I remember pacing around my room. Biting my lip. Sitting down to bounce my leg for a minute before standing right back up. I remember telling myself: “You’re being dramatic. This literally doesn’t matter. You’re not gonna make it a big deal, so why are you making it a big deal?”
Frankly, it was my business and mine alone.
But I had been flying too close to the sun for months. At least consciously. I think subconsciously, I’ve known my whole life.
The point at the time was, I didn’t know how to approach the freedom just within reach. I could see it. I could feel it. Good got damn, I could practically taste it.
Who do I tell and how?
I had the luxury of being able to decide on my own.
My heart still races at the memory of it. Maybe that’s because I’m not out to everyone.
I told my sisters the full extent. I told my closest friends. Admittedly, the way I told my mom wasn’t ideal, but I still told her at least the super simplified version.
Over time, saying “I’m gay” became easier and easier. Sure, it’s a blanket statement for what I am, but I’m allowed to do that. I set the terms and conditions here.
One of those terms is: if I’m gonna be happy, I’m gonna have to disappoint my parents a little.
My dad died before I could come out – and maybe I’m remembering him through rose colored glasses – but I know in my heart that it wouldn’t have mattered. His goal was for me to become a good, kind person. I hit that mark at least 90% of the time. But I’m getting off the subject.
Disappointing my mom didn’t mean completely turning on her, or cutting her from my life, or any huge moment. I mean, it was huge for me, but I don’t think I can properly explain why to anyone who hasn’t had the experience themselves. It’s unique to everyone.
The first thing I did after coming out? Nothing. No part of my life changed except for what people called me – and it wasn’t even everyone. Just my closest friends. I asked my sisters to just use my deadname because it felt like too much hassle to explain it to everyone at work and all my extended family (plus, none of my aunts can keep a secret, so I’m not about to walk into that one).
It sounds underwhelming, but unless you’ve gone through it, I doubt you’d really understand just how much weight falls from your shoulders when you say the truth out loud. When my friends called me by my real name, I couldn’t stop laughing. My chest became so light – it was like I understood what breathing was supposed to feel like for the first time in my life.
I started telling people at work about my girlfriend. I participated easily in relationship conversation and no one batted an eye. The more I normalized it, the more people were happy to ask and engage.
Of course, I still have to disappoint my mom. I promise I haven’t forgotten about that paragraph, and I’ll tell you what happened.
I cut my hair.
It sounds simple, because it was. It always should’ve been.
In the past, people knew when I was going through it by how bad I damaged my hair. It was either too long and unmanageable, or just short enough that it would reach my chin (which definitely didn’t do my face shape any favors). I would bleach the hell out of each poor strand, dye it wild colors, and I once even tried an undercut. Which… wasn’t much of an undercut. I could only show it off when I put my hair into a ponytail.
This time, however, I meant business.
Mid-January, about a week after my nephew was born, I walked into a hair salon (pre-Covid, remember that?) and told the lady that I wanted a change. I hated the hair on my head; it was suffocating in the Texas heat, but even more so because it represented a part of me that was long dead. The other women in the salon watched in amazement as it was chopped and sheared and shaved away.
I used to have a long mane of thick, soft hair. A girl in my high school physics class used to ask if she could give me braids because she just adored touching it (and wow did that send sirens blaring through my gay brain). Another girl would always compliment it and ask what I did to achieve such volume and softness. While I enjoyed that attention, getting rid of the hair felt a million times better.
I had my Britney moment, and I can honestly say I don’t blame her for snapping.
I walked out and again, I thought the air was suddenly easier to breathe.
I texted my mom to meet me at the grocery store, and twenty minutes later, she saw what I’d done.
“You look like a boy!”
I know my mom better than anyone; she’s a coloring book when it comes to reading. I knew she hated it.
But if I was gonna be happy, I had to do this.
I said it to the next woman who cut my hair, “Yeah, my mom hates that I’m doing this, but I realized that if I’m gonna be happy, I’m gonna have to disappoint her a little.” The woman stopped and looked as though I’d just pulled a pot of gold from my pocket.
She looked down at me and said, “Wow… You’re right.” I could see her thinking about it; I could see her trying to figure out what changes she wanted to make. I remember thinking, good for her. I hope she was able to do it. Whatever “it” was.
I like to think I inspired her, at least for the day. And hell, I’m writing this particular entry because I was inspired.
About an hour ago, I looked through my YouTube subscriptions and saw that a mommy vlogger I watch came out. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t much of anything. It was simply her saying: I’m here, I’m queer. She had tears in her eyes because that message didn’t fly with everyone. I could feel a sinking pain in my chest. I thought, after all this time, I was fine.
But coming out isn’t always fine, as much as I wish it was. Sometimes there are still craters in your heart – giant holes where something happened.
Yeah, over time I’ve been able to fill the cracks and pour over those puncture wounds, but the phantom pains and scars still act up. There are nights where I’ll sigh and wish that I could legally change my name. I’ll wish that I wasn’t in Texas, because maybe it’d be easier to face my coworkers after that kind of change if I lived in New York. Or West Hollywood.
Sometimes I’ll remember how I came out to my mom and wish the circumstances were better.
Sometimes my sister will say something on the intolerant side and I’ll remember just how much this doesn’t affect her, and how much room she has to not care.
Then, other times, I’ll wear a dress I would’ve never dreamed of wearing five years ago. With an unshaved face and hairy legs. I’ll rock a soul patch and a cute, vibrantly colored romper. I’m terrified out of my mind sometimes, but it gets easier to do each outing. I get louder and louder each time I say “fuck you” to gender and the boxes it has created.
I’ve been tempted to ask my mom what she would’ve named me if I were a boy. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but I think we’re getting closer. I say this because the other day, I took her out to lunch, and she told me something that hasn’t left my mind since.
She brought up a coworker. This strangers’ son had passed away, and she was missing a lot of work because of that. Her coworkers’ grief was exacerbated by the fact that she didn’t see him much, because she married a man who was homophobic, and her son was gay. My mom talked about her coworker feeling guilty, and she made it clear that she wouldn’t have wanted the same regrets if it was her son.
While I know it doesn’t seem like much, this was a huge deal to me. This was her way of telling me that she accepted everything. She had my back again – if she’d ever stopped having it.
I realized while writing this that coming out is a process in ways most people don’t understand. You don’t come out once. Or even twice. You keep coming out until you personally feel that you’re all the way there. I came out about three years ago, give or take some odd months. I’m still coming out.
And God, it’s better each time. I might throw a party one of these days.