National Coming Out Day

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Coming out as bisexual at age 24 had a profound impact on my life, in ways that I’m still feeling eight years later. At an age when I thought I would be meeting and falling in love with my future husband, I realized I was falling in love with a dear friend of mine, who happened to be a woman. It took me a long time to interpret the giddy feelings and butterflies as obvious signs of love, because this required me to change my understanding of my essential nature.

At whatever age it happens, and in whatever social context, the first step of coming out to oneself  requires a fundamental and deep questioning of one’s true self and identity. To question, wrestle with, and accept an unexpected and possibly unwelcome truth about oneself is a process that sets someone apart from those who fit unquestioningly into society’s norms.

Coming out as bisexual made me more humble and compassionate. I realized I was wrong about so many things I had taken for granted, about myself, and about other people. Coming out forced me to listen deeply to myself and to receive direction from my own innermost longings, rather than the well-intentioned but off-the-mark expectations from society, family, and friends.

But coming out as queer isn’t the only time my world has transformed radically. The next time I had to accept a difficult and unwanted truth about myself was when my Mom died. This shook my world, to the core of my identity. Who am I without the person who brought me into this world, sustained me and raised me, and loved me unconditionally? I had to come out to myself and others as someone who has suffered a great tragedy, as someone who no longer has a living mother on this Earth. Again, this process of acceptance (which is still ongoing, nearly 20 months since her death) has required a great deal of inner searching. It has required unequivocal acceptance of all the parts of myself: the parts that feel broken, the ugly, angry parts, the sobbing hopeless parts that feel like they’ll never mend. This path of acceptance has opened me up to finding deeper meaning and appreciation for life, and a renewed commitment to be true to myself.

Being open to what life has to offer, and being true to my innermost longings, has led to recent dramatic changes in my life. This past year, I have had to come out to myself, and to others, as someone who has fallen in love and decided to leave her marriage. When I realized last October that I had feelings of deep connection and attraction to someone who wasn’t my spouse, I went through a long process of denial, self-judgment, and trying to change my feelings. Through many difficult months, many difficult conversations, I realized I needed to accept truths about myself, my feelings, and what I wanted from my relationships.

I’ve been on an unintentional hiatus from blogging for the past several months, in part because I haven’t known how to write about what’s been going on. I have had to work through shame I’ve felt for having a failed marriage and for hurting someone I love. I’ve worried about judgment from people who don’t know the whole story. But thinking about the message of National Coming Out Day – accepting oneself and sharing one’s true self with others – has encouraged me to continue to share my stories.

I am now pursuing a new chapter of my life. I’m experiencing the joy of a new relationship, as my partner and I settle into Durham, North Carolina. It’s been difficult uprooting myself from the people and places I’ve known for the past nine years, but I believe I’m in the right place. I love writing at this sweet coffee shop a few blocks from our house, where they know what our regular drinks are. I’m working part-time at a non-profit and making intentional steps to figure out what’s next in my life. I’ve found a great therapist, a kick-ass rugby team, a supportive writing group, and a welcoming Unitarian Universalist church. And I hope to be back to regular blogging.

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