By Michael Gorlick
Originally published on Advocate.com December 06 2013 5:00 AM ET
I recently created a 45-minute film called Road to Coming Out, which literally follows my journey from being in the closet to coming out. It chronicles my fear, anxiety, and hope about what coming out will mean in my life. And I put it on YouTube.
The journey started in Vancouver, and I drove across the U.S., then into Ontario, finally arriving at my home in Toronto. Along the way I shared my insights and thoughts about my identity, my sexuality, and my emotions on this journey. When I returned home, I set up a hidden camera to capture the genuine responses of family and friends as I came out, which may have otherwise felt forced if they had known it was being recorded.
I wanted to create something for those who are suffering in silence and feel like an anomaly. There are people out there who feel depressed, and don’t feel good about who they are. I know, because I was in that space for so long. I am so grateful that thousands of people cared to see my journey out of the fogginess of depression and into the light of self-acceptance. Change is never easy, but if I can be that friend who shows that you can get through it, I am happy to be him.
People have remarked that posting my coming out story on YouTube was somehow brave. I am incredibly thankful for the positive feedback, but I do not see it the same way. I simply became aware of the forces that were inhibiting me from accepting who I was, and made me fear that something was wrong with me. Once I recognized this, it was a natural progression to eventually come out, because I started to accept my truth. The hardest part was over, and sharing the journey was my way of showing others that if I could do it, so can they.
The most humbling lesson I have learned by opening myself up to others is that, at our core, what we are all trying to discover is: Who am I? What is fulfilling to me? Why am I here? When you wipe all the nonsense away, and peel back the layers, all roads point to the same one; every person wants to love and be loved.
I have received many emails and phone calls, and had conversations with people who saw my video and expressed their happiness that I could find the strength to accept myself and be accepted by others. They have shared their wide assortment of issues around being gay: eating disorders, depression, bullying, loneliness, and being inauthentic, among others. Yet I’ve realized that all pain is the same. It does not matter what it is being felt about; in the end, people want to feel understood, and know that they matter. And that search to be heard and feel validated starts and ends with us individually.
Still, I worry that topics like this sound cheesy and uninteresting to young people who are otherwise struggling. Some of them, especially those who may be struggling the most, might rather watch famous stars promote endless commodity consumption, portraying 'perfect' looking lives, and projecting their 'glorious' lives while wearing a pearly white smiles. Sadly, this only adds to the dangerous belief that happiness is something external, and can be bought with achievements, wealth, looks, or anything outside of you. In truth, happiness comes from within, starting with knowing yourself, accepting and eventually loving all that you are. Once you can let go of upholding an image of what you perceive will make others like you, or what you think others expect from you, you have already made a giant leap forward. These external factors are not completely pointless, because these are wonderful aspects of the world that make life more enjoyable. However, they cannot be the be-all and end-all of your existence or else life will feel like you are trying to fill a void with things that continue to make it expand with emptiness.
To anyone who is feeling lonely, isolated, scared, or trapped, just know that these are just emotions that signify you are at the certain point on your journey of self acceptance to own up to your truth. Whether or not you are gay, pay attention to why you feel these emotions, and look for constructive ways to release whatever is holding you back. For me, I was often depressed because I was subconsciously hiding my sexuality for most of my life from my family, friends, and myself. But once I accepted that I was gay, coming out was much easier. My family and friends were incredibly accepting and I experienced no backlash. However, I was unafraid of backlash either way because once you accept who you are within yourself, the hardest part is over, and your life is going to be more authentic once you come out. Someone rejecting you for being yourself, is sort of a blessing (albeit a painful one). Why would we want to surround ourselves with people who hold us back or make us resist who we are? It is so vital that we are authentically ourselves so that the relationships we build in this life only enhance our experiences, rather than diminish our light.
I feel so thankful to live in a time when I am able to be open and proud of my sexuality. While I do believe your sexuality is just an aspect of who you are, it is still integral to your identity. If you do not allow yourself to be honest about your sexuality, it will cause you pain and negativity.
I am so grateful for the incredible outpouring of love and acceptance that I have received from everyone in my life, as well as the many emails I continue to receive everyday from posting “Road to Coming Out.” Each person who contacts me proves that there are so many people out there who understand the message I was trying to get across: every person is worthy of being true to themselves, and if everyone realized that, we would live in a much less judgmental, war-torn, materialistic, egotistical society. If the outpouring of support that I have received is any indication of the future, I have nothing but hope and excitement because I really feel that this next generation is going to be the most accepting of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities, backgrounds than ever before. When you live with an open heart, the world becomes a less scary, and much more beautiful place.
Watch his journey here:
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