For Those Staying In
Happy Wednesday. Happy Fall.
Happy It Is Okay Not To Come Out Day.
I know you’re seeing Facebook statuses; I know you’re hearing people claim yesterday’s “National Coming Out Day” as celebration. Maybe your school is talking about it. Maybe you hear it on the radio. On the news. On TV.
National Coming Out Day! Time to shine. Time to be proud.
As if it happens all at once. As if it is a day you can tell the world without hesitation. As if all the fear and shame and danger you felt the day before are gone. I know. I get it.
So this — this is for you. This letter? This is your day’s celebration. Your In The Closet But Still Worth Loving quiet, powerful, gentle celebration.
In middle school, I was the opposite of cool. I wore colorful striped leggings. My hair was always frizzy and in a ponytail with one strand hanging down, because I thought that was neat. There was a gap between my front teeth. I didn’t hate my parents as much as everyone else seemed to. I thought that to “bang” someone was to knock on someone’s door and see if they wanted to hang out. Seriously.
More Radical Reads: Don’t Tell Me to #KeepKissing: I Am Afraid, But Not Ashamed & That’s Okay
Once, a group of girls tricked me into sitting on a seat they’d covered in ketchup, because I pretended I had a crush on a boy they were friends with.
Once, in the middle seat of a carpool, the girls on either side of me leaned together and whispered about how bad they felt for me, how it was just quite terrible how I’d be alone forever.
Once, I watched a cool girl with pink in her hair get teased for saying she was gay. I watched her cover her face on the bus ride home. I did nothing to help, just choked on my shame and thought the words me too.
I know you. I am you. I am 13, with journals under my bed that say I HATE WHAT I AM on every page. I am you, at 16, kissing boys I don’t want to kiss, because I’m supposed to want to kiss boys by now, right? I’m 19, lying beneath someone I don’t want to be friends with, let alone beneath, because everyone else is, and what the fuck is wrong with me.
I am you lying about crushes, praying to be different, I am you. Not ready. Not ready to tell anyone, because the world is scary, and what’s even scarier is admitting this truth to yourself. What’s scarier is being brilliantly different, and loving yourself anyway.
So it’s okay not to come out. It’s okay to feel however you feel. It’s okay to close your eyes tonight when falling asleep and whisper to yourself someday. It’s okay to be afraid when reading this, to wish I wasn’t you, to wish you weren’t me. It’s okay.
Because, see, I am also you at 20, and 22, and 25. I am you the night you hide under the covers with your best friend and sip warm wine till you get up the courage to kiss each other. You, for the seven hours you spend doing just that. Kissing, clothes on, hands shaking. I’m you the next morning, terrified, but elated. You, a year later when you sob to your parents that the girl you brought home is not just a friend. You, when they love you anyways. You, even if they don’t.
You, when you have a girlfriend. You when you have a boyfriend, and that’s awesome too. You when gender seems silly anyways. You when you don’t tell your grandparents, but you do tell your friends. When they say yeah, we know already, with big grins on their faces. When they say me too. You when you take those notebooks out from under your bed and smile sadly at them, at the you that was so convinced your story would be heavy with shame.
I’m you when you discover queerness can be an identity that fills and becomes, rather one that than drains and takes. You, when you buy a pride shirt and wear it in public and a lesbian couple smiles at you as they walk past. You when you are not just okay with queerness, but grateful for it. Proud in it.
More Radical Reads: Am I Queer Enough to Claim “Queerness?”
I’m you whether or not these moments happen at 22, or 43, or 59. Wherever you are in this, it’s okay. You still matter. You still belong.
Today, try to tell yourself this:your name is not a dirty word. Love belongs to you, too. Family and futures are possible.
Whoever you become, you’re worth compassion and hope and love and possibility and whether or not you speak your truth today, you are heard.
We’ll be here, waiting with open arms, whenever you’re ready.
Caroline Catlin is a storyteller, queer woman, mental health advocate @caroline_catlin &http://carolinecatlin.com.
[Feature Image: Caroline Catlin is pictured in a black and white photo with fair skin laughing as she stands outdoors with the sun and trees behind her. Source: Caroline Catlin]