I plan to marry my partner of more than seven years this May. As we both grew up in Christian families and attended Christian undergraduate and graduate schools, the process of coming out and coming to terms with being gay has not been easy or quick for either one of us. But I’m grateful for all those years of struggle and pain, because it’s going to make our celebration that much sweeter!
It almost feels like we’re planning the party to celebrate the fighting after a long battle.
We plan to dance until our feet hurt, eat cake until we can’t eat any more, share memories with our friends and family and cry tears of joy knowing our lives are now open and full of love and acceptance.
I consider myself a completely “out” person. I provide advocacy, education and therapy sessions for Christians who find themselves alone and confused about their sexuality. I help educate straight persons in the Christian community about homosexuality and advocate in conservative circles. I also counsel individuals who are in the process of figuring out their sexuality. None of which I do closeted and most days I feel so “out” that I couldn’t hide even if I wanted to—which is why I find myself completely dazed by the fact that two days ago I stayed closeted while in a normal, everyday situation.
I decided to shop for a wedding band at a jewelry store in a hip area of Los Angeles. As I was standing at the counter, the sales lady approached me and commented on how much she loved my engagement ring. I told her that I was looking for a band to go with it, and she suggested a piece that was exactly what I was looking for.
The next thing she said stopped me in my tracks. She asked, “What will he do?”
Literally, for about two seconds I had no idea who she was talking about. It’s such an open-minded part of LA that surely the salespeople would never assume that the only option for an engaged woman is a man. Realizing what she meant, I replied, “Oh, you mean my partner?” I purposefully used the word partner and was sure not to use she, or her, in reference to my fiancé. She responded, “Yes. What will he wear if you’re getting matching bands?” And I said, “We’re not getting matching bands,” quickly handed her the ring, and left the store. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could!
Why hadn’t I corrected her? If there’s anyone I’d expect to correct even an innocent mistake like that, it’s me. I’m practically a gay spokesperson, but under pressure -- even in an unthreatening atmosphere -- I stayed closeted.
While this completely threw me, I feel glad that it happened and it was a good reminder of one thing. The coming out process never ends for a gay person and always takes courage.
The coming out process is risky, hard, and ongoing, even with strangers to whom I owe no explanation.
There’s the coming out as a single person to friends and family, then the coming out as a couple. As an engaged woman, there’s the coming out to the wedding dress saleswoman and the cake taster and the DJ. As a married gay woman, I will soon be coming out to those who check us into our hotel on our honeymoon. When we have children, there will be a whole new group of people to come out to: school teachers, preschool moms, swim instructors, the list goes on and on.
It’s sometimes exhausting, but the energy it takes and the importance of the task allows me to offer myself a bit of grace.
My staying closeted has nothing to do with being ashamed of being gay, but perhaps has more to do with just wanting to fit in and in the moment not to stand out. While it makes me feel better that this only happens occasionally, I’m glad it happens. It reminds me where I came from and helps me offer more understanding to those who live in closeted worlds every day.
To those who haven’t told a soul and to those who feel that they live a lie, I want to tell you that you are not alone.
I pray you will find the courage to tell just one person. I promise telling even just one person will make a difference in your life. And against all odds, the thing that feels impossible might actually happen.
Someday you might be standing in front of your friends and family, pledging your life to the one you love, your fiancé who happens to be the same gender as you. You’ll be so grateful for the celebration, and the memories of being alone and scared will be just that -- distant memories.
There is hope. You are not alone.
Photo via Candice Czubernat