It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?
Yes, yes it has.
The last time I posted was fresh off my exciting California trip, just as I was preparing to begin teaching a whole new group of students. I had every intention of blogging at least once per month. We all know how that turned out.
But I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my teaching. I’m in love with my job again. I’m trying so many new things with my students from self-assessments to taking a step away from full-class reads and allowing students to choose books within a genre to read instead. It’s exciting. Fresh. Scary. Wonderful. It makes me feel bad for the teacher I was the past couple of years, but I also realize that’s part of growing. For the first time since I started teaching middle school, I feel like I’m able to actually focus on teaching vs. directing. Not that I regret my years doing drama, but it was time to grow in other areas.
My mental health is much better. That’s not to say I don’t have ups and downs or that I always manage my time wisely. I’m human, after all. No amount of medicine can make me productive. Except coffee. Coffee always wins. Your argument is invalid.
A lot has changed since that post in August. Besides trying to be the best teacher I can be, I’ve finally announced my truth. What truth? The truth that I’m 100% gay–always have been. It’s been a slow process over the years. I’m not sure I ever discussed it on my blog post.
But here I am. And I’m not apologizing for it.
I started with close friends a few years back and was met with nothing but support, both local and long-distance. Those friends mean the world to me. You know who you are.
During a heated political argument nearly two years, I told my mom. It was the opposite of support. The slow process continued. Friends offered support, but most of my family did not. I expected as much considering I was raised in a highly conservative evangelical home. I grew up in a place of White privilege where the norm was the White straight male and women submitting to men. I hardly questioned it growing up. Why would I? Instead, I hid who I was because I knew the response would be terrible.
Oh, I tried to pray the gay away. I tried to make deals with God. I did my fair share of self-loathing because I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was a defect on the human assembly line. After all, I was taught that homosexuality was an “abomination” and a disgrace to God. It was the message of “love the sinner, hate the sin” that is really a facade to justify hatred and inequality. Trust me. I know. I grew up around parents who would balk at any signs of homosexual relationships on TV. I remember when two guys in Glee kissed my parents freaked out, muttering how disgusting that was and that nobody wanted to see that–that showing love between two guys was immoral and shoving the LGBT+ community down their throats. When Once Upon A Time introduced a fierce lesbian couple, the show was banished because how dare they show that!
Yet the heterosexual relationships were never questioned. How was it fair they get screen time but people like me don’t? What message does that send to people hiding in the dark, afraid to speak up about their truths?
Instead, this disgusted response to the rising gay community only made me hate myself even more. I was trained to think I was disgusting, a mistake, an abomination in God’s eyes. I was cursed. Doomed. Unworthy. And I knew that if I came out during my teenage years, I’d probably be put into some sort of gay conversion camp.
So fear stayed my tongue.
I lived a secret life.
I stayed in the dark, hidden away.
But then I moved away from home–like to another state. I still hid for quite some time, but education is a powerful thing. I began to learn more and more that there was no shame in who I am. I did studies that actually add context to the “hate verses” evangelicals use so frequently against people like me. I researched. I found I was not an abomination or a mistake or defected.
I’ll never forget the first words from a family member when I came out to them: “No. No. I did not give birth to that.” It went on that this family member told me that they cried themselves to sleep that night. Future discussions would accuse me of being selfish because I hadn’t considered their feelings when I told them I was gay, that I wasn’t considering how hard my truth was to them. It was even suggested that me being gay was a mental illness and that I should talk to someone so they could “fix” me.
Those are words that can’t ever be taken back and even though I know none of what was said by them is true, it still sucks. Words stick.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m normal. I’m who I am and nobody will keep me quiet.
A few months ago, I told another family member I was gay. Yes, it was during a heated political argument once again. Maybe it’s not the best time to tell family I’m gay, but alas. It happened. Through text, I was “laughed” at and told that the joke was on me because they always knew I was gay. When I said I kept quiet because I feared the reaction, they said I was simply trying to shift the blame to somebody besides myself. Again, it was my fault. Maybe in part it was, but the fault doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders for keeping silent.
And then I was told that my dad had always hoped my mom would pass away before she found out I was gay because of the trauma he feared it would cause her.
Just… take a moment to consider that.
Thinking about that too much makes me angry and sad.
I’m sure their side of the story would be vastly different as an attempt to save face, to save names, would be made. But the damage is done. The words have been spoken. It hasn’t been an easy process; it was never going to be.
I posted on Facebook (ya, I’m back on there for some reason) that I was gay and mentioned some of what I faced from family due to being gay. I was met with an abundance of support and love from friends and people I haven’t talked to in years. I had some people reach out privately to me, saying that too, were living their truth in secret for now.
I noticed I was completely blocked by both parents, not that it mattered. We have vastly different views of the world and politics, of what humanity looks like. But that’s a story for another post. One of them tried to call me a few hours after my post; I ignored the call. I can only imagine the screaming and yelling I would’ve been met with. I’d probably be told I was selfish to post that, to expose my gay nature to others, to talk about the words said upon me coming out. But I don’t regret it. It needed to be said because this kind of shit happens to people daily.
There’s no mystery as to why suicide rates amongst the LGBT+community are high. It’s because of stuff like this. I mean I’d be lying if I said I never contemplated that path growing up or even weakly tried it.
People need to know that it’s okay to be who you are. I know it’s a cliche thing to say, but I can’t stress the freedom that comes with being honest with who you are and being open about it–to not hide. I used that as a brief lesson with my students when talking about being true to your identity during a ROAR lesson. I told them I was gay because how could I tell them to be true to their identity yet still hide mine? I had to be vulnerable and trust them as human beings. None of them reacted poorly. They actually hardly flinched, but they were all smiles. And I love them for that. To them, it didn’t seem abnormal at all. There’s hope for the future.
I don’t regret coming out, nor should I. I’m proud. I’ll never forget a line Jennifer Lawrence says in the movie X-Men: First Class. Despite persecution against who she was born as, a mutant, she finally says, “Mutant and proud.” That always stuck with me. I’m gay and proud.
I’m just glad I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. As I said earlier, education is a powerful thing. It has allowed me to be more informed, more accepting, and a better human. It doesn’t mean I’m flawless. I have much to learn. There’s a lot of education still to be had as I try to see past my White privilege, to continue living my truth, and working to be the best I can be.
So, be yourself. Be true. Be open. If you’re afraid, I get it. I’ve been there. Will you lose friendships or maybe even family by being true to yourself? It’s hard to say for sure. Whatever your truth is, whatever you feel you have to hide from those around you, don’t. Life’s too short to keep parts of yourself hidden. If you hide in the dark, that darkness will infest your mind. It will whispers lies to you, make you feel like garbage, and shame you. Relentlessly. But if you open yourself up–if you let the light in–nothing can squash who you are. You can live your life free and happy. The risk is worth it.
There’s a powerful song that I adore, a song that captures everything about this process. I want you to listen to it. No, I want you to do more than listen to it. I want you to hear it in your heart. I want you to study the lyrics. Embrace them. Live them. Maybe you need to listen to the song multiple times. Sit back. Close your eyes. Let this piece of art work inside you as it has for me. Be empowered.
Make no apologies. Don’t let the shame sink in. Burst through the barricades. Be warriors. Don’t let people break you down to dust because there’s a place for you. BE YOU!
And see The Greatest Showman if you’ve never seen it because that song (in context) is such a powerhouse. It captures the message.
I’ll leave you with this, something I told my students when I came out to them, something to fight the fear of being true and open to those around you:
The people who matter will accept you as you are.