Tag Archives: stages of gay acceptance

Brushes With Death To Taking First Breaths: My Final Tale Of Growing Up Gay

gay love

It’s 2:05 in the morning and I can’t sleep. It’s been a long day like any other Monday but I’ve been feeling off. Completely tense, short tempered and just all around moody. So I wanted to catch up on current events and decided to read some of the latest LGBT news to see if there was anything I missed. Then I came across the story of Bailey O’Neill, the 12 year old boy that died this weekend after being beaten into a coma by some schoolyard bullies and the story of Marco McMillian, the openly gay mayoral candidate beaten to death in Mississippi.

My heart sank for them and their families and it made all the feelings of this day feel even worse because of the emotional quicksand I felt I’d been in the entire day. And then I remembered that it’s the first Monday in March, and all these memories came flooding back on why this particular Monday is so important to me. In 2005 on the first Monday in March was the day I almost died  and the day I finally came completely out of the closet. So I decided to finally follow up with the first two in this series by adding the last part of the growing up gay stories with the one that was the most defining moment in my life.

This all took place it was my first year off campus and it was a rough emotional one for me. It wasn’t the course load or tensions with the professors. It was because I had been deeply affected by the events of last year on campus. I was full of brooding and angst because I wasn’t out yet and so many times I had come close. Even though the most important people in my life, my parents, knew that I was gay I still felt the entire time that I was not living authentically. And with as much as a Resident Adviser and a friend that I always advocated for others to live in this example, I felt like a hypocrite because I was not doing the same.

My friendships with some became strained and I was steadily distancing myself from everyone. Maybe I did that on some conscious level to prepare myself for any potential fallout from anyone, though I felt like many silently knew.  The year progressed and I became somewhat stabilized until Valentine’s Day, when I lost an old friend of mine. Her death devastated me and I was completely heartbroken and an emotional wreck because I felt that I should’ve been able to prevent it somehow. I went through the remainder of my last year on campus in a fog of disbelief instead of savoring the last few months until “real” adulthood.

I carried some of the numbness and pain of that year onto my first year off campus but with all of that my not formally being out was the biggest thing on my mind. It had all but consumed me to the point that I welcomed any distractions that did not pertain to my dilemma. I was angry and sad all the time because I keep stalling this all out. It didn’t help matters because I felt that things had not been resolved with the man I had been seeing off and on since my freshman year of college. He had moved away and I missed him terribly but we still were in touch. But that only seemed to make the pain of us not being together even greater, And when he came to visit I was speechless that he had already came out since his graduation.

He questioned me on why I hadn’t done so, and as the nature of our relationship I still wouldn’t confirm it. So all his questions were met with a longing stare as a few tears strewn down my face. Again I tried to reconcile why I couldn’t do it. Maybe it was because I felt I had to embrace my race because of the covert, institutionalized racism that exists in the south. I feared that being of both two minority groups (African American and gay) would result in me being bombarded with acts of hate and judgment. That no matter who much I tried to show how I was so many other things than my race and my sexuality, it wouldn’t be enough.

Instead of not giving a damn what everyone else thought I felt that I had to sacrifice and suppress one aspect of myself in order to be seen as a real person beyond stereotypes and labels. The dichotomy would be something I would treasure later for the unique perspective it gives me but back then I still felt it wasn’t enough. At least that was the excuse I was using. So I thought if I waited until I was in a more diverse place after school would be better. But I wasn’t lying about it anymore by pretending to be attracted to women and become a pro at playing the pronoun game. So I was taking my time and doing it my way, as usual. But I didn’t have much time left as my health started to decline. I’d only eat a portion of what I used to and I kept losing weight.

