We have arrived! Where is that? We are OUT and true to ourselves and those around us. Well, not all of us are out yet, and I am not sure how many “closeted” people will use today or have marked National Coming Out Day as THE day to spill all the beans about their non-straight love inclinations. So what is the purpose of National Coming Out Day?
October 11th is National Coming Out Day, a day of recognition, awareness, and celebration of the act of publicly and privately coming out as member of the LBTGTQ+ community. As a means of activism and advocacy, the holiday also serves to fight homophobia, transphobia, and other social stigmas associated with the LGBTQ+ community.
So no, it’s not a day that your mom and dad are finally expecting to receive that call every year, because they know you’re inclined a little differently than Pat Robertson wants you to be. But for many of us, I think it is a day we choose to use as a day of reflection, thinking about where I was before I came out, the process of coming out, and the joy of realizing that coming out was just one step toward being our true selves, one less weight off our shoulders and backs and hearts.
Yesterday we pregamed NCOD with 4 of our contributing writers sharing their coming out story. Today we have a couple more writers, the managing editor, and one of the owners sharing their coming out story. When I asked them all if they wanted to participate, some responses ranged from; my story is not that exciting, I came out so many times, no one’s ever asked me my coming out story… and so on. I stated that we’re all different, our readers are all different, it’s your personal story, it doesn’t have to be exciting or glorious, it just is your story, and it’s not going to be wrong.
We often report on famous people when they come out. We’ve often received messages that we should report on “normal” people coming out. So with that, here are more of Instinct’s coming out stories. Can you relate?
David Lopez – It Was Our Own Mexican ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Philosophy
When I was growing up I never knew what it meant to be ‘gay’. It seemed that for my family it was a non-issue—at least that is the perception I had. In retrospect, I acknowledge that it was our own Mexican ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ philosophy that always allowed me to be myself around my family and let my creativity and imagination run wild. The shame that I got from being ‘different’ came at an early age from classmates or bullies at school. It was a real mindfuck to know that everything I was celebrated for at home—being funny, creative, a free spirit—was ridiculed and used to target me at school.
When I was in high school, I casually dated boys my own age. I met someone who eventually broke my heart, but for those several months my 16-year-old heart fluttered like a butterfly. One night, I brought my ‘friend’ to a family party and we got bored so we escaped and walked over to a nearby music store—Shakira was my fave at the time. After being gone longer than expected, my sister buzzed me on my flip Motorola—you know, the one that used to ring “Hello, Moto!” She asked me where I was and said people were starting to make jokes that I had run off with my boyfriend, which I had. At that moment, something happened inside that made me realize that all this time my family probably knew I was gay, but never needed to mention it because I was just being ‘me’. That realization made me come out to my sister on the phone that day which lead to her meeting my first ever relationship.
The years that followed involved me having to come out to a new member of my family each time. It felt like something I “had” to do because even though I knew it might not matter to them at all, there was still the possibility that they could reject me. Luckily, no one ever did. Each new time was a process where as I came out, my family also needed to come out as being supportive allies. My brothers, my mom, and finally my dad–I came out to them and then I let them come out to the rest of the world for me. To this day, they have my back and know that my queer identity is what makes the world understand me. And those bullies from school who called me a ‘fag’ or ‘little bitch’? Well–fuck ‘em!
JR Pratts / Owner – I Decided That I Really Needed To “Cure Myself”
As far back as I can remember, I always thought I was gay and I knew that it is a secret that I have to hide because I was so afraid of being teased. So all through out high school and college – I kept this secret that I thought nobody knew.
Immediately after College, I went to Hong Kong and worked as a financial analyst. I really enjoyed working in Hong Kong as it was very competitive and I am a competitive person. My career was flourishing, but I still had a secret and I knew that if that secret came out, I would be scorned and ridiculed as that was what people did in Asia with gays.
After 5 years of working – I decided that I really needed to “cure myself” – so I decided to come to the US because I knew I would get cured here. I went to UCLA and also decided to see a psychiatrist to fix me – after a couple of months, my psychiatrist sat me down and told me that she thought I only had two choices that I would have to eventually make – 1. Accept who you are and be a good person or 2. Pretend that you are straight and be miserable for the rest of your life. She told me that these are my two choices and she said she could prolong this conversation 5 or 10 years, either way – I will still have to make a decision.
After a couple of months – I decided to find out more about gay lifestyle – I actually got a job with a gay magazine and my world opened up. I finally met Out and Proud men that were unapologetically gay – I then knew that I have to acknowledge who I am. My Mom came out to visit me a few months later and I decided to come out to her. When I finally told her “I am gay”, she looked at me and told me she always knew and that she was just waiting for me to tell her. I was shocked, I thought I hid my secret really well.
