My Coming Out Story

I’m the last to leave the theater not because Meryl Streep left me an illogical wreck just before the credits hit (although yes) and not because I’m so significant that in those two hours of cinema I received dozens of emails demanding my immediate decision-making prowess (definitely not), but because I am just that good at wallowing in inertia. The thought of un-suspending my animation seems less pleasant in the moment than sitting a while longer.

Inertia can be good. Some of my favorite gases are inert. I’m told it’s also a helpful state during bear attacks.

In my experience it can also lead to missed opportunities and ambiguity. That’s not bad necessarily. Actually, it seems like that’s a big part of living – inert or not. But many of my favorite experiences happened when I hopped outside my normal routine, and this year I’ve been doing a lot of hopping. It feels good, but sometimes it feels like a panic attack.

I told my parents I was “not completely straight” before I left for college, and then inertia took hold. For a while it seemed simpler to hover above that pool of emotion and confusion, rather than diving in and discovering how deep it was. In spite of being surrounded solely by friends and family members of compassion, empathy and support (and I am so incredibly thankful for that), I spent a lot of time after high school avoiding “labels” and filling my schedule with work.

I didn’t start living as an out, gay man until after college. (And living is the keyword there if you think it’s a choice.) Even then I skipped a few steps. Back in Oklahoma I worried about how open I could be online and as a journalist in a state with a present-tense history of putting bigots in power. I avoided starting the conversation about my orientation with most people – basically Rumpelstiltskining but with a different identity than a name – because it seemed more relaxing to just not speak. And I never clearly labeled myself online. I’m getting better about that. See? If you didn’t know for sure, now you do!

So my story for National Coming Out Day is that I’ve been coming out for my entire life, and I don’t think it will ever end. Days like this can provide incentive to drop the inertia every once in a while. So here’s to all my friends who are out, thinking about it, or thinking about thinking about it. Living honestly with yourself is a beautiful thing. I recommend it, even if it takes a while.

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