Thursday, October 12, 2017

National Coming Out Day (Oct 11th)

I came out when I was 18. I told my parents and two sort-of close friends. At the time I was a freshman in college. In high school I was captain of the football, wrestling, and debate team. I was an honors student, all-state wrestler and football player, tournament-winning tennis player, NFL citizen's scholar, freelance writer for three local South Florida newspapers, reporter for two online blogs, and the MVP athlete of the year for my school. I was also miserable. I had very simple goals: avoid close friends, keep my head down, power through life, and stay away from any conversation about love or sex. I thought I could do it.

I went away to college and the first person I met asked me 'so...are you going to have sex?' I felt myself turning bright red. 'No, I'm here to study.' When I got to my dorm I threw my bags down and ran up and down the hall with another freshman. Then we went downstairs to check out the lounge. When I turned on the dorm computer, the first image on the screen was of a naked porn actress lathered up in grease. I turned off the monitor, stood up, and continued walking around. When I introduced myself to students, the conversation would quickly turn to how much sex we were going to have. The first suite mate I met was a devout Republican who kept inviting me into his room to talk about his girlfriend in Canada (seriously, no joke), offer me drinks, and ask me about my future sex life (yes he was a closet case). I dodged the issue with jokes, asking about his fictional girlfriend, and talking about how excited I was to study-study-study. After about two days of this non-stop sex talk, I went to a campus LGBT meeting, came out, showed up, and the red boiling tension in my chest subsided. I didn't have the stereotypical gay affectations so some times I felt like every year, month, week in college was a Coming Out Groundhog's Day. But I was grateful for the growth, friendship, and love. I guess that was one of the biggest parts of my college experience: learning to be honest. I am still learning.

I am uncomfortable with talking about my private life in any explicit way. It's a defense mechanism. It protects me from the shame of other people....or so I thought. What my silence really does is re-enforce my own internalized homophobia. I can convince myself that I have come out again and again and again, so I deserve a break. I can rest of my past laurels.

I wrote "The Gospel According to F#ggots" as a way of getting out of my comfort zone. I made the lead character in "Obama-ology" a gay Black man. When I was challenged on the necessity of him being both black and gay, I knew the subtext of the inquiry: I was cutting into the commercial viability of the work that a lot of people really liked. Would I be willing to make this one change for the sake of people's comfort? My answer was 'no.'  I agreed to be the director of new play development for a LGBT theatre company as way to help other LGBT writers develop their voice.

I am still learning and still coming out. Thank you for your patience.

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