As you may know, this Saturday, Oct. 11 is “National Coming Out Day.” It is the 25th anniversary of the event, started in 1987 to commemorate the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, this year’s theme is “Coming Out Still Matters.” And it does.
It is amazing to me, living in San Diego, that there are still people, at least in North America, who look at two men or two women who have lived together for decades as “roommates.” Yes, I’m sure there are some couples who really are just friends. But most of us in that situation are much more than that. It matters because as we become more visible, the fear that many heterosexuals have about “those people” (being us in the LGBT community) starts to fade away.
If you are “out” to the world, or even a select number of friends and family members, you probably remember the day and time you first told someone. I certainly do. It can be a frightening, heart-wrenching experience if you grew up with a belief that you were somehow bad or less than. Thankfully, my coming out to my family was really a “non-event,” the news being greeted with love and compassion.
But no matter what our experience of coming out to world was, I believe it is a separate (and even more important) process as we come out to ourselves.
No matter the Pride events we attend, or the people we hang out with, or the bumper stickers on our cars, coming out to ourselves has to do with admitting, accepting and embracing who we truly are. It is being able to be comfortable in our own skin, treating ourselves with the same dignity and respect that we want from other people. It is being willing to invest the time and effort to look at what we really believe, and feel, about ourselves, and change what doesn’t make sense anymore.
How do we know if we are not out to ourselves yet? By looking at our lives. If we just can’t get and stay clean and sober, find and keep the loving and nurturing relationship, or do whatever it is we say we want to do, we might still have some shame, guilt and regret about ourselves or our past.
Sometimes, in trying to hide the truth of who we are, we might have made a mess. I certainly did. Coming out to ourselves is a process, not an event, and requires us to forgive ourselves and everyone else involved in whatever it was. The truth is that we did the best we could at the time, and by the way, so did everyone else.
In coming out to ourselves, we finally begin to make choices that really are in our best interests, embracing the people in our lives who love and nurture us, and releasing those who don’t. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to spend time with them. It means letting go of the anger and resentment you’ve carried, maybe for years or decades.
So in our celebration of “National Coming Out Day,” I invite, encourage and even challenge all of us to honor and celebrate ourselves, how far we have come, and the truth that the best is yet to be.
Take care of yourself.
The Rev. Jerry Troyer, a native of San Diego, is the senior minister of Joyful Living Spiritual Center, a non-denominational New Thought spiritual community. He is the author of the new book, “Coming Out To Ourselves … Admitting, Accepting And Embracing Who We Truly Are. Troyer and his husband, also named Jerry, live in the San Diego area with their golden retriever Roxie. Visit his website HERE.