The first person I ever came out to was my friend Stacey. It’s easy to understand why I chose to tell her first. Stacey has the kindest demeanor about her. Everything from her laughter to her body language expresses acceptance. To this day, I am hard pressed to think of anyone with a more benevolent tone to their voice than Stacey. She smiles a lot, and she always has this unique expression on her face that seems to say, “Go ahead, whatever it is you want to say, I won’t judge you at all”.
I met Stacey in college and the night I decided to tell her that I was gay happened to be during our junior year. I had been anticipating it all night. I remember we had been hanging out, ate a bunch of junk food, and watched a movie. After the movie we were just sitting in her room talking when I finally leaned towards her and said, “So, I want to tell you something. It’s kind of a big deal…” Now, I said it with a nervous enough tone to my voice that she immediately lowered her voice, trained her eyes on me with concern, and replied, “Okay…”
I remember taking a deep breathe and jumping out of my chair because I was so nervous. I remember a lot of walking around the room, darting in circles. I remember a lot of flailing my arms around as I repeatedly yelled about how scared I was. I also did a lot of nervously clenching my hands into fists and avoiding eye contact with her. I kept saying things like, “I’m sorry I just can’t say it” and “Oh man, oh man, oh man” and “Jesus, Stacey, this makes me so freakin’ nervous”.
Considering that she had no idea what I was getting at, Stacey was supportive in every way she knew how to be. She was patient as I freaked out. She tried to calm me down. She tried to get me to just say it. I remember that it took me an hour to finally tell her. And I remember it feeling like 8 hours. It was hard to just say it. Saying nothing had begun to feel safe to me. Staying silent was the price I paid to feel safe.
Now, she would be the first person I said this out loud to. What terrified me the most about that was after I told her; there would be no going back. You cannot unsay something like that. I kept thinking about how big of a deal that was. How I was changing my life forever. Once I said it, then it would be real. My declaration would make it true.
Yet, even with all of these worries and apprehensions, this need to tell her still burned inside of me. It’s amazing, I was so afraid of the truth, so afraid of my life changing forever, but I could still feel this need underneath all of that. At last, the need to speak the truth far out weighted the fear. I think all closeted men and women eventually reach this breaking of the equilibrium, and that’s when we finally say it out loud. There comes a point where saying nothing just doesn’t feel safe anymore. When we reach that point, we not only find our voice, but we start learning how to scream.
That night, Stacey helped me speak. I remember her finally getting worried and taking control. She got slightly stern with me and said, “Adam. Seriously. You are starting to scare me. Just tell me what you are trying to say.”
So I stopped pacing, sat down next to her, looked at the ground because my eyes were too afraid to look up, and I said, “I’m gay.” It felt like someone just ripped a band aide off my arm. I barely got the words out and I followed them up with, “Oh my god, I said it. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. I’m sorry that took so long. Please don’t hate me. If you hate me, don’t tell me cause I can’t handle that right now.” I felt sick to my stomach. I continued looking down at the ground.
And Stacy replied, “Adam. It is fine. It is totally fine.” She put her hand on my arm. I managed to look at her. She smiled at me. I sheepishly smiled back. And as always, her face said, “I’m not judging you at all”.
And just like that, someone else knew I was gay. But most importantly, they knew because I had told them. I had summoned up the strength to tell her from my own lips. I had taken the first step.
And looking back on that very scary and very arduous first step, words alone cannot express how proud I am of myself.
The pride I feel today far outweighs the fear I felt then.
I found my voice. I found my words. And you are reading them…