On the eve of Pride NYC, I’m overwhelmed while reflecting on my ‘story.’ But what really is a story? A story is objectively defined as ‘an account of past events in someone’s life.’ We tend to process stories in a fixed, permanent format with a clear beginning, middle and end. Yet the way we understand, process, analyze and tell our story is more nimble and flexible than we think.
I tell my story constantly (and my friends can attest to that) but I’ll explain why. With every delivery of my story, I notice how my growing pride has completely transformed the narrative I tell. Five years ago, when I began my coming out process, the tone of my story was drenched in shame, fear, insecurity, apprehension, pain, anxiety and every other dramatic word you can think of. I went 6 months dating a girl without telling a single individual (after 18 years of failing at heterosexuality.) I lived in isolation of my intolerable fear of rejection. The first five people I came out to literally assumed I had a terminal illness. Each friend truly sighed of relief once I concluded ugly crying for 45 minutes of build up prior to the gay punchline.
In my first lesbian relationship, I was never comfortable enough to be fully out. I was constantly concerned with making others feel comfortable. I sacrificed showing affection in public, to make others comfortable. When family members would ask about my love life at holidays, I would panic and avoid the question altogether. I was constantly lying to everyone around me about the most transformative thing I’ve ever experienced, because I was worried about everyone else’s comfort level.
Coming out to family is probably one of the most challenging things any queer person will ever face. The main reason parents struggle with their child coming out, is because they have all these dreams for their kids: fitting in, safety, health, success, marriage, kids, happiness. Parents spend their entire life offering their children the tools, guidance and support so their child lives a life free of complications, pain and rejection. When a child comes out as gay, all of a sudden, parents realize that their kid is at a disadvantage, and that their life is inevitably going to be more complicated and difficult. But what most parents don’t realize is that these complications, difficulties, struggles; these setbacks are what make us stronger, more empathetic, more unique and most importantly; resilient.
The fears that once haunted me, now ignite me. I recently visited my alma matter, Ramapo High School, to attend their PRIDE group meeting. I have never in my life, been so uplifted by the LGBTQ+ community. As the veteran and ~adult, I anticipated to share my story, and offer advice, comfort and support in any way possible. In many ways, I gained more comfort, advice, and support from the students, than I provided for them. These students, some only 14 years old, exhibited such strength, passion and bravery — attributes that I just recently developed after years of struggling with my pride. I still struggle sometimes with my sexuality; in those moments, I remind myself of these students. Invest your energy in the youth; as cliche as it sounds, they are our hope for a future where love is celebrated in all forms.
I am now in a relationship with an amazing woman who has sparked my commitment to live as authentically as possible — to speak my truth unapologetically and to share my story in the hopes that it empowers others to live with pride, who share the same fears that I did when I began this journey. My proudest version of my identity is my queer self. I’m the most sympathetic, caring, thoughtful, generous and compassionate. Out of fear and shame, I hid this version of myself for far too long. As I slowly peeled back my layers of shame and insecurity, I started giving more and more people access to this version of myself. For the first time since coming out (and I widely attribute this to my girlfriend who is too humble to take credit), I feel completely comfortable being me, in all settings; online, offline, in public, in private, with friends, with family, with strangers, with coworkers, with myself.
With every bit of growth we experience — with every bit of resilience, we see our story in a new light; reframed in a context that reflects our growth. Every single time I tell my ‘story’, my pride beams brighter…louder…stronger.
If you are LGBTQ+ and are struggling in the early days of your coming out journey, remind yourself that your story is nimble, pain is fleeting and that every obstacle is paired with opportunity for growth. Embracing what makes you different, will set you free. I promise you, one day, you will reflect on how far you’ve come, and you too, will reframe your story in a way that fiercely embodies resilience, confidence, and so so, SO much pride.
What’s your story? I’d LOVE to hear. Reach out: @megagahubert