I’m Middle Eastern and I come from a culture where being gay is not acceptable. Technically, I could go to jail or even worse if anyone back in the Middle East were to know I am gay. Coming out was a tough decision for me because I didn’t know how my community here in the US would accept me. I’ve always known I was gay and it was something I could not hide. I hated the thought of being in love with someone and not being able to bring this person to meet my family or be apart of my life. I hated the rumors people would spread about me and all the talking that happened behind my back. I hated that people were judging the whole of who I am based on one tiny part about me. Coming out put all that to rest and it is one reason I have more confidence and drive than I have ever had. It’s one of many reasons I am the person who I am today. In the end, no one cared and I am grateful, as I know it could have been ten times worse. The end, right? Well, not really. Here’s the real story.
I was dating someone seriously right after college and it got to the point where my hiding him from my family became taxing on our relationship. I am extremely close to my family and there were countless occasions where I was ditching my boyfriend at the time for my family, trying to make excuses to my family about who this guy was that I was always hanging around with. This “friend” of mine was more than a friend and I had to tell them the truth. My whole family was home for Thanksgiving, so I decided this would be the time to tell everyone.
I managed to tell my brothers first and then tell my parents. My first brother actually found out because of his wife, whom I had previously told. The next brother I told is rough around the edges but has a heart of gold. As he was in a rush to leave the house and meet a friend I just spat out that I was gay. He looked at me and said, “Annnddd? Anything else to say?” The last brother had left to go back home early. I came out to him on gmail chat. After accidentally implying I was dying, I proceeded to just lay it out there and tell him I’m gay. Like my other brothers, told me he didn’t care about that and was just happy that I was happy. Having come out to all my brothers with somewhat little issue, I was more than ready to tackle my parents.
I put off coming out to my mom until the very last minute. Right before we were about to head to the airport I sat with my mom and braced her for what I was about to say. I started tearing up and just blurted out I was gay. My mom, without any reaction, calmly looked at me and said it’s completely okay. She asked me if I was okay and I said yes. She asked me if I was happy and I said yes. Then she said something that made me realize how fortunate I am to have her in my life. My mom told me all she wants for my brothers and me is to be happy. If we’re happy and successful, then she’s the happiest she can be. Despite all this, I was too scared to tell my dad, so I had my mom later proceed to tell my dad.
In reality, I should’ve just told him myself. My dad didn’t care and, like my mom, was happy because I was being truthful to myself. It was weird because the first time my dad and I did discuss my sexuality was on a 7-hour flight to Europe around Christmas time. My dad is a scientist so he asked me if it was a hormonal balance at first. I assured him it wasn’t and he believed me. From that point there was no further questioning my sexuality. Instead, there was unconditional support and love from my mom and him.
Slowly, our family friends have found out and there has been nothing but support. I have certain family members who do not know and probably will never know more so because of the fact that they have traditional Middle Eastern values. My dad did later did tell me that if I were to go back to middle east that I’d need to mask my sexuality because he was scared for my life. I understood and realize to this day it is a harsh reality of the society that still exists in that part of the world.
Truth be told, there are many harsh realities that still exist in western and eastern society. No two worlds are really that different seeing as we still face many challenges in the US around sexual orientation. The only advice I can give to someone is to stay true to his or herself. It’s something I learned when I got older I now live every day for me and not based on what others think. Coming out to my family was one of many hurdles I’ve faced in my life in discovering the person I truly am. It wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been but I know it has been for some very dear friends. The good thing is that for a majority of the people I’ve met, coming out has propelled them to become a better version of themselves. I only hope one day coming out doesn’t have to be an event with negative connotations surrounding it. I only hope it becomes a reason to celebrate oneself.