One year ago today I found peace with the hand I was dealt and made the conscious decision to share a part of myself with someone close to me. With pen in hand and fear in mind I wrote a letter to one of my best friends, telling her that I’m gay. In less than an hour I put my heart and looming insecurities on paper, completely unsure if I could even find the strength I needed to ultimately share it when I was done. Somehow, though, with shaking hands I sealed the letter and dropped it in the mail to only be met with an overwhelming sense of dread after the fact.
I was overcome with thoughts about what would happen next and how I would even begin to tell everyone else. I was terrified and with each passing moment I was coming up with various plans to backtrack and undo what I had just done. After a few minutes (or hours to be perfectly honest) I found an inner calm that allowed me to regain my composure and simply wait for what was to come. Two days later I came face to face with my friend and within a matter of minutes it seemed like everything that I had been so worried about was for nothing. It was all irrelevant because to her I was the same person she had known right along, with a few more dimensions that had been previously overlooked. To her I wasn’t gay, straight, or representative of any label; I was a human being and her best friend. To her it didn’t matter; all that mattered was my happiness.
So with a newfound confidence and sense of surety from her support, I found an inner strength that I never knew I had; the strength to face those who find fault in me living my life as the person I was born to be. As I grew stronger and more ready to face myself and those around me, I realized the true weight of keeping a secret that immense and of hating myself for something that I cannot control. With each person I told and with both positive and negative reactions, I began to see myself and the world in a whole new light. I began to see not what I was losing, but rather what I was gaining instead: a sense of worth, a feeling of pride, and the gift of acceptance for myself and for others.
In the year that has passed since I “came out” I have transformed into someone that I don’t entirely recognize and for the first time in my life the reflection I see in the mirror isn’t one that I loathe or even dislike in the slightest; the reflection I see is something to be proud of. In a year’s time I became someone who doesn’t shy away from inequality and bigotry, but rather faces it head on with courage and conviction. Never once since I came out have I regretted my decision to share that with the world because in the time since I’ve gained more than I could have even imagined and never felt more whole than I do now. I’m gay, I’m proud, and for the first time in my life I’m not afraid.
To everyone who has supported me and embraced me for who and what I am, I thank you. Your support in the last year has been crucial to my development not only as a gay man, but as a human being. Words cannot express enough how deeply agonizing it can be at times to live in a world where I’m not fully accepted. To have people who see me as a person and not a thing that needs to be fixed means more than you’ll ever know.
And to everyone who has treated me poorly and made me feel like my sexual orientation is a disease, I pity you for not only forsaking a good friend, but for missing the bigger picture. All I can say is that I don’t need you and it took me a long time to realize that I never did. I’m strong, independent, and entirely unashamed of the hand I was dealt. If anything you were the ones who were holding me back from the life I deserve. I just hope that one day you’ll be able to see the world and people as I do: connected. Free your mind. I promise you’ll be happy you did.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry