Today is designated as National Coming Out Day. According to Wikipedia, “National Coming Out Day was founded by Robert Eichberg, a founder of The Experience workshop, and National Gay Rights Advocates head Jean O'Leary during a 1988 meeting of LGBT activists as a day to celebrate coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen to mark the anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which had taken place four months earlier.” “In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign manages the event under the National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives.”
I hope that this day will not only promote awareness of LGBT people and families but also help those who are struggling and feel alone. In the spirit of I Was That Kid I give you my coming out story.
My ‘coming out’ story is sort of a two-part story, in that I came out twice. The first time was in 1997. Many of you might remember when Ellen came out in the Puppy Episode on her show back in 1997. Well, I watched her show almost religiously and after she came out, so did I.
During this time I was a single Mother raising my, then, 7 year-old son and had been single since I left and divorced his father when he was 2. I was working full time, going to school part time and raising him on my own. Without financial assistance or child support. On top of all of that, I was trying to find me.
Growing up I knew a few gay men and lesbians but it honestly never occurred to me that I had more in common with them than I thought. During that time in 1997 it finally started to click. The show made me realize things about myself and all of those things resonated with me more than anything else had before.
After the show was over and I put my son to bed I went to the mirror and looked myself in the eye for a few moments. I knew I had to say it. “I am a lesbian.” It was difficult. I choked on the words those first few times.
So many thoughts flowed through my head. How was this going to affect my life? How would it affect my son and his life? Would my family be accepting? How do I meet others like me?
Needless to say, I was scared. But, everything started to make sense. My life and the way I had felt about the idea of what my life was supposed to look like began to make sense. I told two people the first time I came out. My birthmother and my sister. They were very accepting and loving. In time though, those scared thoughts took over and eventually chased me back into the closet and slammed the door. I wasn’t strong enough yet to handle it. That idea of what my life was supposed to look like had a tight grip on my mind and thoughts.
I spent the next two years hiding in the closet. Doing whatever I could to erase those ideas in my head that I was gay. Finally in 1999 I came out the second time and this time it was for good. I had met my first girlfriend online in one of those old AOL Lesbian chat rooms. The first time we kissed I finally felt what everyone was so crazy about back in middle school and high school. The fireworks appeared and I absolutely, positively knew I was gay.
During that year I found the San Diego Gay & Lesbian Center and found my community. The rest is herstory.
If you’re reading this and struggling, please know that you are not alone in this great big world. Your community is here and ready to welcome you with open arms. Here in Portland, Oregon there are many wonderful places to go including the Q Center and SMYRC. Follow the links and connect with someone or email me and I will do whatever I can to help. wendikali(at)gmail(dot)com
You are not alone.