Happy National Coming Out Day to the international LGBTQ+ tribe and straight allies (yes, allies “come out” whenever they publicly declare themselves to be supporters)!
People are more likely to support equality under the law and related human rights if they personally know someone who is impacted. Coming out as one’s authentic self is a powerful rite of passage – an ongoing revolutionary act; a heroic adventure. Not just for the individual, but collectively for all of us.
My recent coming out stories lack the seismic drama of my early 20s, when the stakes were high and consequences unpredictable. After 25 years of being out, I am fortunate that I do not face the severe outcomes that many people face around the world today. It is important to share our stories.
Recently, Erin and I were shopping at Performance Bicycles in Austin.
“Are you brothers?” asked the salesman who was working with us. He was about mid-twenties and wearing a “Performance Bicycles” T-shirt.
“No, we are partners” I said.
He looked confused and proceeded to direct me to the bike helmets. I was buying one for my little niece.
Afterward, I realized the salesman probably didn’t get it. Did I mean business partners? Riding partners? Or what? I promised myself that the next time the topic came up, I would give an unambiguous answer – one that in no way could be misinterpreted. I mentally rehearsed the answer I would give.
The next time came a couple days later at a restaurant. Erin and I were hosting out-of-town guests – my sister and little niece and nephew. We took them out for breakfast on a Sunday morning.
“Are you brothers?” the waitress asked Erin and I while taking our order. She was an elder woman with bright blue eyeshadow, jet black hair (not a speck of gray) and a sugary East Texas accent.
“No, we are lovers.”
“PAUL!!!!!!!” my sister, Mary, exclaimed in shock as if we sat in a Southern Baptist church about to hear the Sunday morning sermon in Chattahoochee County, Georgia.
The kids laughed. The waitress smiled, her air of calm wisdom was beyond being fazed by trivial stuff.
Pancake House (on Parmer/Metric) has become our go-to weekend breakfast place – we get the royal treatment every time. And outside of that week, nobody has ever asked if Erin and I are siblings (and we’ve been together 12 years).
Sometimes “coming out” is a spectacular and courageous leap of faith that transforms. I’m celebrating National Coming Out Day by reflecting on my experiences and those of others who have inspired me with their courage in sharing their truth and being their authentic selves.
“…Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave…”