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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Come Out, Wherever You Are

Last month, I started corresponding with a great guy. "Sage" has been reading Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven for a while now. He is in his early twenties, and he recently wrote to tell me - gulp - I was a good example to him of what a gay man should be.

I know, I know. Me. A good example. He's young though. He's still learning.

Sage wants to come out to his friends and family and plans on doing so very soon. With all my heart, I hope it goes well for him. And since I am such a horrible warning great example, I feel qualified to share some thoughts on the matter:

Sage, you are about to give yourself a wonderful Christmas present. The gift of being yourself is one that will benefit you for the rest of your life. I should warn you, the first time you tell an old friend or a family member that you are gay, you'll feel horrible. For about thirty seconds. Maybe less. But as you begin to hear yourself saying, "This is who I am," you will immediately start liking yourself more. You will find yourself regretting every second of your life that you let your shame bully you into silence. But, finally, you'll be able to start living and experiencing true happiness. That's why they call it being gay, after all.

As a gay person, you become used to lying. You become used to pretending. By doing that, you deny yourself hundreds of opportunities. You crush your own spirit. When you start telling the truth about yourself, you'll experience the thrill of openness and honesty. Your heart will beat stronger. You'll hold your head higher. You'll laugh heartily. It's better than sex, Sage. I can't wait for you to feel it.

Sage, the friendships you make from this point forward will be honest friendships. Can you imagine how wonderful it feels to hang out with a group of friends who really know you? Do you realize the fulfillment you'll receive when you finally tell a friend that you are gay and they reply, "It must have been so lonely. I wish you had told me sooner"? As you and that friend embrace, you'll wonder why you were so scared in the first place.

I'll be honest with you, Sage. Some people may reject you after you come out to them. I certainly hope you don't experience too much of that. But being rejected is not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen is that you would lie to someone in order to keep them from rejecting you. When you lie to a parent or sibling or friend in order to keep them from despising you, well, that's cheating. No fair. They "love" someone who is pretending, and you "love" someone you don't really trust. Remember that no matter how others respond, you are telling the truth. Therefore, you win.

If friends leave you behind or if family members turn their backs, you will find others step in to fill the void. I promise you that new friends will take your hand and stand beside you. A strong family will surround you. It may or may not be the family you were born into, but this family will accept you and love you. They won't ask you to pretend.

Those that reject you will lose. That is not your battle to fight. It's their own (unnecessary) battle. All you are required to do in this life is to be authentic. Be who you are, and don't hurt people. Just love, Sage. And be your awesome gay self.

I'll be thinking of you and toasting you in Portland. Yeah, sure, I'd probably be drinking Maker's Mark anyway, but it's nice to have a really good reason to do so.



J 1 said...

What a wonderful post. Being friends with some gay men, I'm in continuous awe of how brave they (you) are.

Anonymous said...

I just found your website through your post on camp songs and was flipping around when this post seriously suprised me. It's always seemed impossible to feel others sincerity online, but you are something else.
You're a wonderful person.

Anonymous said...

I waited until I was 50 to come out, and it was the most important move I made in my entire life. True friends don't care, they will love you anyway. I recommend it highly. Good luck.