The sun rose on February 6, 2011.
Having grown up in rural Jackson, TN, on the west side of the state there were never queer people around. Following high school I moved to the middle of the state to attend college. It was a time of character-building, exploration, fun, exposure, and challenges. There were gay people on my college campus, but a very small group and one with which I did not socialize.
It was only in law school, surrounded by some of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered that I realized queer culture was not something to be ashamed of. UNC is a liberal bastion, and it taught me that people from all walks of life deserve to live equally in society, and that not everyone was hiding in the closet. However, I was still very much a product of my Tennessee roots. Although I had a support group in my gay peers at UNC, I was not ready to come out to the world.
By my second year in law school, I was growing increasingly anxious, paranoid and sad about my sexual identity. I identify as bisexual and was constantly worried that I would be outed. I started having stress-related sleep paralysis, a condition where you are awake in bed but you cannot move. This was a great metaphor for what was going on in my life: I knew exactly what was happening, but no matter how hard I tried to change it there was nothing I could do about it. There were no prayers in the world for me, though The Lord knows I tried.
I finally decided to tell my core friend group. It was during this phase, with these incredibly supportive people that I realized I would be okay. One of my best friends literally did not look up from his cell phone when I told him. This gave me the courage to finally tell my family.
I decided to do it one day while driving. I took a deep breath and called my older sister. She told me she felt as though this day would come (annoying), but loved me and supported me.
My father is a Rachel Maddow-watching, Obama-voting liberal, but he is also the parent who took particular interest in making sure I shook hands like a man, dressed like a man, ran like a man, could catch a ball like a man, etc. In retrospect this may have been him trying to be the male role model I lacked following my parents’ divorce when I was 3, but instead of doing it in over an 18-year period he had to do it during our monthly visits.
When I told him, he said something along the lines of, “Well, that’s nice. I’m going to go watch a movie with my girlfriend now. Thanks for telling me and being who you are. I’m proud of you and I love you.” It was an enormous relief and gave me the confidence I needed to tell my mother.
Telling my mother was of least concern. She is the most caring, forgiving woman I’ve ever known. It wasn’t until I told her that I realized how much life I had been missing. All of the opportunities. All of the missed conversations. All of the chances for love that had passed me by. I was fortunate that she also supported me wholeheartedly, and it was only at this point that I finally was able to cry. I was catharsis, embodied.
I felt as though I had unloaded 10 years of weight in 30 minutes. I decided to be done with it once and for all, so I wrote a Facebook post coming out of the closet as a bisexual. It was the end of a dark chapter of my life, and the start of a beautiful journey, beginning on February 5, 2011.
The sun rose on February 6, 2011.