18 April 2011

Coming Out, Part 2

After I came out to myself and finally admitted things to a couple of my closest friends, the next step was my biggest anxiety: my parents finding out. I had made the decision to tell them, and the day before I did, a good friend of mine named Mark walked into the coffee shop we were hanging out at, and as he walked in, we all saw that he looked completely destroyed; bruised, beaten and his spirit broken. His mother had found in his jeans the day before, a love note from another boy to him. Upset by this, his mother told his father, who then wasted no time in beating him black and blue, and kicked him out of the house, warning him that if he ever came back, he would shoot him dead on-site. We knew this was not an idle threat, and I began wondering how my parents would feel. I had already moved out on my own, so I was not worried about this, but knew that, no matter how well or how terrible it went, it would not be easy. So, I did what I am sure many of us had done when faced with such a daunting task: I left little hints all over the place and simply left it to them to figure out.

My mother, being the nosey person she was at the time, called me up one night after several months of ‘subtle hints” being laid about like little gay land-mines. I was barely awake. She started asking questions; (she knows that if you catch me at the right time (half asleep), all you will get are yes and no answers from me, like a computer speaking in binary, positives and negatives only. She asked me about a friend and if asked he was gay, then asked if I knew others who were gay. Without thinking, I simply answered rhythmically; “Yes, yes, yes”, and then I finally snapped out of it when I realized her last question, which I had answered spontaneously and without thought was “Are you gay?”.

I stopped for a moment, and tried speaking in a full sentence, which for some reason seemed even harder. My heart pounded and I didn’t know what to say or do. She simply said it was fine, as long as I was happy and being safe. She told me she loved me and hung up, triumphant at having obtained the answer she had sought. I knew I left the hints and had expected that, sooner or later, the question would come up; I just had not expected it so quickly, nor so slyly. She immediately told my step-father what she had learned, and his answer I later found out was; “Yeah, I’ve known since he was about 12”. What amazed him was that it took me so long to come out, and what took her so long to figure things out.

I make no mistake in realizing how rare and lucky I am to have parents who were so immediately accepting and understanding of me. I have known too many friends who lost their families love, their friends trust, or even lost their own lives by force or by choice because the people who meant the most to them could not accept them for who they are. These are the people I despite the most; those who cannot accept and love their child because of their choice of a same-sex partner. Love is love, and it amazes me how so many parents would rather see their son with a hardcore, foul mouthed or unstable woman than an unwavering and loving male, or prefer to see their daughter marry their idea of “the right man”, than be happy with the right woman.

When I think about it, which I do a lot, I am so grateful for having the friends and family I have been surrounded with. Even my own father, a hard-core construction worker who hung out with the toughest bikers in town; when he found out, he simply smiled and slapped me on my back, and was only upset that I took so long to trust him; something I will always regret now that he has passed. I came out in a time when the benefits of the Stonewall Riots and gay civil rights were already fought for and being won day by day. I don’t have to hide in a closet or lie to anyone, including myself, about who I am. I am grateful for this and for all of those who came before me and fought for my right to be me.

We have a long way to go, still. Far too many people think it is still OK to yell “fag”, or beat down anyone who looks different from themselves - sexuality aside. People, I truly want to believe that all have an inner core that allows them to be good and accepting of anyone or any condition. It is not a choice to return a smile from a child; you simply do it without thought, as if your souls are communicating for a brief instant. But you have to choose hate! You have to decide to dislike someone, and allow yourself to be programmed to respond not in kindness or acceptance, but in judgment and hatred. These are the people who insist we cannot marry. These are the thoughts that allow people to see us as 3rd class steerage instead of the first class people any human being can be.

I always thought coming out would have been the most difficult thing in the world for me; having to explain that I had been lying to everyone about who I was, mostly admitting to myself, whom I hurt the most with these actions. We all know that growing up gay can be a challenge that most of us cannot escape unscarred; some of us didn’t survive the challenge at all. And I feel sad, almost guilty, for having it so easy compared to so many friends and people I will never meet, that did not; or those in other countries who are still put to death daily for the mere utterance of the word, or thoughts of action.

Historically, we are a race who does discriminate. Whether it was the American Indians, African Americans, Chinese, or every other race that is not our own individually. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920, and for decades to follow they were never considered equal, and even today, they still have to fight a little harder to be treated equal. Being gay or lesbian comes with similar struggles, and many religions feed the flames of hatred against us; but even then, times are changing. 2 years ago I was able to do something that, 20 years prior, no one would have thought possible. I was able to marry my husband, legally, and fight for that right still for others to be able to do so, also.

It is a hard life for any of us, harder still for most others. But we are here, and though we have had to fight to prove it, we are out and proud. If being gay was a choice, I know I would make it again and again. I was lucky to have such wonderful friends and family, and my only regret was waiting so long to accept myself. When I see today’s youth, many only 14-15 and running around with gay pride stickers or necklaces, I find myself in awe of how easy they might have it. For some of them, they see it as a sense of entitlement, daring anyone to say anything negative. What a long way we have come. I may have had it easy, but I wonder if some haven’t had it even easier than I did. Despite this, there are so many more who are still being ostracized by their family and friends for being honest about whom they are.

Today, perhaps this moment, someone is taking that deep breath, and admitting to themselves who they are, then summoning the courage to tell their mother or father the truth about themselves. A moment from now, he or she may be shunned and made to feel unloved and less of a person. My greatest hope is that someday, we can all be who and what we are without fear of judgment from those we love, or anyone else. That all countries can embrace their citizens and their individuality, without it being a capital offense. Until then, my greatest hope is that each person can find the love and acceptance from their family and friends as I did. But most importantly, I hope that we can all look in the mirror, see ourselves and love what we see, and not just accept who we are, but celebrate it without limitations.

- Shaun Taylor

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