Are We Out Of The Closet (Woods) Yet?

Since it’s National Coming Out Day, I felt motivated to share my story, and what better place than on a space that’s all my own?

I did not come to full terms with my sexuality until the later part of high school. Early on, I had a period where I believed I was bisexual, and it’s kind of humorous for me to look back and remember that, at the time, that was the biggest secret I had. With my anti-socialness, I felt enormously uncomfortable admitting to anyone who I really was, out of fear that I would be bullied. My high school was not unpleasant, by any means, but I felt like I would be putting myself in a vulnerable position for taunts, threats, and so on, and I wanted to get through high school intact, if possible. There were a handful of guys I had crushes on, but nothing ever came of it. I eventually told one of my friends via Facebook that I was bi, and for a while, she was the only one who knew. A few other people gradually caught on, but for the most part, I kept it a secret. I would periodically fill out the infamous Facebook notes where you answer a bunch of random questions, and every time it reached the “what’s your biggest secret?”, I would answer truthfully, tag the same handful of friends, and then delete it about 10 seconds later.

Eventually this burden carried me to my freshman year of college in the 2012-2013 period. I got roommate matched to live with a guy I’d never met before. We got along really well, and for a short while, it felt like I was slowly starting to get my life back on track. My blog posts at the time reflected as much. I opened up to him about my family dynamics, and he didn’t judge me at all. We continued becoming good friends, and got to become friends with other people on our floor. He, to no surprise, thrived, where I, still trapped in my anxiety and social awkwardness, tried to survive. He switched rooms in the spring semester, but we remained friends. Some advice I gave him helped him get a girlfriend, I helped him write a handful of papers here and there, I even helped him fill out a financial aid appeal form, which ended up allowing him to continue receiving financial aid and stay in college.

The final day of the semester, the two of us were sitting in his room, and I said to him, “I feel like I can tell you anything. I could tell you that I’m gay, and you wouldn’t care.” After sitting there and nodding in silence, I added, “…because I’m gay, actually.” His response was simple. “Calvin, you know I love you man. Come here.” And he got up and gave me a hug, and that moment meant the world to me, not because I thought he was homophobic, but because I didn’t know what to expect. Believe me, my heart was racing. But that moment was pivotal for me, because it gave me the courage to know that some people truly don’t care one way or the other. Sure, he randomly decided he didn’t want to talk to me ever again a week and a half later, which I struggled to come to terms with that whole summer and still, to this day, do not know what exactly happened, but it still gave me the motivation to open up to people more.

The following semester, that circle of acceptance continued to widen. I opened up to two friends I made in one of my English classes. I started working on-campus, and have been fortunate to make a handful of friends who have accepted me all the same. My roommates that year did not care in the slightest. I eventually reached a point where I decided it wasn’t worth it to hide anymore, and on March 17th in 2014, I came out completely.

I have been fortunate enough to have never experienced discrimination directly. The closest I’ve come to it was heading to one of my shifts on-campus and this guy and his friend passed me and one of them audibly whispered “Fag” to his friend out of nowhere, looking at me. I paid them no mind at all. I know for many others, it’s far worse. People have committed suicide as a result of bullying. It’s heartbreaking to know what some people have to go through, feeling like it is unsafe to be who they are. That, to me, is one of the biggest crimes in the world, and perhaps for those back in the 1920s, it was more commonplace and ‘accepted,’ but with how much progress America and the world has made since then, it shouldn’t be a thing, certainly not in the land where we are guaranteed a slice of the ‘American Dream.’

My own road to acceptance has not been an easy one. No, it hasn’t been faced with some of the same challenges many others my age have gone through, ranging anywhere from conversion therapy to disownment. Suffering with anxiety and mild spikes of depression, however, does not bode well in some of the environments I’ve found myself in. Even beyond my sexuality, I’ve had more than my fair share of moments where I wish I could be different, where I could’ve been born differently, had a different upbringing, and so on. My childhood wasn’t unhappy, by any means, and it’s ironic that, out of all the things I wish I could change, I’m thankful my sexuality is not one of them. It’s weird to me that it’s one of the few things about myself that I can embrace.

Another facet to those who are closeted is the fear of how friends and family will react. After making a blog post as my way of coming out, the reactions I received from my friends were all positive. My biggest concern (as my mind loves to exaggerate scenarios and fears) was finding a way to tell my mom, which eventually happened and, as she’s gay and in a relationship, both her and her girlfriend love me just the same. I’ve seen countless stories of LGBT youth who finally work up the courage to come out to their family, only to have their family completely shun them. Such was the case with an old Lifetime movie I loved watching, called Prayers For Bobby, where, after coming out, his mother tried to convert him back to being straight.

No, compared to others who have gone through much worse, I’ve been very lucky. But it’s heartbreaking knowing that isn’t the case for everyone, and that people have lost deep, personal friends, family members, and jobs over what should not be a huge deal at all.

I know there’s a handful of people who don’t support gay marriage, and people who are completely neutral on the subject. There are those who don’t agree with it, but if two other same-sex people want to get married, that’s none of their business (which is 100% accurate). It’s been the subject of religious interventions and proclamations, like “Protect the family!” My thing is, why do people care? It’s the same thing abut someone else’s religious beliefs, or weight, or age, or skin color, or anything else. Why does it matter to you? What makes someone else’s happiness influential on your own? It makes absolutely no sense, and I realized that the more I came out: There are people who don’t care who you love, or what your skin color is, or what you believe in, as long as you’re a good person and treat them with respect. And that’s exactly how it should be.

 

This short film is the same one I’ve left in previous posts, and is one of my favorite (and honestly, one of the most heartbreaking) short films I’ve ever seen. It essentially flips the stereotypes and discriminatory viewpoints of those who are gay and straight, where, as the title suggests, gay is the norm and straight is worthy of disownment. I don’t have to say much to articulate the message of the video; it truly speaks for itself.

The most I can say to whoever happens to read this, regardless of your situation, is that gradually, as clichéd as it sounds, things do get better. Coming out lifted such a huge weight off of my shoulders. I’m beyond fortunate that I can be myself around my co-workers at both of my jobs. There is a whole ocean of people who can and will embrace you for who you are as a person. My sexuality has never defined me; it’s just a small fraction of the person I am, and I know that even if I wasn’t gay, I would still have the same mindset. Some people may not support you. You may lose friends. But ultimately, your happiness is the most important thing you have in this life. Do not waste it being unhappy.

My own abilities to change the stigma that makes thousands of people afraid to love who they love is very limited. The most I can do is offer support to those who need it, in-person or online. It’s not much, but for some, it’s been enough, and I’ve been thankful for that. I’m confident that, eventually, we will reach an era where nobody will need to come out of the closet. People will just be themselves, and not live in fear. That, I assure you, will be a marvelous world to live in, and as long as I and others who have a similar mindset stick to making that happen, it’s distinctly possible we can have a positive impact on history down the road.

I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.

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