And then I got the flu or what I thought was the flu. I couldn’t keep anything down. I lay in bed for nearly two weeks thinking I had the same bug going around. But eventually it started to hurt, a lot. the pain was dull at first, then cramping, then sharp agonizing pain. So my roommate took me to the hospital and after a two hour wait they gave me some Milk of Magnesia and sent us on our way. I cried for most of the night because this was by far one of the most painful things I had ever felt. I think I somehow drifted off to sleep from the sheer exhaustion of this ordeal. It was early that morning that I woke up and the pain was prolific. I could barely breathe and my stomach was protruding so far it looked as if I were in my third trimester of pregnancy. I ran to roommate’s room and as soon as he saw my stomach he grabbed his keys not needing anymore explanation.

We arrived at the hospital and they went to examine me. My blood pressure was dropping so they rushed me to another examination room that had an x-ray so that they could see what was going on. I remember looking at the clock as it said 915. They took me back to the previous room and I kept hearing doctors being paged. They brought in more fluids and a bag of blood because apparently I was too low. More nurses rushed in and I noticed there was a group of doctors all talking to my doctor. Then he came in and told me I had to have surgery immediately. I asked why and he said my organs were shutting down and handed me a phone to call my parents. I asked why again and he said “just in case” and darted out to prep for surgery.

I couldn’t focus and was too afraid to dial the phone so my roommate did. He tried to explain but my mom insisted that she talk to me. I tried masking my voice so she wouldn’t think I was scared, but mothers always know better. She told me to stay strong and that she loved me and it took everything I had not to lose it. Seconds later they said it was time to go and the machines were making more noises but when the nurse said that I couldn’t hear anything else. it was 922. This was serious. As they were wheeling me down for this surgery I stared up at the fluorescent lights and thought about how much I loathed them. time slowed and all of these never-ending questions about being gay popped into my head.

Why was this haippening. Why didn’t I pay attention to all this. What if I don’t make it. What if I die right here. What if I never see him again to tell him I love him and always will. What about my mom. What if..this is punishment…if it is then why did God make me this way. Why didn’t I live my life the way I wanted to. What if people never knew the real me. Why didn’t I tell everyone who didn’t already know I was gay. Why did I wait so long..Why

Then the next thing I knew I was waking up. I looked around and wondered if the surgery had taken place and then I wondered if I was having some out of body experience and then I let myself wonder if I was dead. and I freaked out. I started pulling at the sheets and screaming out of being so scared and disoriented. The machines were violently screaming as loud as I was and the nurses appeared from nowhere with several needles and within seconds I was out; I woke up looking at florescent lights as I was being wheeled down the hall. I started thinking I was dreaming again and everything that just happened was some drug hallucination and I was crying again and calling out for my mom and we turned the corner and she was there with my dad and my roommate.

I have never cried so hard in my life seeing her blue green eyes look at me, telling me that it was okay and to calm down. All it did was make me cry harder.  They wheeled me to my room and hooked up more machines and gave me more drugs to calm me down because I was aching all over. The doctor came in to tell that my appendix had ruptured and because it become septic my organs began to fail but I didn’t care about what he was saying. The fact that I was alive and with the people that loved me most was all that mattered. I didn’t care how close I came to death because I was alive.

After some time had passed I grabbed my mom’s hands and told her that I was going to be open to everyone else about being gay and she was of course fine with it. I told myself that if I pulled through this I was going to completely be who I was. And if. When people asked I would tell them. I asked my roommate to give me my phone and while he and my parents went to go get coffee I checked my voicemail out of habit and found out about another friend that had killed himself because he was gay. we were the same age and both of us had to face the darkest parts of humanity. But he was gone.

For a moment I felt so guilty because moments ago I was so elated about being alive in that moment. I sat there and let a few tears fall before collecting myself and scrolled down to the man that I had been unable to confess the truth to several months ago. Since death had been trying to say something to me twice in one day I finally decided to listen. It gave me the courage to be open publicly about who I have always been. Gay. And I have never felt so free in my life. I called the man I had loved all of my adult life at 1137pm on that first Monday in March and told him that I had almost died that day, that I was gay, and that I loved him.

