Last month marked three years since I came out. For the first time in my life, I actually like what I see when I look in the mirror. Coming out meant being able to live shamelessly as my very own real person, and while I was terrified of being honest about my sexuality, my whole life changed once I did.
- I found my passions when I found myself. For a very long time, I was making decisions based on what other people wanted for my life. I wasn’t doing anything for myself and I had no idea just how suffocating that was. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but none of it felt like the right fit. Now, I’m in school again studying a subject that I actually find entirely fulfilling. I can’t wait to keep going.
- People could tell I was finally happy and they respected me for it. People said I had a presence—not because I was gay but because I was living courageously true to myself. The first time I dressed “like a lesbian,” I was eight years old and I asked my dad to buy me boy clothes. I thought I looked cool rather than like a boy, but as I grew up, I conformed to what the other girls were wearing. Now, I wear what I want and am not sorry for who I am.
- I stopped getting upset that some people will never understand. There are people who don’t get it, but it took me 23 years, so I know it takes time. It’s like they’re bewildered by my gayness, but it’s not my job to make other people comfortable. The important people in my life eventually wrap their minds around who and what I am, but it’s not easy. Some thought I was mentally ill for leaving my cookie-cutter path and proudly displaying my love for women. Today, I’m in the clearest mental state I’ve ever been.
- Dating became rocket science. I had no game as a teenager and it was no different with women when I hit my twenties. Dudes’ brains are wired pretty simply and it’s fairly easy to crack their codes. Women are so much different. After I came out, I wanted to spend my first year as a single gal. But there’s a reason U-Hauling is a thing—we get attached quickly and fall in love hard by the third date. Lots of girls hated me when I told them I wasn’t ready to settle down; when I was ready to settle down, I hated lots of girls for telling me they weren’t ready.
- I stopped feeling guilty telling people what I actually do and don’t want. I spent over two decades lying about my whole life—what kind of second chance would this be if I didn’t take care of myself? I’m happier and more fulfilled because I can be upfront about what I want and don’t. Sometimes I want to stay in and cuddle my girlfriend and kitten; other times, I tell my girlfriend and sister to turn off Hulu so we can go out and get crazy. Either way, I’m no longer committing to things that I don’t want.
- People stopped asking me about my life plans. They no longer involve law school or marriage and kids. My aspirations began revealing themselves the same day I came out. Family holiday gatherings got really awkward because they’re like, “So, what are you doing now?” So much is still changing, even three years later. It’s hard, but I’m living my best life.
- I’ll always have family at every gay event ever. Back in the day, I’d go to the bar and just sort of awkwardly wait for my friends to arrive, not really knowing what to do or who to talk to. After I came out, I spent time in Orlando, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa. All of those cities offer beautiful and close-knit gay communities that welcome newbies with open arms. There was only one way I would make LGBTQ friends: immersing myself in the community. Now, I never have to go to any Florida bar alone. The fam rolls deep. I built a support system of people who always hug me tight when they see me.
- I smile a whole lot more. I’ll be chilling and minding my own business when I suddenly realize that I’m really doing it—I’m finally living a very real life. I can’t believe I get to be gay with my girlfriend and go out and do gay things. I live in a country where I can really be free and it doesn’t matter what anyone says. A sense of direction in my life was missing during my closeted days. I needed to be told how to do things because I was trying so hard not to be gay or “wrong.” I still have major life stressors, bills, and outrageous student loans, but I’m so much happier overall.
- I no longer have to be two different versions of myself. I accept even the perceived ugly parts of me just as much as the super gay parts of me. Coming out meant I would lose people, maybe even employment opportunities, but being a true and authentic person brought me closer to people and employers who share, celebrate, and embrace some of my own values and experiences.