National Coming-Out Day / by DePaul Vera

The last time I told a lie was to my mother about my sexuality. I was 20. I finally accepted that I was gay at 17, but I've known since I was 9.

I came out to my family the summer of my freshman year of college, a month after GaGa released Born this Way. I was already feeling empowered when she dropped the single three months prior, but after dissecting the album's lyrics and being surrounded by a great support system, I decided that this was my time to move on. I was tired of hiding and deflecting so many mannerisms that justified gay culture - according to my family (feminine traits, high pitch voice, lack of male-oriented interest, etc) Finally, while I was living with my foster family, not only did I have a safe environment but was genuinely ready to express my sexuality in all ways. The day I came out, I vowed judgment would no longer stifle my creative expression.

 Just a couple of hours prior to coming out.

Just a couple of hours prior to coming out.

It was on the evening of June 23, 2011, when I came out. After spending the day with old high school friends - trying our best to stay connected since graduating, I remember asking them to drop me off a few blocks away from my mom's place. Figured some walking would help me prepare my elevator speech. I told them today was going to be the day and they reassured me they were always here for me. As I made my way down the road, my mind racing with every possible scenario - they all involved her crying - I couldn't find the right phrase to prepare. No matter how many times I wanted to get this right, I had to let this happen on its own. The housekey felt a little heavier this time and turning the lock was a little bit rough too. I heard the TV, some movie dialogue filled the air. She had cooked dinner for us but was already calling it a night. All snuggled in her bed, I sat in her chair across the room as we greeted each other. "How was your day, baby, did you buy me anything?" "Nah, ma, just hung out and spent time with friends. What you did you do today" I asked. She looked back at the TV and said, "This." I watched a bit of it with her before bluntly saying, "I need to tell you something." Her soft eyes came back to mine and I just looked down, with my head falling into in my hands. "What, baby? You're scaring me. What's wrong?" I whispered, "I'm Bisexual." This was a lie. She sat up and just looked at me. I told her I've known for a while. But she just looked at me. "It's ok baby, we can pray, and you will be healed. We'll tell the church and they can help you." That's when I looked back at her, "I don't need to be healed, ma, I just wanted you to know. From me, and nobody else." The tears started and she began blaming herself and wondered what happened in my past to convert me. Immediately I was appalled and felt no remorse when I started to walk out. I understand her perspective now, but back then, I was upset she couldn't love me for me and it was demeaning that she insisted on the church to heal me. She shot out of bed to follow me, "Can't we just talk about this?" Leaving her house key on the kitchen counter, "I've told you everything I've needed to say."

I turned my phone completely off while I closed her door behind me. I didn't want anyone contacting me as I walked back to my foster family's house. I know my mom, and she can spread the word to our family and everyone in our hometown faster than any social media today. And I wasn't wrong, the next day when I turned my phone back on, everyone was contacting me saying that they knew I was gay before I did and telling me to call my mom. I needed my time just as she needed hers. Throw me in the category of, "The hardest person to come out to is yourself." All my life, my family made it difficult for me to accept my sexuality; their bullying and teasing was fueled with so much anguish that it forced me to hate myself for even contemplating being gay. I didn't want to be what they called me, even though I knew I was. I could never imagine a world of being out and proud because what was there to be proud of? My family had completely obliterated any sense of that. I told my mom I was bisexual then because I figured it would be an easier transition for her to accept homosexuality. I was wrong, I needed that buffering period to clarify with myself where I stood. And today, that scale is still buffering. Sexuality is very fluid for me, (and I wish it was for everyone) I find myself more attracted to features, vibes, and personalities than genitalia, at times. Although I prefer men, I will never let that aspect of my sexuality hinder me from experiencing what others have to offer.

It wasn't until I began researching Gay rights movements and embracing Queer studies that I started to become proud of my sexuality and grateful for the struggle of those before me. I had this same emancipation with my Black heritage later in my life that I will blog about too. It took me a while to manifest that I had become the person I needed when I was younger. Today, I've never felt more proud to be Queer, in my actions, in my research, and in my life. I just hope I'm able to encourage someone else in this lifetime to never give up on themselves.