Updated: Jan 9, 2021
Coming out isn't not a story its a way of life
I remember the first time I shared with someone that I was gay....
Therapy. 2013, week before finals, two weeks before my college graduation. I was completing the exit survey for my college therapist when I came across "sexuality 1 2 3 4 5" I was supposed to circle where sexuality was in terms of a presenting concern, 1 being not a concern and 5 being a presenting concern. I finished the survey and came back to the line, stared at it for what seemed like hours and circles "5". I handed it over to my therapist and waited what seemed like years for her to get to the "sexuality line". She finally arrived at it - "sexuality, 5, are you questioning your sexuality?"
"I don't know" I said, loudly with my head behind and stuffed into a pillow.
"Tee, what does this mean?" she questioned.
"I think I'm gay" I answered with only my eyes peeking out on top of the pillow.
"okay, I'm here, let's talk about this" She ever so kindly said.
and so we did. She even gave me an extra last session during finals week.
I remember this event so vividly. It was an event that helped shape my comfort and courage to come out to others.
Everyone always talks about their "coming out story" the story of the first time they said out loud that they were something other than straight. Coming out is not just one event though. Coming out is constant.
I come out every time I am in a public space and choose to hold my partner's hand. I come out every time I determine someone is safe enough to come out to. I come out every time I engage in advocacy and other community events for the LGBTPQ+. And, each time I come out, I still have that feeling, that fear in the pit of my stomach about if this is okay, if this is safe.
I most recently came out to my team at work. We had a conversation about what are agency is doing well and what needs can still be worked on.
My place of employment is in the heart of Uptown, the most diverse neighborhood in the Chicago. We serve the youth in this diverse neighborhood. My place of employment has recently put our money where our month is in terms of our view and advocacy on two very, very important movements - Race and Ethnicity equality and gender aware and equality. We have worked tirelessly at all levels of agency to better represent and live out our values. I am proud to work for an agency that has such values.
And, we can still do better.
Throughout our conversation I nervously debated in my mind as to if I wanted to open up about my sexuality and the lack of conversation around sexuality in our workplace. After what seemed like a forever debate in my mind, I opened my mouth. 7 years after that first coming out story I was about to live another one.
I shared with my team, my director included that gender and sexuality are two different things and as much as I appreciate our focus on gender, we do not talk about sexuality. I went on to share that I do not know what it looks like to be more sexuality aware and informed. I do not have the answers on how to make my community a safer place for me to be my genuine self in the work place. I shared with my team, ever so nervously, that as a member of the LGBTPQ community and someone who identifies as gay do not know safe people, let alone if our workplace, as a whole, is a safe place for me to come out to. (I did determine that my team, the behavioral health team that consists of therapist, LCSW supervisors, and interns safe to come out to.)
After I shared an intern shared that she doesn't talk about sexuality, that she thinks that sexuality is a private thing and she particularly does not care who "you" go to bed with.
ouch. that stung.
I do agree that sexuality is a private "thing", and I also believe that sexuality does not have to be such a private "thing". I also agree that sexuality is appropriately explained as "who you go to bed with", and sexuality is so much more than just who you go to bed with.
Sexuality is wondering if it is safe to hold my partners hand in public. Sexuality is loving someone deeply and not being able to shout it from the rooftop in fear that it won't be received well by those who can hear. Sexuality is a community of love and support for one another's uniqueness along with our similarities. Sexuality is a part of my identity. Sexuality is something we are ridiculed about and harassed about, even still in 2020. Sexuality equality is a movement that goes back to the 70's, when Harvey Milk did his thing for the community.
I am not here to judge what is and is not
more important: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and/or other personal identification that us humans are defined by. I am just hear to say, it all matters. You and you identity matters.