National Coming Out Day 2016
Today is National Coming Out Day in, Canada, Switzerland, The Netherlands, US and UK. Everyone’s coming out story is a huge part of their development. I thought I’d share my personal coming out story with all of you.
In 1999, when I was 17 years old, my mother found a collection of porn under my bed. She had found a single copy of Playboy under my brother’s bed but left it there. My gay porn magazines were not in the same ‘normal’ or ‘tolerated’ category as Playboy.
I came home from school and my mother was waiting for me. She asked me what this was about. It was the third time she had discovered gay material under my bed. She had created some excuses for me in the past; I was stashing them for my friends, curious but not really into it, it was a phase. On this day, she asked and insisted, “You’re not gay, are you?” I didn’t deny it, I responded, “Would it be a big deal if I was?” My mother retaliated into ultimate Catholic denial mode and began scurrying about the house repeating a mantra, “you’re not, it’s just a phase, you’re not, it’s just a phase”.
Shortly after all this, I went to study in Dublin: a city 4 hours from home by train. I returned for a visit with the news I had broken up with my girlfriend. My parents were relieved I had a girlfriend but worried I’d get her pregnant. The news of the breakup was received with mixed emotions. My mother was sitting on a swivel chair in the kitchen eating her dinner with her back to me. I was seated at the dinner table; I cautiously revealed the news of the breakup. She asked, “Why?” I said, “Because I’m gay mom.” She slowly turned in her chair: looked at me and began a prepared speech. Something to the tune of, “keep it to yourself for now”, “it may not be forever” and “if word gets out, it could affect the rest of your life.” She then went back to eating her dinner. She quietly mused, almost to herself, that she would tell my father. Having found gay porn under my bed three times certainly gave her forewarning that this day was coming. I escaped back to college and gay life in Dublin; relieved to be a little more me. My mother’s reaction was somewhat staged and bizarre but my secret was finally out, I was now her gay son.
A few weeks later I returned home to visit. It was late at night; my mother was in bed reading a racy paperback by Danielle Steele. She asked me to sit on the bed beside her. This was the first time we had seen each other since my coming out. She looked at me with tears in her eyes. This was a more real experience. She’d had time to digest and understand my coming out more deeply. She said, “Joseph, I want to apologize about how I reacted”. I looked at her and said’ “there’s no need”, She said, “No, I do. I have been talking to God and we’re both OK with you being gay”. She took my hand and said, “You are my son. Nothing’s going to change that”. I said, “I love you, mom”. She leaned into me and said, “but I do have one question. Does it not hurt up the botty?” I went from tears to laughter in a split second. I buried my head in the pillows and said, “Jesus, I don’t know mom, I’ve never done that and I never will.” (And at that time, it was the truth.) She replied, “Well good, don’t, cause it would probably hurt.” We both laughed. She kissed my forehead and we said goodnight.
That moment was a very special gift for us. I’m so glad discussing the pain of anal eased the pain of coming out. I was 18 when we had this exchange. My mother has passed away since then, but I have the invaluable knowledge that she really knew and loved me.
National Coming Out Day is an opportunity for those still living in secrecy to seize the moment and tell the people you love, who you really are. Reactions will vary, anger and denial may surface. You could be surprised by the amount of love and acceptance to be found. The main thing is to take it slow. Believe in yourself and only tell the people that matter.
In many European and North American cities, gay people feel safe enough to come out and live in the open. In other parts of the world it can be much harder for gay people to have that same feeling of security. There are still 75+ countries in the world where being gay is illegal. Our hearts and love go out to all members of the gay community. Those out and proud, those still on their journey to acceptance and those waiting for the environment around them to change for the better. PlanetRomeo Foundation is constantly working to try to improve the lives of people within the LGBTI community.
If you’d like to share your coming out story we would love to hear from you. Please send your stories to email@example.com.
Joseph – Social Media Officer