In yet another sign that I’m a horrible gay man, I had no idea that today was National Coming Out Day. Actually, I had no idea such a day existed so I imagine that makes it even worse.
I guess this manufactured holiday you only discover through social media is a day people deep in denial about the natural order of their sexual eruptions step forward and say, “I’m here, I’m queer but I’m just getting used to it.”
Uh, welcome to the fold, ya’ll?
While I doubt anyone who might be gay but doesn’t want to be knows about the occasion (if openly gays don’t know, why would the closeted ones), I do like to encourage people to be themselves no matter how hard it initially seems to be.
I myself came out in various stages.
The first was five years ago while in New York for an interview for what would be my second internship that summer. I was with the younger brother of a friend from high school and through conversation alluded to me liking boys.
Before he transitioned into some pseudo thug, he was a transfer student from a performance arts high school. He used to rock turtle necks at a high school known for shootouts at games and producing people who tYP3 lIKe DIZ even at the age of 26 (thanks to Facebook, I know this).
Needless to say, I knew how he got down so I felt comfortable enough to slowly slur just enough phrases to suggest my preferred taste.
About a month or so later when I came back to work he took me to my first gay club, Luke & Leroy’s in the West Village.
Immediately I expressed confusion over the image of two hurly burly dudes dancing in the dark with one another. To which that friend replied, “Fool, we’re in a gay club.”
He had a point.
Each Thursday I would go to this club where I would stupidly use a credit card to drink excessive amounts of alcohol to get over the fact that I typically never danced in public because as one friend put it, “I danced like a faggot.”
She meant it as a compliment; I meant to stab her for it.
Thankfully, vodka helps people overcome their inhibitions. In addition to finding a place that allowed me to start coming to gripes with my jig and my gay jollies, I also discovered true love there. And by love, I mean meaningful lust with some Debarge-looking bartender with a chest and ass that made my peen do the matrix.
His name was Chris, said he went to an Ivy League school (I can’t tell you which one, you might be nosey and find him) but told me that he was straight. When you’re drunk and tempted nothing truly matters, though, so I proposed to him every week throughout the summer all the same.
We never did get around to exchanging vows, but one time I did propose to him with a ring pop. I think he was flattered. If nothing else, he would give me extra alcohol. In my mind, I still believe that meant he loved me but was afraid of commitment.
So while I was certainly becoming gleefully gay after a few drinks, no one who befriended me before that summer still knew.
I avoided all of the friends from Howard who were also in the city interning. The entire semester leading up to that summer we all discussed how excited we were to be there and how much fun it would be to hang out.
That never happened because I purposely avoided them.
I had a feeling many of them assumed I was gay anyway. I never tried to fuck any of them and the only woman I talked about with enthusiasm was Beyoncé.
But I just didn’t feel ready to go confirm their suspicions.
In fact, my very first blog post on here was about my first date with a guy and I used coded language in a sad attempt to sound as gender-neutral as possible.
It might have been suggested, implied, and discussed among my friends but I personally never candidly conveyed the truth to any of them.
What prompted me to finally do this was my behavior during the gay pride weekend that same summer. I already had an aversion to going, but was practically coerced into it and took my chances. I was so petrified of being found out and that is exactly what happened.
I don’t know what it was about that day but it seemed like everyone I knew from various walks of life was there.
People from college, people from high school, people from scholarship programs.
I remember being at the pier laughing and smoking a black (I only smoked them that summer and no, I don’t know what that was about) and then a bunch of people from high school started approaching us.
I saw them, ducked and got the fuck out of dodge.
I don’t think I ever ran so fast in my life. I knew if they saw me they would report me to people back home and it would get back to my brother who is also gay. If he found out, I was convinced he would likely tell my family.
After I ran from them I ran into a girl from a scholarship program that spent much of her time at scholarship-related functions trying to “figure me out.” She would use coded language with me to basically press the point, “You’re gay, right?”
Ultimately, I found out she used to whisper behind my back to our shared group of friends. Some defended me, some didn’t – most didn’t care either way. The irony is she was a walking L-word her damn self but used me as a means of deflection from her own issues with sexual identity.
