November 11, 2009

Coming Out Story #1

[Ed. Note: Every Wednesday, we collect a coming out story and post it here, anonymously. They can be long or short, devastating or hilarious or boring or somewhere in between. The stories can be gathered in person or digitally - even using our "submit anonymously" link on the sidebar! If you'd like to send one in, email us at If you don't feel like writing, we can meet in person, too, (ignore this PSA) and I'll transcribe your story here. Just let us know.]

I was 13 or so, I think, when I first realized I was to be gay. Let's call it the first revelation. I wasn't sure what it meant at the time, but I knew it bothered me greatly. I cried and prayed and tried to figure out what being gay meant, particularly as a Catholic. I was sure I had screwed something up to end up this way. I was certain, too, that it was reversible--that I could simply figure out what I had done wrong and somehow undo it.

I spent the next six years attempting to reprogram my sexuality. In retrospect, I'm really just glad I didn't have access or knowledge sufficient to truly screw myself up too badly. I'm not easily discouraged, though, and I kept trying until just after my freshman year here at Duke. After an emotional discussion with my ex-girlfriend, I came out to her.

The second revelation was harder-earned than the first. I think all those years of active denial were necessary to get there, as well as my 12 sleepless hours of thought, prayer, and reflection.

You always hear about how people talk to God. And I'm a reasonably faithful person, or at least I try to be. I had just never personally believed that God actually communicated with people (did they hear some sort of boomy voice in their heads? What was this all about?). I've tried to rationalize away what happened, but the quote I was given, or that I heard, or whatever happened, just didn't seem to be anywhere else. Its wording (and its meaning, at the time) was clear. "I have made you exactly as you are, and I have made you completely beautiful."

Love is one of the hardest things for me to accept--whether from God, from others, or even from myself. It's just uncomfortable to know that someone could love those parts of you that you've spent your whole life trying to change. I don't want people to love the dark, ugly, uncomfortable, and sinful within me. I want them to want me to change it. Some days, anyhow.

It's only been two years or so since then, though I can scarcely believe it myself. Lots of things have changed. Lots of things haven't. I've accepted some of those words given to me. I readily identify as gay. I'm reasonably comfortable talking about it to family, friends, people whose names I still can't remember, and even strangers. Love, though? I still can't accept that.

I've stopped counting the revelations. It's kind of an overly dramatic way to think about knowledge, anyhow, I think. I have to admit, though, I'm not entirely comfortable with everything. I think sometimes I still want to find better arguments against homosexuality within the Church because, somehow, then, if it were okay for the Church to hate me, it would be fine for me to hate myself.

I guess I'm saying that oppression doesn't just come from society. It can come from so many places--from news media, family, religion, or the worst place: from within. Personally, I have enough trouble not despising certain things about myself that I just don't have time to hear hateful or discriminatory things elsewhere. So I don't. Maybe that's why I feel like I've never been discriminated against--if I hate myself first, maybe others won't. Maybe I just won't notice it when and/or if they do.

That sounds pretty bleak, though. Life is good. I'm generally happy and I don't get self-hating all too often. I have amazing friends and a supportive family and community, even if the family isn't entirely comfortable talking about it. Coming out is, as they say, a continuous process, and not everyone is comfortable with it. Oh well, I guess. Why should I have to justify or argue about the way I am with people? I'm gay. I didn't have a choice in the matter. That's that, and this is me.

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