You are not alone

Chris Schaefer
July 18, 2016

I was first aware of being different when I was ten. It was a time when being queer was not openly discussed with children. For a brief period, there was one special friend with whom I became very close, and it felt wonderful to not be completely alone. Throughout my teen years, however, my mother, who was a middle school teacher, would deliver lectures on “latent homosexuality.” I never told her how I felt; rather, I believed my feelings would disappear in time. It would take until I was 20 to tell my best friend at the time that I “liked girls.” Fortunately, for me, she handled it very well, and we were able to continue our friendship.

Many of us have no safe place to “come out.” It can take decades. Some of us try to make heteronormative relationships work because of the fear of failing family, of failing God, of being shunned, or feelings of self-denial. There was a period in my life where my faith locked me in the closet because I began to believe that there was truly something wrong with me. I was taught that a forever family consisted of a man, a woman, and children, and that this was the only way to reach that part of Heaven that allowed me to live in the presence of God. I did not feel safe enough to be authentic. It wasn’t until I walked away from religion and found myself again that I truly realized all that I had missed.

Every added voice makes the world a little safer.

As a person who identifies as queer, I have had to “come out” over and over again. Every time someone “comes out,” people notice. There are those who are trying to summon the courage to do it themselves. Every added voice makes the world a little safer. My first cousin, Terry, did not have anyone to help him feel safe. He died of suicide, an early victim of AIDS, in a Hollywood hotel room in 1981. It took several days to find him. He was 26. I don’t want to think about anyone feeling that alone ever again. I would give anything to turn back the clock and let him know that I understood.

In the words of the great Harvey Milk, “Every gay [LGBTQ+] person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.”

If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.

More than six million people have come out on Facebook. If you are unsure of how you can come out, there are resources, including a useful article at WikiHow, or just search “coming out” and there are many choices. Find what feels safe for you. Decide whom you want to tell first. Don’t go back in the closet. If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down. You are not alone.

View all Blog posts