A love letter to closeted gay men on National Coming Out Day
Are you tired of hiding who you really are?
For 30 years, I hid who I really was from the world. I repressed every romantic or sexual thought I had about other men. I couldn’t be gay.
Today is National Coming Out Day. If you’re still in the closet and need hope, I’ve got you.
I was one of you just a few years ago.
Oh, how I wanted to come out and live an authentic life.
Every day, I buried my secret deeper inside.
For years, it bore deeper into my heart. Until I couldn’t stand it anymore and begged myself to take action.
To tell someone.
To finally come out.
If you’re like me, I’m sure you realized you were attracted to boys at a younger age.
I wasn’t like many gay men who knew they were gay from the time they were a child.
My attraction to men developed at 12 years old, the onset of puberty.
I won’t get into exactly how I realized it, but once you know, you know.
Of course, I was also a very religious Catholic boy at the time.
I wanted nothing more than to please God, my parents, and any other adult authority figure I came across.
This people-pleasing, this sense of needing to be perfect to receive love, whether it be from God, mom & dad, or anyone else, was my Shadow at work.
See, if I wasn’t perfect, I figured I would be unlovable.
Realizing I found other boys attractive at such a young age made me feel like I had a bacterial infection that I needed a large dose of antibiotics for.
So I repressed those thoughts. Figured it was just a phase and that they would disappear one day.
But as I got older, the thoughts only intensified.
From the outside, you probably wouldn’t think I was gay.
I went to high school dances with girls.
I thought girls were attractive even. I painted a picture in my head where I would marry a woman, have a family, and be happy.
But even when I went to those dances with girls, something felt off.
They’d try to get more intimate by scooting closer to me or holding my hand.
And I’d pull away.
This continued until college, where I finally kissed a girl for the first time at 18.
I remember everything that led up to that kiss.
The girl’s friends stormed up to me and some friends at lunch that day.
Asking me if I even liked her.
My friends put pressure on me to make a move.
I felt a huge sense of accomplishment after kissing her.
It felt nice even.
But it was me just trying to fit in with societal expectations.
I’d finally kissed a girl and checked the box.
But it wasn’t me.
This continued through college and into adulthood.
I didn’t date much until my late twenties, but it was always with women.
Even though I’d secretly switch to being interested in men on dating apps.
I’d always switch back.
Actually match with a cute guy? I’d unmatch right away.
Because I couldn’t accept that part of myself.
I finally did something about my attraction to men at 26 after I moved to Chicago.
I explored my sexuality with a patient guy around my age.
I realized afterward that I liked it. And I wanted to keep seeing guys.
I kept this up for another 4 years.
Secretly hooking up with guys while pretending to date girls.
Telling my friends and family about my future goals involving dating women and having a family with one.
Toward the latter half of that 4-year period of secrecy, I decided to actually go on dates with guys.
It was incredibly nerve-wracking. Everything else until that point had been strictly sexual.
I met one guy in particular. It started out as a hookup, but we went on a handful of dates afterward.
We’d walk around the city holding hands. We’d cuddle. We’d kiss.
It was the first time I really felt loved by someone in a romantic way.
Looking back, it was just infatuation or attachment. But he broke my heart when he told me he didn’t see any chemistry between us.
So I tried to repress my hurt. I vowed to go back to dating women.
I wouldn’t let other guys get close to me, so I could avoid the pain. So I didn’t have to acknowledge the truth.
If you’re still in the closet, I’m sure you resonate with parts of my story.
You feel stuck.
You feel you need to meet societal expectations.
You feel you won’t be a “man” if you’re gay.
You know you like men and you feel bad for not being able to avoid your attraction to them.
You feel ashamed for having these thoughts.
It could be your parents, your religion, or just society that makes you feel this way.
But I bet you also have hopes and dreams.
You want to stop lying.
You want to be out and proud of who you are.
You want to be accepted.
You want to have fun dates.
You want a fulfilling, intimate relationship.
You might want a boyfriend or a husband.
But right now, you don’t think you can.
I’m here to tell you that today, on National Coming Out Day, there is hope.
About 6 months after the first guy I dated rejected me, I finally told one of my friends that I was bi.
See, I still thought I liked women at that point. But the only fire of attraction that I felt was toward men.
The friend I told accepted me exactly as I was.
So did the rest of my friends when I told them that summer.
By Thanksgiving, I’d told my mom, dad, and brother. I was even dating a guy briefly at that point.
My mom told me she wasn’t surprised. She loved me so much and just wanted me to be happy.
The conversation with my dad was the most nerve-wracking of all. I told him in the car after he dropped me back off at my mom’s house after dinner.
He said he loved me and that it was ok. But I think he was in shock.
My brother said he loved me and wanted me to be happy, almost exactly what my mom said. I wonder if he thought I was gay this whole time, too.
My brief relationship didn’t last after I came out. And neither did my identity as a bisexual man.
Once I came out, I felt accepted, validated, and free.
I could live my life exactly as I wanted to.
So I chose to identify as gay. It fits me much better.
I didn’t want to fall in love or have a family with a woman anymore. I wanted to fall in love with a man.
Now that two years have passed since I first came out, I finally am living a life authentic to me.
One where I have full self-acceptance and self-love.
One where I attach less to relationships, outcomes, and expectations (though that’s a whole other story).
One where I aim to show compassion and enact kindness with everyone. Even though I don’t get it right all the time.
I am gay. I am out. And I am proud.
There’s no rush to come out.
You can come out today or any other day.
And while it sucks that we have to “come out” and our straight peers don’t, we can become our most authentic and best selves when we free the burden of hiding who we are.
As Carl Jung famously said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
I remember I imagined everything that might go wrong if I came out.
I was afraid I’d lose my relationship with my mom.
I was afraid my friends would reject me.
I wondered if I’d ever find love and be happy.
Thankfully, none of those fears came to pass.
So instead of imagining everything that could go wrong by coming out, visualize what could go right.
Maybe you’ll find the love of your life.
Maybe your heart will feel lighter from not having to stress about hiding the fact that you like to hook up with other men.
Maybe you’ll finally be confident for once.
Because you can live your daily life exactly as YOU are.
I’ve been in your shoes. And I know how hard it is.
But I love you. Lots of people do. And we’re rooting for you.
Here’s to giving you all the courage and strength you need to come out and live as yourself.
If you’re reading this and in the closet, don’t feel pressured to clap for, comment on, or share this article.
But maybe bookmark it. Read it again when you need a little push to live a more authentic life. Consider telling someone close to you how you feel.
Sometimes just one conversation can change the trajectory of your life.
If you’re an ally or know someone who might benefit from reading this, I’d love it if you clap for or share this article.
I write to help more gay men avoid suffering and live a life of happiness through achieving self-love.
Follow me if you enjoyed this and want to read more.