For the past few days I’ve donated my status on Facebook for National Coming Out Day to say the following:
“Jamez Ronald Prudlick is gay. There are 3 days until National Coming Out Day and I pledge to have heartfelt conversations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.”
I think providing resources to people that are interested in coming out of the closet is very important, I didn’t have knowledge of resources when I first came out and they could have made the event much less traumatic. At 27 years old I still had plenty of old ideas about what being gay meant and I was terrified that if I came out I might be more susceptible to AIDS, become a creepy guy that always lived alone and was avoided by the general public, that my wrist would have to be a lot more limp than it currently was and I could look forward to a life where I was considered wrong. (A lot of that comes from growing up in the Midwest in small towns and some of it comes from lots of poor gay role representation on television back in the day).
I “came out” to my two best friends in 1997. I asked them both out to dinner to “discuss something important” and let them know I was buying – probably a big clue that something was up as I was poor. The days and nights leading up to the dinner were filled with restless sleep, doubts, upset stomach… it was horrible. My mind kept asking the same questions over and over: What were they going to think of me, would this be the end of my friendships and would I be outcast and ostracized by them for being a sexual deviant. Why did they need to know anyway, why does anyone have to know? If I’m careful maybe I could just keep quiet about it and be fine. What if I just haven’t met the right girl (OK, I didn’t really think that last one, but I think the thought is funny.). I hadn’t even come out to people in my 12 step meetings, I didn’t know who I could trust or who would just hate me outright for something I had no control over.
“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – FDR
My friends were understanding, loving, and terribly worried about me as I had stressed the hell out of myself with needless worry. They said they knew, and had probably always known and “can we have dessert now”? The two most important people in my life had accepted me unconditionally and that meant the world to me. Wow!
That really didn’t make it any easier for me when I decided it was time to tell my family. I had less irrational fear for this event, but still had a bit of worry that I would lose the family that meant so much to me. I did work myself into a little bit of stress, but when the time came Ma and Rhonda were both very patient and understanding. Yep, they had known all along and it didn’t matter to them one bit. My Ma said that when I find him we will both always be welcome in her home – which is just about the most wonderful thing she could have said to me at that moment. My Ma’s one hell of a cool lady.
So during the time period that I’ve been lending my status to the National Coming Out Day campaign a close minded, Fox News watching, Wisconsinite “friend” from when I was a kid posted “it’s only 6 more days until coming out day is over and all the faggots go back in the closet.” Having had endless arguments with this person and his wife about President Obama’s birth certificate, equal rights, and other trivial matters I decided this person could be un-friended on Facebook and it would probably be for the best. That person and their attitudes towards gay people is even more reason to help support gay people during their coming out moment and to be open to talking about the issue when asked.
If you’re in a closet somewhere afraid to come out, try to remember what FDR says above. It’s not always a pleasant experience and there are examples of people that don’t understand why I have to come out and of people that have broke off all contact just because of it, that is their right. Hopefully you’ll have understanding loved ones that can support you and show you that it’s going to be ok – that no matter what they’ll always be there for you. I hope and pray that your coming out can be as wonderful a release for you as it was for me.
There is a lot of love out in the world, a lot of understanding too, don’t let the flares of ugliness deter you from trying to enjoy life to it’s fullest extent – there is hope out there, hope that all people can be equal in our great country and that someday men and women of all ages, that happen to be gay, wont have to live in a fear filled closet.