My Experience & What I Learned

Make sure you visit my coming out page as well.  Also, you can read stories shared by others here and please share if you are comfortable with it.  The more stories the better.

I came out of the closet when I was around 23 (around 2003).  Seems like such a different world! I had known I was gay my entire life and pretty much tried to conceal it from my loved ones and even myself. I dated girls, had some closeted relationships with men and essentially lived a split life. I was teased a good amount as a child growing up. I didn’t have very many male friends and many of the guys would tease me by calling me a derogatory name or something like that.  I am proud to say that I never really hid my true self as I was growing up.

One of my favorite memories of my childhood was when Madonna sent me a letter (ok her publicist wrote me a letter and Madonna sent me a note + an autographed picture).  I was in junior high school at the time.  Madonna was just in Esquire and I wrote the publisher a 13-page letter! I went on and on about how much Madonna has inspired me (mind you I was 13 at the time) and how she was my hero.  I closed the letter by including an invitation for Madonna to my bar mitzvah.  Several weeks later, I received a note back from the publisher! He said that he personally forwarded my letter and bar-mitzvah invitation to Madonna’s office.  I nearly had a stroke! Several weeks after that, I received a box from Boy Toy INC.  Not sure if anyone remembers that but it was Madonna’s company back in the day.  Madonna’s manager sent me a letter saying that Madonna she read my letter and passed it on to Madonna directly.  She went on to say how moved they both were.  I could have just died of happiness at this point (even if she was being nice).  THEN, there was the picture.  Madonna had sent me a signed picture that read “Thanks for the wonderful letter.  Sorry I missed your bar mitzvah.  All of my love, Madonna”.  Back to my point of being teased.  I made 200 copies of that autographed picture and I just plastered the halls of my junior high.  Believe it or not, I didn’t get any grief for that.  I just couldn’t figure out why the guys thought I was gay…oh and I had bleached my hair (orange) and had blue contacts.

Back on to the topic of growing up.  I never felt like I had a shortage of friends. I had plenty of girlfriends (friends only) around at all times. As I grew up, I learned how to conduct myself more in a way that was socially acceptable and would allow me to blend in more with the masses. In college specifically, I forced myself to follow sports (it wasn’t THAT bad) and I even worked at Fenway Park! I met a guy that worked in the industry (I’ll leave it at that) and we had a closeted relationship for the majority of the time I was in college.  I met this man when I was 20 and we dated until I was 23.  Both deeply closeted.  He was older and because of his work/family he could “never come out”.  I was ok with that at the beginning because I was essentially at the same place emotionally.  As  time went on and the relationship grew, I fell in love.  It was the first time I had allowed myself to fall in love with a man.  Long story short, it didn’t end well.  I told him I wanted to come out and he told me that he was straight.  Funny how that works.  Believe me folks…there was nothing straight about him other than the image he worked SO hardly on maintaining.  Textbook closet-case.  I ended the relationship with a broken heart.  At the time, I still hadn’t come out to any friends.  I called my mom and dad in hysterics telling them I was coming home to talk.

I went home from Boston to come out to my parents.  It was my last year of college.   At that point, I had made the decision that I was ready to walk away from anyone who wouldn’t accept me because I realized that there was nothing wrong with me.  I put myself through hell getting there but it made me a stronger person.  I only have one regret from my early 20’s and that is not coming out to my best friends earlier.  Back to my parents.  The conversation was painful and flat out nasty.  My mom is from Israel (Iranian background) and my dad was born in Iran.  Not exactly a liberal family when it comes to sexuality.  In my family there was no divorce.  The women don’t have careers.  The men do.  My family is Jewish and fairly religious.  When I had come out to my parents and family, I heard things like “you are sick”, “don’t ever have sex again”, “how could you do this to me”, “don’t get HIV”, “would be better if you had cancer”, “disgusting” and so on.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  I immediately distanced myself from my parents and the bigoted family members.  My parents slowly came around over the next few years.  Looking back, I am really proud of how strong I was during that time.  It truly made me a stronger/better person.  I then came out to all my friends.  Best friends first.  All my friends were AMAZING.  Simple as that.  The reaction I received from my friends was the polar opposite of the reaction I received from my family.  I quickly found my support system.