Adam Dupuis / Managing Editor – Out Of Heartache And Lies Came Love And Honesty
I was a late bloomer in many ways. Late to act on urges, to meet people, late to be honest about myself with loved ones, but I wasn’t late in knowing who/what I was/am. I remember liking boys when I was in the 3rd grade. Girls were friends, but other males were where my hopes of dating would always be. I had a girlfriend in high school, but it never was physical, but was a great friendship. I didn’t get to know men physically or even kiss another one until I was 24.
It wouldn’t be until I was 27 that I would come out. I had found what I thought was “the one.” Yeah, we’ve all been there, stupid, rose colored glasses, and trusting of someone else with your heart. One night, I had stayed home from going out with friends, but they went out and ran into a guy sitting a bar, crying. He had been dating this guy for a while, but there were some turmoil in the relationship. He was distraught and was upset since he was having unprotected sex with this guy but thought there was something else going on. Yes, you connected the dots, it was with the guy that I thought was my boyfriend. There was no mistaking it. They actually asked the distraught guy who this man was, they got the “other guy’s” number after telling him I was dating the same guy, and I chatted with this other man about the whole debacle we were swirling around in. I did not blame him, of course, but out the window went my trust and heart.
I had called my supposed boyfriend and said I was going to stop over. En route to my supposed boyfriend’s apartment, I was upset, and yes, the best way to label it – heartbroken. Who can fix the heart when it’s in pieces? Mom. I called mom, semi in tears and told her to just listen. I didn’t explain the whole thing in detail, but told her to just listen. Gay this, dating a guy that, heart in piece now. I am not 100% how it all went, it was a blur, the road was a blur, life was on autopilot, and did she say she knew already? I cannot remember (but moms always know) and it didn’t matter. I just wanted her to know where I was and that she was important to me, and this is where I am at. She accepted me. I told her she could tell dad whenever she wanted, I wasn’t up for that right now. I later did learn that she told him when the time was right and his response was, “What did we do wrong?” I was fine with that answer and mom educated him on that it was nothing they did. Her best friend since the 4th grade had a gay brother so she had the knowledge and understanding.
Over the years, I’ve come out to other friends in person, acquaintances by letting them be friends on Facebook and view what I post, and coming out at work has been easy since higher education is just full of us. I would later find out that the first love of my life was someone that I would never trust or believe. I tried to work things out with that boyfriend, but that poor boy in that bar that was dating the same guy I was would be joined by a list of other men and even a couple and who knows who else. Love is blind and love hurts. It’s sad that my coming out story, my moment of honest will always be related to mistrust and lies. But it made me realize that there are selfish people out there that will not care about your heart and that there are so many people out there and when one turns out to be the wrong one, just move on and have a better life. And when that heartache happens, you can reach out to your family, may it be your chosen family or the biological one, and those cracks will mend. Thanks mom.
Randy Slovacek – It Happens in Stages.
When the idea of writing about our coming out came up among the Instinct contributors, I realized I’d never really thought about my coming out. In truth, coming out isn’t a ‘step’ but a process. It happens in stages.
Early On: I grew up in Texas in the 1970s and remember it as a hostile environment for coming out. I do clearly remember being drawn to a boy named Chris in 1st grade. It wasn’t anything sexual – I just knew he was funny, charismatic…people liked him. And so did I. Nothing ever happened between us, but something drew me to him. Is acknowledging attraction a part of coming out?
Middle school: things start to get complicated. Kids were hurtling toward puberty, and guys I’d gone to school with for years seemed to view things differently than I did. I was interested in singing and performing on stage. That would prove to be problematic for middle school social circles. It wasn’t softball or football – it was ‘other.’ Boys I’d known since Cub Scouts were openly called me ‘fag’ on the playground. Society had already taught me that was something I shouldn’t want to be. And so, I learned – even subconsciously – what a ‘closet’ was.
High school: pretty much hell. Not a day went by I wasn’t called ‘faggot’ in the halls or in class. And I fiercely tried to convince myself none of this had anything to do with me. I dated girls, but rarely took romance any further than kissing. I remember telling myself I was being ‘a gentleman.’ #denial
The summer after I graduated from high school, I was cast as a performer at a professional summer stock theater about four hours away from my hometown. I soon realized I was the youngest in the company. Being musical theater, there were openly gay guys in the shows. They were older, had ‘dealt with themselves’, and didn’t seem conflicted about it. Like I was.