Once I spotted her I thought to run again but promptly stopped dead in my tracks. I literally had to stop myself and ask why in the fuck was I running from these people who meant nothing to me? Most of all, I had to quickly answer why was I still running away from something I always knew to be true.
I’ve liked boys since daycare. Granted, I did have a little girlfriend there, too (insert original Jonathan Plummer shade here), but I was also going behind the playground and having little boys pull their pants down for show and tell.
Don’t believe me? Ask Mrs. Mills, she caught us. I cried to her that she not tell my mama. That’s what 2009 was for, snitch.
Thankfully, I was never caught during naptime. I was never one to nap, so I usually spent that time playing the game of kiddie sexual harassment with the fellas.
Hell, I even remember the first boy I ever had a crush on.
Thus, I’ve always known what I was and at that very moment no longer could find reason to keep avoiding it.
I walked up to that girl and spoke. She looked at me with shock. I looked at her like, “Nosey, bitch. Don’t act like you’re not happy to have it confirmed.”
Then I walked back to the pier and apologized for my impromptu Forrest Gump impersonation.
Now that I had told myself about my sexuality, it was time to tell my other friends. Clearly, the new ones I was making that summer could figure me out and had no qualms about telling me such. The most vocal was Brooke, who I met while interning at MTV.
In a rampant search for work I would always do a world tour around the office, but after a while it became apparent there wasn’t as much to do as I had hoped. So, I would just stop by her desk and chat it up. Maybe I was bit more comfortable around her than I realized, because ultimately during one conversation she had told me that I should “just be free.”
That type of hippie jargon often makes me want to free my head from the support that my neck offers it and let it slam into a wall. But, the girl had a point and instead of continuing to fight it towards the end of my time in New York I decided to go ahead and heed her advice.
There was really only one person I told from Howard that summer. My friend Maiya, whom I’ve adored for years.
I asked her if she wanted to go to lunch and we did at Sylvia’s in Harlem.
And there over catfish and macaroni and cheese I stumbled over something I fought to say out loud for all of my life.
Thing is after I said “I’m gay,” Mai was quick to respond with, “Oh, I knew that. My mom is a psychiatrist.”
She had been reading me like a classic case probably as long as she had known me. I think what probably tipped her off was me taking issue with an instance of homophobia in class once, but nevertheless she was like, “Duh, nigga” and went back to her plate.
And that became a pattern with a lot of my friends from school. Some did seem genuinely shocked while a few more were like, “Yeah, I know.”
To be honest, I hated that some of my friends didn’t let me have my moment. You don’t know anything about a person until they tell you.
It wouldn’t be months later until I told my best friend. I remember calling her while walking to the iLab at school to say, “Kimmy, I’m gay.”
She had no idea. Her reaction was a sharp one. She said, “It was that bitch Stacey, wasn’t it?”
Stacey was the last girl I tried to date in high school. She stood me up for a Destiny’s Child concert. Played me over prom. And yet, that summer preceding my senior year carried on in a way that made me think she liked me.
I mean, no one spends that much time talking to someone interested in them and they don’t care for them at all, right?
I’m still asking myself that question, but I digress.
I had to tell Kim that it wasn’t Stacey though her running over my heart with her green Dodge Neon didn’t help the cause.
She accepted me just fine. All of my friends did.
Now, if you’re wondering why I told my friends first, it’s because I wasn’t particularly close to my family.
I used to often feel like my friends were my family so I told them. Plus, if my sister didn’t approve then I very well might have likely disowned them all. I was closer to her than my parents and her opinion mattered.
I didn’t actually get my sister’s opinion until about a year later.
I was back in NY on a random trip with the boy that I first dated whom I should’ve longed stopped expressing interest to. I was drunk, at a bar, and I randomly called her and told her I was gay.
She was like, “Uh, okay. I mean, I kind of wondered at one point but I wasn’t totally sure. Are you alright?”
It’s been four years since I’ve told her. I can tell she’s still not completely comfortable with it, but she took it much better than my parents.
I didn’t tell my mother I was gay until last year.
We never talked about girls so I never felt a need to talk about men with her.
My mother is a devout Catholic and it was bad enough she took issue with me no longer going to church. I didn’t have the energy to hear her break my balls in Jesus’ name over what I know is natural for me.
