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Coming Out 2006

Coming Out 2006

Coming_out

Our readers tell us about coming out to family and friends--and to the nation. Part one

Tobias Johnson, 31 Nikisi, Alaska

Coming out has been as much a spiritual journey as it has been a shift in my relationships. As I became aware of my sexuality I traveled further and further into a place of despair and disgust. I felt dirty, flawed, and sinful. I realize now that I was building my own personal closet filled with torture devices of my own making. I spent many years in this place. There came a time when I had to make a choice: continue living in strife or make peace with God and the universe. When I came out, I broke down in a slobbering, crying mess in front of a room full of people. I was greeted with love and warmth. Life outside my torture closet is amazing. We are a gift of God to the world, bearers of love that breaks limitations. Stand proud and tall, brothers and sisters.

Andrew Vega, 21 Los Angeles, Cailifornia

"Your sister tells us that you're gay," my mother said over the phone. It was not a conversation I was prepared to have during college finals. The three minutes that followed were both terribly awkward and profoundly touching as the acceptance I had been dreaming about finally showed up. I had come out to my sister a week before when the whole family gathered for my 19th birthday, figuring that she was the only person in the world with enough guts to tell my parents. I grew up in Upland, Calif., where the only things that matter are President Bush and church on Sundays. I was a Mexican-American teenager born of immigrant parents and felt lost amid in upper-class American suburbia. When I got to college, I met a gay guy named Justin. Soon I was coming out to my friends in my blog, and I now come out to all new people that I meet. Coming out in The Advocate means validation. It means giving the royal finger to the first 18 years of my life and facing the rest in confidence. And Justin and I are now approaching our third anniversary.

Sterling Fiering, 18 Anniston, Alabama

I always knew that I was "different." But in a Southern Christian upbringing, being gay was something I always kept inside. Finally, when I was 16, my heart outweighed my feelings; it was eating me from the inside out. I came out to my mother in a letter. Although I had a thousand emotions running through my head, I felt I had done the right thing. Although the coming-out process was tough in the beginning, I strongly feel it has somehow filled a void. I can honestly say it's a liberating feeling. Now that I'm out, I don't feel like I'm hiding the real me. Coming out has greatly contributed to my overall well-being; I feel whole. My relationships with friends and family have become stronger. I can only hope that my strength, love, and self-acceptance continues to grow.

Jamie Simmons, 21 Morrilton, Arkansas

At the age of 20, I came out to my parents in a letter I left for them one Friday and moved out the same day. I went through a weekend of emotional hell. I did not eat or hold liquids for two days. Then I spoke to them and promised I would not tell anyone else, and we went on as if nothing had really happened. My parents, who have been conservative Christians for their entire lives, could not believe my coming-out was not a choice. They were convinced there was a friend who'd taught me this and would take me for every penny I had and then leave me. They said being gay was a phase; it was because of the way I dressed. Recently they found out I have a girlfriend. They haven't talked to me in nearly a month. I told my granny, and now we're closer than we ever were. And my girlfriend and I are engaged. We have been together for about two years now and have a wonderful relationship. We have our children too: two cats, one dog, and a turtle.

Blake McKinney, 39 Milwaukee

In July 2005 I was a happily married father of three. I had always questioned that I might be gay, but I had become a pro at rationalizing it away. Then I went to a convention in Florida. On the last night I had my "trigger moment" with a gentleman who was hitting on me: I found myself not telling him that I wasn't gay. I went home a complete wreck. I knew for sure that I was gay. For the next three months I was short-tempered and an emotional wreck. Eventually my wife confronted me. She looked at me and said, "You're gay, aren't you?" My nonanswer brought tears to her eyes. Now, one year later, we are divorced and I am completely out. I have a partner who loves me and the children. My ex-wife and I hang out together, sometimes with her friends and family, my partner, and the kids. I am the luckiest man in the world. I have never been happier, more confident, or excited about the future. If I can do it, anyone can.

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