Even with how hard it is to write all this down and share my most personal story it’s even harder for me to think of people suffering and feeling that they don’t belong in this world because of who they are. That maybe if I share my story, all of my story, it will encourage others to do the same so that people that are gay will avoid the missteps that I took and never have to endure what I went through. That they read stories like this and it makes them think of the kids that have it even worse than I did. That it may speak to those that felt like they have no support and are relentlessly bullied. So maybe those that feel insecure about who they are don’t feel the need to torture other kids for something they hate about themselves that they shouldn’t hate.

So maybe give that one kid perspective that even when you literally have no reason to believe that it will get better that if you hold on, that it does get better. You see today could have also been a very sad day for my parents. Instead of them talking to me on the phone they could’ve been laying some anniversary flowers at a gravesite and that makes me think of all the parents like those of Bailey, Tyler Clementi, Matthew Sheppard, and so many others that do or will now have these sad heartbreaking anniversaries. I don’t want us to lose another human being this way.

I do not want another soul to feel fear that they cannot embrace and love who they are. And if sharing our lives can get one person that is going through this to think then they will have served their purpose. The only way we can change the world is when we are willing to look at our own lives and question what we could be doing differently. And I am grateful that I was able to have the opportunity to tell others to ask themselves to realize that we do not have forever to be who we are today. And how much strength and love is waiting for you when you are ready to embrace who you are.

Dear Parents Of Gay Children

gayparenting (1)

Often I’m asked to approach all facets of coming out of the closet and today is no different. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about our process as we come to accept our sexuality. But I haven’t addressed how us coming out affects the people in our lives. Not just the everyday people that we may have to interact with at school or work. I’m talking about loved ones that are a part of our lives and care about. Our parents and siblings and extended family and even close friends.

See, often the process they go through isn’t talked about. Because while this journey is solely about your own self-discovery, when we come out, it is also a part of their lives and their stories. Talking about our process brings perspective and with that provides clarity for those who beginning the process. So I thought I would write a letter To Whom It May Concern to the parents that addresses their process as well as ours. Because we all go through a process. And we need to talk about it.

Dear Mom and Dad

Today, we shared with you one of, if not the, biggest secrets about who we are. Today we old you we are gay/lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. You don’t know how hard it was for us to tell you all this but it is a long, often challenging process that we do alone.We know that this is a process for you as well but there are some things you should know that we for various reasons may not be able to accurately express right now. We know that you are probably having varying levels of emotion right now so let us try to address some of what may be going on in your head. 

From a young age we already knew this about ourselves and how different we were from almost everyone else. We tried so hard at a young age to understand why we were so different than everyone else. At first we just couldn’t understand what this meant and we didn’t know how to articulate it. And maybe you saw the internal battle taking place but didn’t know how to address it either and we can’t fault you for that.

As we grew older, we came to make more discoveries of why and at this point, may or may not have come to accept it. Going through puberty is hard on everyone and this secret magnified our experiences. We were constantly bombarded with moments of confusion and fear to anger because of how some of us are bullied for being different. We wanted to tell you so badly what we were going through but feared your judgment more than anything else and it would be too much to handle. 

And then we reached a point that not telling the truth was too much because the thought of living the rest of our lives being someone we’re not was no longer worth it. And we, just like everyone else deserve a chance to be happy. From having the right career to good friends to being able to find a love of our own and possibly start a family, we deserve all of those things that you have envisioned. We’re also writing this because of some of the ways you may react to this and we want to address that as well.

We know at first you may not be accepting of who we are. You may struggle for months, even years after we come out. Sometimes even longer. We wish we knew how long it’ll take for you to accept the truth and somehow congratulate your child for being an exceptional being that embraced who they really are. All the while we wish that you would just hold us and take away the fear and anxiety that we are consumed with as we watch our parents struggle with this indelible truth. 

We know that you may be relentlessly examining everything that you have ever said or done with us to determine if there is something that you did wrong. Beating yourself up over if maybe you were too lenient or not strict enough. Searching for signs that you may have missed or interpreted differently. Wondering if you somehow showed that this “behavior” as you see it was something that you condone. These may be your thoughts as a parent’s first instinct is always to love and protect us. You want to ensure that we are safe and free from any pain or threat. Maybe that’s where your resistance to accept our sexuality comes from.

