By Josh Feldman
This is my first National Coming Out Day as an “Out Gay Man.” Last year, I turned 24 and was not yet out to my own parents, nor had I really identified myself as a gay man with most of my friends.
Although I thought I had been leading the life of a gay man for a few years, I had not.
I’d been living in Los Angeles for nearly eight months, and had plenty of opportunities to indulge in the gay scene here, just as I had in Washington, DC, and New York City, where I lived before I made the trek out west.
Before last year, I always told myself that coming out was unnecessary, because straight people don’t have to announce to their parents, or the rest of the world, that they are straight. I now know that my avoidance was because of my own fear – and also because I hadn’t yet seen myself as a gay man. That was also because all I knew of the gay lifestyle was the weekend trip to the gay bar. I did not have many gay friends, for that matter.
How could I live as a gay man when I had no idea what living as a gay man meant?
This past year has been full of changes, most especially within myself. I had to realize that until I looked into the mirror and saw a (handsome) gay man staring back at me, I was never going to be able to really look at myself.
To do that, I had to take a lot of time to process my life up until that point: what I was proud of, and what I wasn’t, either. It didn’t all happen in one day, or one week – I can’t quite put a precise timetable on how I ultimately came to terms with coming out, or which particular day I looked in the mirror and saw a gay man looking back at myself. I just know one day, I felt ready.
I came out to my parents when I went home for the holidays last winter. I knew that was going to be the biggest step. My younger sister already knew – she had for a while. I remember telling my sister that I was going to come out to our parents, and I can remember the smile on her face. She didn’t say, “Finally!” or “About time!” – she just smiled.
I went out to dinner alone with my parents, as my sister stayed home. I sat across from them at the table, and got the words out. My parents reacted well, and that night, I had the best sleep of my life. It starts to delve into a bunch of clichés here, I warn you – but it is true what they say, a tremendous weight is lifted off your shoulders. I had been kissing men for many years before that, and I had long known I would end up with a man too – but nothing really makes that knowledge, or a kiss, as validated than when you are officially out.
Little did I know, coming out was only the beginning. In fact, it might have been the easiest part.
I finally could look in the mirror and see a gay man reflected back at myself, but that didn’t mean I was leading the life of a gay man.
I began considering what it meant to be a gay man in today’s world. The short answer, I think is, there is no short answer. The long answer, I hope, is to be found in this new column. I want to examine what it means to be a modern gay man in today’s world, and all the wonderful complexities that come along with it. I mean, I can’t be the only gay man who grew up both wanting to be Zack Morris, and to kiss him too.
It’ll be an interesting journey, and one I hope you’ll take with me. See you here next time!