I remember the very first time I stood and openly counted myself as a Lesbian.
I was standing on 6th Avenue in San Diego watching my very first Gay Pride Parade. Near the end of the Parade I could see this 300-foot gay flag making its way down University Avenue. It looked like it was floating down the street as people joined in and held the flag on its side or they walked underneath it and held it up, as it slowly made its way toward me.
As the flag made its way on to 6th Avenue, my partner Susan insisted that I go take a hold of this flag and walk the few blocks to Balboa Park. “It will change your life” she told me.
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I was 50 years old, I was walking under a 300-foot gay flag holding my partners hand, sobbing like a little girl, and I was finally free – finally.
Life as a homosexual isn’t an easy life. From the time you know you’re gay until the moment you say out loud to the world around you: “I’m gay” could be 10 years, 15 years 30 years or in my case, 50 years. Some people never find the courage to say it out loud and live their lives hidden in shame and denial.
I always knew I was a lesbian, I just would never allow myself to admit it. So, I did what every other closeted lesbian does, I got married and told myself it would be fine, my life would be just fine. But, it wasn’t fine; life never is when you aren’t living in your own truth, and I certainly wasn’t living in any sort of truth.
The truth was; I was afraid to come out. I was afraid of what I might lose; afraid of what people might think, afraid that my life as I knew it would be over. I hated being closeted, but it was comfortable. I had my family, I had money, I had a home, I had my church, and I had tradition. I told myself my life was okay, and this was more than what I could hope for.
I realized that sunny Saturday in July of 2002, standing under a 300-foot gay flag that this – this was the day I had hoped for my entire life. From that moment under that flag on, there have been no more lies – to me or to anyone who is a part of my life. There was no looking back; I had “Come Out”…
Is “Coming Out” scary? You bet it is. I lost family and friends and heard more Bible readings than you could imagine. The days of sitting around a Holiday table with my family are long gone. It won’t happen ever again, and what I’ve come to understand from this is that family isn’t about blood. Family is about love and acceptance and tolerance. Family is about community and support and understanding.
My partner Susan has given me family. Kids and grandkids and more love and acceptance than I ever received from my own family. We also are blessed to live in a neighborhood where our neighbors are loving and kind and simply care about us as human beings. They are also our family.
Coming Out should never be thought about in terms of what you might lose. If should be thought about in terms of what you have to gain. You. That’s what you have to gain. If you lose all of your family and all of your friends but you gain your self-respect and your own identity – you win.
Just know this; you are never alone, there are always, always places to go, and people to talk with. Seek us out, talk to us as you make your way in the world. And go to a Pride Parade – If you see that 300-foot flag at the end of the Parade – walk into the street, grab onto that flag, and walk proud. It will change your life.