The only reason I told her is because I knew once one piece I wrote was published there was no avoiding it.
Last year, two young boys committed suicide within the same month over gay bullying.
Despite never fully confirming my sexuality in my writing I pitched a piece in which I’d discuss my own history of gay taunts and how I wish I could’ve told each boy that things would get better.
The piece, which was published for The Root, ultimately stayed on MSN’s homepage that entire day.
Because I know my mother reads MSN’s homepage routinely I knew there was a strong chance would see the piece, read it, and be disgusted.
This is why the piece almost didn’t happen. My editor didn’t know I hadn’t come out to my mother yet so she became scared on my behalf.
She had me speak to an older, openly gay writer to be certain I was content with my decision.
He and I both knew I already was. My only fear was that after that piece was published some people wouldn’t be able to see me beyond a gay man. He told me it was better to be known for something than nothing at all.
And so, the piece went live and I had to call my mother and tell her about it.
Her reaction to me is one I’ll never forget.
“So what are you trying to say to me? That you’re gay.”
“Well, that explains why you and your brother’s lives have gone the way they have.”
That tops the list of hurtful things she has ever said to me.
She also made it clear how she was disappointed about likely not having anymore grandchildren.
I didn’t talk to her for a few months after that phone call and we still don’t talk about my sexuality now.
The only thing I’ll say about her is these days she is a lot nicer to me than she ever was growing up. I know that she loves me, I know that prays for my success but I’m certain she likely prayers I can be “changed.”
With her brother recently being diagnosed with HIV, she likely worries about my health and safety.
She means well, even if we’ll never have a discussion about it again.
As for my father, he’s often asked about me in blunt terms.
A few years ago he pulled me outside and asked if I was “funny.” He gestured with his hand — his country ass way of letting me know he was uncomfortable.
My first instinct was to flinch my hand sarcastically and say, “I’m hilarious” but I denied it.
Years later he asked me again only we nearly came to blows over it. I told him in so many words that I didn’t like anything and that it was none of his fucking business to be asking me shit.
My father and I don’t have the best relationship. Growing up in a home where you, your siblings, and your mother were threatened with death from an angry drunk will do that to you.
That as of now remains likely the last stage of my coming out process. It will be asked again because I know he’s aware.
I also know he has strong feelings over it because his brother died of AIDS. I don’t remember much about him outside of my dad calling him a faggot. The only other thing I remember is that I cried at his funeral. I had never seen a dead body before and well, the site can be haunting to a person of any age let alone a 6-year-old.
Though in the past my mother said that my uncle was a drug abuser and not gay, more recently I’ve learned that he was a multitasker.
My father can’t use a computer and his abusive father used to hold shotguns to his chest. Does he sound like someone ready to introduce me at a future GLAAD banquet in my honor?
Although I likely harbor the most resentment towards him, I’ve noticed he has tried to build a better relationship with me. I just might be the son he’s proudest of only if I tell him I’m gay he will feel he failed as a man.
He will blame my mother.
He will get angry.
He will say something hurtful.
He will piss me the fuck off.
We might likely fight.
It almost happened nearly two years ago and to be clear, if we fight, it will be ugly. Potentially something serious.
I’m still unsure of how I’ll deal with that so as of today, I don’t deal with it at all.
There are so many different ways I can look at leading an openly gay life as a black man.
It’s further strained already strained family relationship and, it seems to have affected my dating life incredibly negatively. Plus, I have to deal with the many peons flooding my world and yours with such ridiculous bullshit. That includes other gay men.
At the same time, coming out has given me a greater sense of self and has taught me a lot about courage, resilience and all that wonderful shit you see at the end of a cliché-ridden drama.
Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago someone asked me if I could choose to be straight, would I?
I thought for a second and started to lean towards one answer, but then looked up and saw a man walking down the street in basketball shorts and a wife beater. He had a Caesar, his sleeve was tatted and was just the right level of shortness.
I told my friend to hold for a second so I could watch him. As soon I looked down at his ass I quickly turned around and said, “Nah, I’m good with gay.”
And with debbies like that on any given block waiting to be discovered, I will always find a way to be.