As a person who is gay, I am always having to come out of the closet when I meet someone new. Most conversations always lead to if I am married or if I have kids, so, it’s inevitable that I will have to be honest. Authenticity is too important to me to ignore who I am. Plus, I kind of enjoy the looks on people’s faces when they realize that Clare is NOT Merit’s grandmother. Deep down though, there is often an urge to explain myself, or prove myself worthy, in the eyes of anyone new that I meet. I don’t always give in to that urge – but it lingers from a period in my life when explaining myself was needed to survive.
On some level, I think we all have that urge. An urge to feel understood, an urge to feel accepted and loved, an urge to feel connected. I was talking with a good friend the other day who is having a hard time coming out to his extended family about his new boyfriend. He was wavering between having conversations with everyone first or just posting it on Facebook. I asked, “If your new boyfriend were a girl, would you feel the need to have a conversation with every single person in your life (close or not) about your new girlfriend? No, you would just post it and be done with it.”
The reality is, most people will not understand you if they aren’t like you, but they can accept you. Understanding and acceptance are two vastly different things. They can occur at the same time, but they don’t have to…to love someone. I’ve spent countless hours trying to explain why I am who I am and it’s exhausting…and I realize now, unnecessary.
To my friends who are gay, I understand the importance of coming out and being real. But we don’t owe everyone an explanation every time we tell someone about our family, or the new love in our life, or anything for that matter. We CAN casually be ourselves and let people have their own reactions. I have found that the more casual I am, the more casual others are (even if they have never met a person like me before). Remember that “person” comes before “gay.”
Be proud of who you are. Being different makes you better and it makes the people around you better too. And if someone has something to say about who you are or who your family is, and it’s not positive or supportive – then remember – it’s not about you. It’s about the fact they aren’t willing to open their hearts a little wider. And that’s ok too…because they don’t have to.
Authenticity rewards itself despite what those around us say or do.