or not. And it wasn’t until she noticed my change in demeanor and my uncomfortableness that she shifted focus and told me that as long as I didn’t bring another guy to sleep over, that everything would be fine.
The third and fourth individuals that I came out to remain a blur.
And as much as I always tried to stay calm before every “coming-out” conversation, an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness and worry would always take over me and I would be a nervous and incoherent mess as I uttered the words “I am gay” to whoever was in my presence that day.
Regardless, I soon had a small support system of friends who were accepting of my identity as a gay man. And with their support, I gained the confidence to come out to my family and finally be open about that part of my life that I had been hiding from them for years.
And as much as I tried to plan these coming out moments, the next two were spontaneous.
The day I came out to my older brother, I was an emotional wreck. My ex-boyfriend at the time had called our relationship off and I was unable to hide my crying from anyone. So, when I uttered the words that I was gay, I cried even more. My brother, in keeping with his humorous self, told me that he already knew about me being gay and to be quiet because we were about to walk into a public school to see my little brother perform in a play for the first time. I guess, during that moment, I was just grateful that he had invested some time into getting to know me that I just had to laugh and thank him for hearing me out.
A few days later, my little brother made an ignorant comment about gay people and I responded by taking him outside the house and then coming out to him. He and I both cried and then he hugged me. He then followed this by telling me that he accepted me for me and then as if nothing had happened, we went back inside and proceeded with our lives. It wasn’t until years later that he disclosed to me that I had made him feel like crap for thinking negatively about gay people, but that I was the reason his view of gay men had shifted completely.
Yet as much as I was being accepted for being gay by my friends and brothers, I knew that my parents would have a harder time dealing with the outcome of me coming out to them.
And a few months later, the stage was set for me to speak the words that I was truly convinced they would not accept.
It was a late night. My mom, dad, and I were finally in a room together and for some unexplained reason, I opted for this night to be the perfect opportunity for me to come out to them. But first, I had to complete a family tree assignment for one of my classes. So, I asked them questions to get information about our family and to my surprise, they were genuinely happy that someone was taking an interest in getting to know their family.
And as the night went on, and no mention of a family member coming out as gay was disclosed, I began to doubt whether I should follow through with my plan. For some reason, the thought of being the only gay member in the family made me feel so alone and I didn’t want to burden my family with my problems.
And just as I was about to forget about my plan to come out, my aunt’s “lover” was mentioned.
And I don’t know what saddened me the most, the fact that my parents were laughing at her for liking someone of the same gender, them not wanting me to write her relationship with this person on my family tree, or that they were openly mocking a family member without realizing the impact that it was having on me.
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything.
My face turned red and I could feel my heart racing fast. I looked down on the ground. Hoping that somehow, they were going to apologize and say that their previous comments really didn’t mean anything. But when I looked up at them, they were smiling to themselves and then at me.
The next couple of moments were a blur.
But I can remember coming out to my parents and looking away because I feared their reaction. I can remember both of them crying. I can remember my mother walking up to me and hugging me for the first time in years. And how much it meant to me. I can remember crying and crying. And my parents letting me cry until I was ready to talk.
I wish I could have stayed in that moment for a bit longer.
After I was done crying, my parents and I were ready to have a conversation.
My dad told me that I could have told him anything besides the fact that I was gay and he would have been fine. He then talked about how he feared for my safety because gay people end up murdered when people find out about their lifestyle. And finally, he compared me to a “prostitute” because, in his mind, they flaunt their sexuality around for others to see just like all gay men do.
My mother held my hand. And after telling her that I was scared to come out because she laughed at my aunt for being in a relationship with a woman, she apologized and told me that because I was her son, she would always love me no matter what I did.
In the end, they both agreed that I shouldn’t tell anyone about me being gay and especially not other family members because they feared how they would react to my coming out. They then advised me that the best course of actions was to keep things to myself and that my lifestyle choices were not appropriate topics to discuss during family gatherings.
I didn’t say a word. I thought about what they said. And then, I went back to the room and fell asleep.
After that encounter, I feared going through the process of coming out again. And when my aunts or uncles would ask me questions regarding when I was going to get a girlfriend and about marriage, I would quickly change subjects. Similar comments were said over and over again. Suggesting to go to the strip club, asking to rate women as they passed by, discussing the women they slept with, objectifying women, these comments from family members didn’t stop.
And I slowly withdrew. Getting angry at them for continuing to push their sexuality onto me for years. And then getting angry at myself for not speaking out. For not saying what was on my mind because I feared their reaction. But by then, I had enough. And I was committed to not lie to myself any longer.
So, I came out to a few more family members. Either directly or indirectly. And to my co-workers. And to my peers at school. And to their partners and their family. And with each “coming out” conversation, the easier it became for me to deliver those words confidently.
But it hasn’t been easy. And not everyone in my life knows that I am gay. But I have gathered enough support that when a family member brings up questions regarding my sexuality, others come to my defense and help guide the discussion.
And I smile. Knowing how far I have come. And I can feel the love. And I guess, that’s all I can ever asked for.