Looking back, it is hard to really pinpoint one single moment as when I came out. I grew up in a small farming community outside of Orlando, FL (the town name literally translates from Indian to “The Big Potato”… Yikes!). For as long as I can remember, I liked boys. I was just always different. I had a crush on Luke Skywalker, sang and danced along to Debbie Gibson, and played with Barbie’s. I loved musicals, the solo-flex commercials with sweaty men, and fashion. Not exactly your typical farm boy.
Not surprisingly, this never really sat well with my family or the people I grew up around. I was always the kid everyone called “Fag” or teased for being girly. It seems everyone knew I was gay before I did. I struggled with the feelings I had for other boys and tried to bury them. I tried to date girls, pray it away, or act “more like a boy” by attempting sports. By high school, I was already labeled as the token queer, even though I continued to deny it.
My life really started when I was kissed by my first boy my junior year at a rehearsal for the school musical (God bless you, Rogers and Hammerstein…) and realized I couldn’t deny it any longer. It was like finally waking up and realizing who I was. I continued to deny it publicly, but privately started trying to find out all I could about what being gay meant, which was not an easy task in a small town where everyone knew everything about you. I looked online at gay websites and traveled to other cities to go to their public library to check out books on the subject. I became an undercover gay detective looking for some sense that I wasn’t alone in how I felt.
I finally decided to go to New York University for college, realizing that I could never be who I really was in my hometown. Going to the city opened my eyes to a whole new and, might I say, super-gay world. It was a magical place where being gay wasn’t disgusting or something to be ashamed of, but instead was just a part of everyday life. I quickly came screaming out of the closet at school and never looked back.
After my first year away, I decided to come out to my family. I just couldn’t stand not being honest about myself with them. I hoped they would accept me and it wouldn’t matter, but I was wrong. My mother cried and said we shouldn’t talk about it. My father, already estranged from my family, yelled at me and has not spoken to me since (10 years and counting). My oldest sister said I wasn’t welcome in her home since I was a sinful deviant. Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. Only one of my sisters seemed unfazed and still talked to me like nothing had changed.
In the years since my coming out and the initial bad reactions, things have gotten much better with my family. My mother has accepted me and my amazing partner as full members of the family. My sister, who had at first disowned me, now wants us to be the god-parents of her child. My other sister, who is also married and straight, is heavily involved in the fight for LGBT rights because of her love for me. They have seen the positive changes in my life that have come from coming out and understand that I am truly no different, only more myself. They see that I am, in fact, better than I ever was when I was closeted.
It has been a long and difficult road at times, but coming out was truly the best thing I ever did and the most life-altering process I have gone through. I cannot imagine not being true to myself and who I am. I also cannot imagine my life without the love of my family. Luckily, I now have both.
Happy National Coming OUT Day!
Waymon Hudson, The Homo Politico, is founder and President of Fight OUT Loud, a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping LGBT individuals and their allies fight discrimination and hate. www.fightoutloud.org