Twenty years ago, as college senior, I sat alone in my dorm room just before the Jewish High Holidays, and came out.
I had been musing about it in my journal for a couple of years, wondering…worrying. But that September, I took a class with a professor whom I had only heard about, but had never met, and when she walked into the classroom on the first day, I was certain. There she was. She walked into the room and I knew. I went back to my room right after class and started writing and an hour later, once I finally stopped furiously tapping away at the keys on my old PC, I was out. I looked at all the words I had written — pages of memories — all the things I had said and done, beginning in childhood, that had led me to the moment I was in right then. All the words, all the thoughts, all the tucked away, buried feelings and when I was finished, I was out.
The next morning, I brought the stapled pages to the office mailbox of my [out, gay] Creative Writing professor and went home to my family for the holidays. From that moment forward, it was a continuous stream of coming-out experiences. Over the course of that final year of undergrad, I came out to several friends, co-workers, and family members. Each experience was different, but none was as hard as I had feared. Friends, for the most part, were nonchalant. Some even said they had wondered about me themselves over the years. Family was slightly more challenging. But by and large, my coming out experience was (and is — I still out myself regularly) easy. It was supported, kind, loving, peaceful. This is not to say that these were always the feelings I had as I came out; I was regularly terrified, defiant, defensive, scared, and embarrassed during those first several months, but I know how the experience can be for people. I know that people are disowned by their families, beaten, shamed, and worse. And, luckily, this was not my story.
That was 1995. I came out twenty years ago and it’s amazing to me what a different world it is today. Tonight, I read a book to The Who called The Zero Dads Club and in it, families with two moms, transmoms, and butch moms are represented. And on the page that reads, “I love having a Mom and a Mama,” The Who said, quietly, “I do, too. It’s the best.” A different world indeed.
I am so grateful for the people who stood by my side twenty years ago. And for all the people who stood by the side of all the queers who came out before then and who have since. And I love that in 2015, teenagers think that coming out as a college senior is incredibly late in the game. I actually look forward to a time twenty years from now where “coming out” isn’t even a thing anymore. Where we all just are. Out. In. Beside. Among. All of us.
In the meantime, though: Happy Coming Out Day. To those who have done it, to those who will, and especially to those who feel that they can’t. So much love.