Shortly after this, I met someone new.  He had a similar background as I (Israeli American mix) and was easily the best thing that ever happened to me.  He had already come out and had a great support system.  His mom was beyond amazing and supportive.  She is actually one of my heroes.  I adore her.  My relationship with that man (let’s call him Bob) helped me grow to become someone I would have never become without him.  Bob was 2 years younger than me but about 20 years older than me when it came to emotional intelligence.  We grew together.

As I transitioned to my mid-20’s, I learned how to respect myself.  Additionally, I was able to stay clear of the many bad temptations that come with your 20’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I had fun but I was pretty put together comparatively speaking to some of the hot messes out there.   Bob and I dated for 9 years and we have since parted ways…but this isn’t a blog about my love life so let’s move on.

Fast forward to my 30’s.  Career is going great.  Mom and dad are amazing and my best friends.  Both my parents have come so far.  I am very proud of them both.  Most of my family is 100% supportive.  With the exception of the token bigot family member who lives in 1950 (Iran in 1950).  My dad came around a bit quicker than my mom (took him about a year or so after I came out).  My mom was fully on board about 4-5 years after I came out.  I am the only openly gay person in my family still.  I’m just waiting for someone else to grow a pair (hint hint to my family that is reading this).  The coming out experience was quite turbulent for me.  I never lost faith in myself or lost site of the fact that my sexuality shouldn’t define me.

Here are some things that I learned during the coming out process. Before and after.

  • Your friends won’t even think twice about it when you come out. They will support you. If not, they aren’t your friends. I had a big whopping 0 friends walk away from me when I came out. Ironically, I became much closer with my straight male friends. The girls of course, were my favorite. I will always have a special place for all my girls in my heart.  Each of my best friends was overcome by joy when I came out.
  • You will immediately become a stronger person when you come out.  It is amazing how quickly the insecurities will fade away.  Living as a “straight” man was challenging for me! I would be asked if I was gay at least once a month or so.  Sometimes from complete strangers and it wasn’t necessarily malicious (although not the best thing to ask a stranger). I remember going out with a friend and people she knew would ask her if I was gay…that was never a fun experience.
  • You will quickly begin to learn that the problem was never you.  The sad reality is that the negative things you heard growing up or as an adult about being gay is all just plain wrong. For me, my family was a major reason why I delayed coming out.  My parents both were quite vocal about their opinions on the gay community…my mom would refer to the gay community as “those people”.  I learned that many people are simply misguided and misinformed.
  • The parents/family.  There are SO many different variables that will essentially determine how your parents or family react to you coming out.  Guess what? You have control of ZERO of those variables up until you come out.  Things like national origin, religion, education, family history and so many other factors.  Much to my dismay, I can’t control everything and neither can you.  Here is what you can control as you come out to your family.
  1. Choose a good time to tell them.  By good time, I mean a good time for you! Don’t make the mistake I made and tell them over a broken heart (foolish boy that I was!).  Telling your parents you are gay while you are heartbroken and sad may feed into one of the unfortunate stereotypes/fears that being gay is a sad lonely life.  Also, avoid telling the family over a holiday dinner.
  2. Try not to react.  Show them that you are strong.  You may have to educate them.  Some of us have to educate our families more than others.  My family is Persian/Jewish.  Took some time there… Regardless, just remember that being gay is as natural and normal as being straight. Be prepared to patiently work with your family.  At the same time, stand up for yourself.  Don’t ever apologize for being who you are.
  3. Be armed with your support system.  As I mention on the coming out page, arm yourself with a support system.  You will need someone to talk to and you will need support.  No matter how the conversation with your family goes, it is good to have other people to talk to.
    I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have a coming out story? Need some advice? Please use the form below to get in touch.  I love hearing from people so don’t be shy! 

 

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