Pride like many things, is something that means vastly different things to different people. Whether it be two gay men who, one would think, would associate the same thoughts and feelings with pride, or perhaps a sibling of someone who came out and who has a vastly different perspective… A perspective that came from a vantage point that they gained from watching their loved ones struggle to come to terms with themselves, or for some who never were anything but themselves from the very beginning. So I have chosen to focus my story on the beginning, all that came with it and brought me forward.
When asked what pride means to me, it was a topic I really wanted to think about. I came out at what I associate to be a late age, 23, however it was not because I was ashamed of being gay. In an all honestly, it was more in line with not wanting to have to deal with the entirety of the process of the coming out. Or to be more truthful, since this post is in the spirit of pride, I was lazy. I remember seeing the preview for the movie Love Simon a couple of years ago, and they parodied the process of coming out in high school, but for straight kids. When the main character wonders why only gay people have to come out to their friends and family, they show a montage of his straight peers coming out to their parents. Ironically, the reactions were the same ones you often see chronicled when gay people come out to their loved ones, from extreme happiness, pride, anger, shock, etc.; it seemed to pose a very valid question: Why do only gay people have to come out? It can be a short to long process, filled with many emotions for a great deal of people. It was also one I quite frankly didn’t feel like going through.
The year I came out, I also began dating my first boyfriend and embarked on my first real relationship. But for the first 6 months of our relationship, I still hadn’t come out. So how real was it, and why was I hiding it? I was not ashamed of my relationship at all, it was actually quite the opposite. I was the happiest I ever had been with him, and my eyes were opened up to a whole new world filled with love and excitement. So while I was relishing in this newfound happiness, it was only able to be shared with him, his family that I adored, and his friends. But why? Because I didn’t want the “ordeal” of coming out to everyone in my life?
Over that summer when I came out to my best friend, I realized I was not only doing myself a disservice by hiding this relationship, this love, but I was inadvertently minimizing someone and something that was so important to me by doing so. Like I said before, it wasn’t because I was ashamed, it was because I was lazy. Which looking back isn’t a great thing to reflect upon, but it would be pointless to be writing about pride and lying. So I began what I assumed was going to be the long process of individually coming out to people. Which being me, I inevitably sped up pretty significantly.
I called my first boyfriend last week to ask him what he remembered of how I came out to my dad, to whom I had chosen to come out to first. He proceeded to reminisce telling me that I had called my dad and bluntly stated, “Hey so I’m dating someone, and you are going to meet my boyfriend and I for dinner tomorrow night. We will see you then.” Straight and to the point, sounds like me. I remember the night we all went to dinner together so vividly, and I was extremely uncomfortable. Which is understandable since this was the first person I was sitting down to not only come out to, but also share with them someone I was seriously involved with. I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be accepted or that he would see or love me any differently, which I know is definitely something many people don’t have the luxury of feeling when coming out. This is also why I think I came out to him first, because I knew nothing bad was going to come from it. But it also made me realize I had wasted all of this time hiding this part of myself for no reason. No reason at all. The night couldn’t have gone better, they couldn’t have gotten along better (which also annoyed me for some reason), and so began the process of sharing this part of my life with the people who thought they were already privy to me in my entirety. This was in late November, and by February I had found a way to let everyone into the part of my life I had kept hidden.
Once I had come out, not much changed nor had I really expected it to all too much? Where as my boyfriend had come out in high school and been out for quite some time, I didn’t have any newfound desire to start going to gay bars or immersing myself into that. Just as I didn’t know why it took me so long to come out even when I was extremely happy in a relationship, that really held no appeal to me. While it could have been that I was still living in Newport Beach where gay culture is pretty minimal, nowhere near as prevalent as it is in LA or NYC, it just didn’t hold an allure for me. Even though that significant relationship did come to an end a little more than a year after it began, there was a weight that had begun to take a hidden toll on me, even during that relationship, and was now coming to the forefront.
Like the prompt stated, many in the LGBTQ community face many obstacles in their path to finding who they truly are. The beginning of this story may sound as if I didn’t suffer in hiding that part of myself from both myself and others, I most certainly did. While I wouldn’t put these pieces together until a couple of years later, the toll that leading a duel life took ultimately led me down the road to addiction. So while I was fortunate in that the process of me coming out was not one that caused me harm, the real harm that came from hiding who I was, was the harm that I was unknowingly doing to myself. While this would continue for many years after that first relationship ended, it was that same strength that I utilized to come out to my loved ones that I then used to conquer those other demons.
Everyone’s stories are all different, just as their meaning of pride will all be different. While I didn’t attend my first pride until last summer while I was living in New York, I still felt pride during all of those years before that. But it wasn’t until I was at the events last year celebrating, that I truly understood just how much there is to be celebrated when it comes to pride. The biggest of all was attending the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn, showed me how much and for how long people fought for the rights that we are so luckily afforded now. So in keeping with the call to action of writing the stories that we wished we had been able to see when we were growing up, I thought that I would share mine. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides every person. One that we reveal to the world, and another that we keep hidden inside. That is why I chose to share both the positive and negative sides of what I went through, because that is what I would have wanted to be able to see. Not a sugarcoated story of perfection, nor a demonized nightmare; but a balance of what it can truly be like. That the problems can come from those we never see coming, ourselves. So while this pride is truly unlike any others, if anything it should bind the LGBTQ community together to show that even in the darkest of times there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.