In the fall of 1989 I came out to my friend John, via a cassette. We were friends since fifth grade, and as we we went to college we stayed connected for a few years via spoken letters on cassettes. Looking back, that was the perfect thing. Our friendship was partly based on the chemistry of verbal interaction, in a mutually developed sense of humor and appreciation of the ridiculous which still informs the person I am today.
After walking all over the campus with my portable tape player, which my parents bought for me for recording lectures but ended up being used solely for letters such as these, I did a build up that made obvious what I was going to say: "I'm gay."
Putting it into the mailbox pretty much sealed it.
Technically, the first person who knew for a fact that I was gay was a counselor at school, with whom I had already made an appointment and saw before the letter got to John's possession. But John got to witness the vulnerable first step.
After that, I confided in a couple more friends, but that was it, until 1991, October 11, National Coming Out Day. There was a listserv mailing list online called "Gay Net" which was for college queers and which was very active with lots of readers. I sent a simple message that said something like, "Today is National Coming Out Day. Here I am, coming out."
There were waves of acceptance from this. For the next couple years I slowly came out to more friends and family on a personal level. I was never rejected for it, was very fortunate to have a flexible and very loving family who adjusted very quickly to a new knowledge of who I am. My parents even sent a coming out letter to the extended family members, coming out as parents of a gay son.
Yeah, I'm pretty lucky!
Coming out made it impossible for me to lie. I stink at lying. It's a skill I'm trying to relearn as I rebuild some boundaries these days, due to other issues I haven't come to grips with yet.
But coming out led to a renewed awakening of my spirituality, my cradle church, and I went to a priest at the local Newman Center (a college-focused ministry; these are parishes that exist near universities to minister to the students) about returning to the faith. I felt the Holy Spirit's blessing as I walked away from that meeting.
I told the priest I was gay too.
I was a gay Catholic, and I am today as well.
Coming out is a remarkably, explosively freeing event. It can even create freedom in an instant, like a wormhole (do you like my clever blog-entry title?). It also, I learned, can lead to a little bit of grief. It is a separation from the way things were, even if the way things were lacked, well, goodness. I didn't find that grief to be overbearing or even a big deal. It was just adjustment.
They say coming out is a lifelong process. I'm not officially out at work. I mean, a bunch of people do know, of course, though they haven't said anything. How could they not know? But I never came out. The four-plus years at my job in Denver were the same way, though I think fewer people knew there.
There are many ways to come out. I'm a pretty honest person, especially on the internet. The way for me to come out now is to move from the self-focus to the other-focus (without losing centeredness in the heart). By giving I am more fully being. By receiving I am able to more fully give. Connection without enmeshment. Honesty without neediness.
I'm out. Are you?