Coming out is a process riddled with various levels of anxieties for everyone. But what about when you’ve actually managed to be open with others? Where do those anxieties go? Nick Chambers ponders this question and more in his following piece.
I made the decision to come out my senior year of high school. For anyone else, this was neither significant nor memorable. There was no statement, no social media post, nor a fit of tears. I simply began telling people that I was gay if they asked, a fact that, for the most part, people already knew. As minor as this gesture may have been, it was meaningful to me; for most of my life I had felt an intense desire to hide my identity and I never thought I would have the courage to be so open.
About a year after coming out, I naively expected this weight that had occupied my chest while I was closeted to disappear. For so long, I had felt nothing but shame, desolation, and hopelessness. Eventually, those feelings became mostly undetectable. I could breathe, sleep, eat, attend classes or work, and socialize without feeling the weight of them. Yet, there were still arbitrary moments when the pain would become overpowering. Visceral.
One of those moments happened to be on the night I attended my first gay night club.
I was eager for that night. Eager to see what it would feel like to be “normal”, to be surrounded by people that feel and think similarly to myself, and to experience a sense of community, as meager and cramped as it may be. Happy scenes surrounded me as the clubbers danced, imbibed, and sang. The bass pulsed in my ears and the flashing lights illuminated the tangled, sweaty bodies. Couples kissed and swayed to the pounding rhythms.
But as the night went on, these displays that I had hoped would inspire joy, ultimately created an overwhelming sense of dread within me. I stopped dancing, laughing, and participating altogether. I left in the backseat of a taxi cab with the window open, letting the hot wind push back the tears from my face.
I wanted so badly to see myself reflected in those unknown men’s faces that occupied the venue. I thought that witnessing these people living their lives with such normalcy and joyousness might create a bit of comfort for me. That I might someday be that happy. Yet, it merely flooded me with apprehension.
When would I achieve that glee? When would I feel at ease in my own body? When would I feel comfortable enough to dance with someone like that? When would I feel safe enough to kiss my partner in public? The answer I kept reaching was never. I told myself I had wasted too much time. That I wasn’t open enough. That I wasn’t trying hard enough. That because of my fears, I was destined to live a life of loneliness.
A good majority of my life has been spent in this state of fear, much like many members of the LGBTQ+ community. We become outsiders, resigning the love we hold to anguish. Molded to be rigid and afraid, our community loses so much time hiding. While some may gain the strength to come out, some don’t. And even if we are to come out, our grief persists in little moments as we enter our own form of adolescence and attempt to gain secure footing in a new world.
At twenty years old, I have just begun to explore my sexuality and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. I still have yet to find a partner or to experience romantic love. And the ache of self-loathing has not altogether disappeared.
Yet, with each day I unearth more of my character. With every breakthrough, I grow.
Before one of my very first dates, I can recall being completely teary-eyed. My peers were puzzled as to why I was so emotional, as I was merely attending a dinner, but I had never expected I would be able to partake in such a mundane activity.
After achieving such milestones in my journey, I began to question my previous state of mind. I consistently seem to project this idea of never onto my life. I would never come out. I would never date. I will never find a partner. I will never be content.
But these anxieties have proven again and again to be untrue, and I began to replace the word “never” with “eventually”. Now, when those moments of panic and sadness arise, I tell myself, eventually.
Eventually, I will find love. Eventually, I will be happy. Eventually.