If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, then there are certain key moments that you’ll always remember.
Coming Out is certainly a big moment, and one that gets a lot of attention from both inside the community and outside of it. Depending on your situation, you may even come out a number of times, in a number of ways: To yourself, to your friends, to your family, to the world. Regardless of how exactly you did it, whether with simplicity or splendor, it’s something that is hard to forget.
But do you remember the first time you truly felt out?
For some individuals, that moment might very well be the same as when you came out. But for many, myself included, they are distinctly different.
I came out as bisexual on New Year’s Eve in 2015. Determined not to let the year of marriage equality pass without being true to myself, I made the announcement to my friends, and then my family, and then finally my extended world in a heartfelt Facebook post.
I was lucky enough to have my revelation greeted with an outpouring of love and support by all of the most important people in my life, and I am eternally grateful for that fact. But when the excitement of that announcement passed, I found that life very quickly returned to the way things were. Nothing really changed.
There are a number of reasons for why this happened. One was that, as a bisexual man, I had options: Because I was also attracted to women, I didn’t have to ever date a man to be fulfilled. Another was the fact that I didn’t have very many gay friends. My straight friends, though supportive, could be awkward to talk with about the subject of sex in general (and around the subject of gay sex in particular). The third, and probably largest reason, was the fact that I was recently out of a long-term relationship, and as such, I wasn’t actively dating or pursuing a relationship of any kind. I was taking some time to work on myself.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t have sex. I used Grindr and other apps to indulge in the occasional hookup from time to time. But the hookup culture is, as we all know, by its nature very much hidden.
This left me in a very odd position. I was openly bisexual, had a supportive network of family and friends, and was actively having sex. But a huge part of my sexuality was still hidden. I was out, but I found myself unable to break out of the habits that I had developed when I was in the closet.
Then, one day in early May 2016, a guy in my hometown asked me out on a date. Not a casual Netflix-and-chill date, but a real Date with a capital D: Sushi at a little restaurant on Main Street.
I was apprehensive about accepting the invitation. Sushi on Mainwhat if somebody saw?but ultimately decided to go. We settled to meet on Cinco de Mayo and, since everyone else in town was indulging in tacos and margaritas down the street, we had the restaurant to ourselves. It was a fun and intimate moment, shared over a few Philadelphia rolls and a Scorpion Bowl.
At the same time, despite the fact that I was having fun, I could sense that the staff was confused by us. Who were these two men sharing a drink with one straw? Why did his hand keep landing on my knee?
As someone so used to keeping this side of myself hidden, and someone who doesn’t like attention of any sort (in general), having all eyes on me was an uncomfortable experience. I found myself feeling extremely self-conscious, worried about what they were thinking, what they were saying to each other when they went back into the kitchen.
But then it hit me: I didn’t care. I didn’t care what the staff thought. I didn’t care who may have seen. I didn’t care if every single person in my town walked past that front window and saw me on a date with that man (although that would, admittedly, be an odd situation indeed).
It was at that precise momentthe moment that I said to myself I don’t care and actually meant itthat it all became a reality. It was the freest that I have ever felt, even more so than on the night I first came out.
I’ve struggled to put into words why exactly this is. A part of it probably has to do with the alcohol in the Scorpion Bowl. But I think the bulk of it came from the actual act of being seen.
There was something supremely empowering about being out in the open about myself and my sexuality after spending so much time hiding it. It was like an act of peaceful resistance, where what I was resisting was myselfthe me I was when I was scared and ashamed in the closet.
Being out, being seen, being visible, being represented, being able to be openly proud of who you arethese are important things for everybody to be able to feel. And I know that I’m lucky to be in a place where these things are possible for me. Not everyone is.
It seems almost sinful to squander the opportunities that I have that others don’t. I try not to. Sometimes I fail and retreat to the comfort of portraying the straight man that I know I can pass for in uncomfortable situationsat the family dinners, when hearing gay jokes out in public, etc. But more and more often, when I feel that urge to retreat into the familiar comfort of the closet, I find that I am able to calm myself, that I am able to stand my ground, and that I’m comfortable being seeneven if only to myself.
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