Throughout the summer, one guy continually flirted with me. I wasn’t recognizing it as flirting at the time, but I know it now. One night after a performance, I gave him a ride to the house he was renting, and as he got out of the car I went to kiss him on the cheek (which is what theater people did back then). He stopped me, paused, and then kissed me for real.
‘For real’ for real. Time stopped. It was the first time attraction, romance and sex all clicked together. I think of that kiss as the moment I came out to myself. It was so full and authentic, there was no denying it. And coming out to yourself is really the first step in the journey. (p.s. nothing lasting would come from that ‘flirtation’ but the other guy, understanding the closet door he had unlocked, did handle my heart well)
I went on to college, got a degree in musical theater and moved to New York City. In all that, there really wasn’t any progress in coming out as I made busy with school. After a year in NYC, I was cast in a new national touring company of a big hit Broadway show. During rehearsals I became smitten with another actor in the show, and we became ‘romantical’ almost immediately after hitting the road. Our second city on tour was Dallas, near where I’d grown up. I stayed with my dad during those weeks of the run, and feeling empowered by my new job and new boyfriend, I decided to ‘share.’ Watching TV together, I told my dad I was ‘seeing someone’ in the show. He, of course, asked if it was a particular actress he had noticed at the opening night party. I said, “No, his name is David.”
My dad, a bit lost in whatever it was we were watching, took a second and then looked up at me. With a confused expression, it took a moment for him to eke out, “Aw…you don’t want that, son, do you?” I said I did. The moment took a breath. I added that I was nervous to tell him because I didn’t want him to disown me (or something). THAT got a reaction out of him.
My dad moved the TV show out of his head, turned to focus on me and firmly announced, “Randy, don’t ever think you don’t have a place here. You always belong here.” And that was that. I had crossed the coming out bridge, and my Texas Republican father took that trip with me – with no hesitation.
Over the years, working in the theater made for a safe place for gays, so I never really had to come out to co-workers. I did, at some point in the 1990s, feel the need to come out to two of my (straight) besties from high school. But, like a TV movie, both of those were non-events. I would barely get the first sentence out before they were nodding, smiling, and asking why it took me so long to bring it up.
Coming out is: frightening, unnerving, a process, but most of all, one of the most authentic and empowering things you’ll ever do for yourself.
Gerald Biggerstaff- Coming Out at The Wrong Place and Wrong Time
I have mentioned a time or two in my writings about growing up in rural West Virginia during the ‘80s and the ‘90s. I never knew of anyone who was openly gay during that time in WV. In fact, there was a lot of negative connotation towards homosexuality among my classmates in both junior high and high school. The ironic thing about my coming out was not when it happened (after I graduated high school), but the how, where, and why it happened. Halfway through my senior year, I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Mind you, this was not long after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell went into effect in the United States Armed Forces. I remember when I went to the Military Entrance Station in Beckley, West Virginia and I can recall there was a spot on the paperwork that asked if you were gay, but it was crossed out.
I went to Air Force Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas in July of 1996. Going through Basic and Technical Training, there was very little time for a personal life. It wasn’t until I was a few months into my permanent base that my sexuality began to be fully realized. I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience of being gay and in the military during DADT, but for me, it always felt like the walls were closing in on me.
This feeling kept eating away at me for the longest time and one day I reached a breaking point and confided being gay to someone I worked with. While telling someone made me feel better temporarily, I hadn’t realized by telling somebody as well as possibly hinting about it to my supervisor/ NCO (non-commissioned officer, I had unconsciously ended my time in the Air Force.
About maybe a month or two of telling someone that I worked with that I was gay, I was called into the office of my senior NCO. Waiting for me in the office was the senior NCO and one of the officers of our squadron. It didn’t take long for me to realize what was going on: I was being investigated under DADT. I had two choices, either go through hearings and fight to stay in Air Force (to this day, I don’t know how that would have played out) or voluntarily separate from the Air Force.
With not being out to my family yet, I chose the latter and told my parents the reason I was separating was that I had failed a weight/ BMI (Body Mass Index) standard. This wasn’t too far from the truth because I was having problems with that.
After I returned home to West Virginia, I kept my sexuality to myself mostly after putting my trust in the wrong people.
It took a few months to build up the courage and trust to come out to parents which is a whole other story itself.
So if you feel like sharing your story below, or on our Instinct Magazine Facebook page, or in our Facebook group Our Gay Life, we’d love to hear it and you never know, you may inspire someone be true with themselves and others.