We know that a lot of times the experience of finding out your child is gay is erroneously compared to the death of a child. We of course know that being gay is nowhere near that devastating and we implore that you stop saying that. Because it is not devastating. Being LGBT is great. Maybe you compare it to death because you feel like the child you have always known (or thought they knew) no longer exists. Maybe it feels like the dreams that you envisioned when you first laid eyes upon us child are gone.

But we also know that isn’t true either. We know that we are able to have fulfilling lives and can have families just like straight couples. We are working on fighting for equal rights so we can marry the man or woman of our dreams. We can have children if we choose to do so. All the things that you envisioned for us are still possible.  It just doesn’t happen in the way that you thought it would, just like everything else in life. We are still alive and right in front of you. And we still want your warmth, guidance, and love.

Maybe you’re wondering why we didn’t tell you because you love and accept us no matter what and we are thankful. But there’s a lot of different reasons why. We feared being rejected and disowned by you and by society. We fear being bullied and beaten. We are angry at the prospect of being treated differently. Or we just wasn’t ready because this is a time of self-discovery and with that, some things we have to learn on our own. And even though you have supported us through everything else, we just weren’t ready because we were still processing it. 

We know you may say it is because of your beliefs that you don’t support who we are. And we need for you to know that with all of your beliefs that the one thing that you have taught us all our lives is to love no matter what. To show compassion and a willingness to learn something that we (you) do not understand.  And those beliefs taught both you and us to not judge the differences. That people are different and that this is no exception.

But we are our own people with our own thoughts and beliefs and truths that may not reflect your own, but we still love you just as much as when you kissed our scrapped knees and you took us to our first theme park and sleepovers. Our late-night chats about life. The hard lessons about discovering how cruel and how great the world can be. How to love and respect those around us. 

We know now that some things are different. And as our parents, you do have to learn the new rules. Just as we discovered as adults, we know you have to learn how certain phrases that made us cringe at and would make us cry ourselves to sleep at night are no longer acceptable. Because when those jokes at someone else’s expense are about us now too. And we say this all with all the respect and love that we have for them. 

Us coming out was not done out of contempt, malice, a challenge to authority or you grounding us for sneaking out of the house when we were kids. We told you because we want you to know us. The real us so that you see that we other than our sexuality, we are still your child with the same dreams.

We are here to remind you that we are still their children and are worthy of your love. That your fears and beliefs will not change that. We want you to know that under no uncertain terms was us being LGBT a decision that we were coerced into by wayward friends on the other side of the train tracks. It is simply how we were made. You have nothing to feel guilty about in that aspect.

We need you to know that this is not going to change and that this is who we are. We have learned that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT. You do however have a say in how you react and how you treat us. You can be open minded and let us share with you our experiences so that you can have clarity about it. You do have the power to show us that your love truly is unconditional. 

We don’t know how you will process this but we hope that you will at least try to understand. And we are willing to respectfully talk about this with you to help your process. In the meantime, we will continue to live our lives authentically and proudly as you have always taught us to do so. We hope that you will want to be a part of that journey as much as you were the moment you laid eyes on us. 

Love Always

Us 

Some of these elements of this letter is what I wrote my parents and I am forever thankful for their understanding and love. Even after I came out, and even with how unconditional the love my parents have for me, they still needed time to process me being gay. Because until I said it, no matter their suspicions, they still weren’t sure. They needed to hear me say it in order for it to be true.

We all faced some elements of this letter and that’s why I constructed it in this manner, hoping I touched on the varying ways that our parent’s reactions are after we tell them our reality. We hope that our parents will be open and ready for meaningful dialogue. Even though it may take time we have to live our own lives. Still this process is about you, and hopefully they will see that and show that their love truly is unconditional.