Updated: Apr 5, 2021
Yesterday was National Coming Out Day and I got to reflecting. I’ve read that there are 5 or 6 levels of coming out. They range from coming out to yourself, to your friends, then to your family, all the way through to coming out publicly. For me, it was a process that started when I was 19 years old and lasted until I locked up that closet for good and gave a speech at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary when I was 41 years old. In that speech, I quoted a book called Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian, Gay, and Jewish. One of the writers said: “Coming out has to be better for the soul than living one's life in various shades of invisibility.”
We live under the oppression of intersectionality where the outside world defines us by our traits and, as a result, we internalize any stigma attached to those traits. But I love the way the book turns stigma into a blessing.
I am twice blessed, being Jewish and gay. I am even thrice blessed being a woman, Jewish, and gay. I am also white, abled, middle-class, and smart. The blessings are endless. But describing my privileged blessings along with my stigmatized blessings makes me sound arrogant.
My answer is to go back to the statement, “coming out has to be better for the soul than living one's life in various shades of invisibility.” We all live in the intersectionality of something. And what really matters is how we feel about and treat ourselves. I couldn’t love myself until I really understood and got to know all sides of myself. When I was 19 years old, a new friend began questioning me about every aspect of my life, my feelings of being an outsider, my values, my culture. Things I had never questioned before. One day, after weeks of questioning and reflecting, I was walking into my dorm building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the revolving door. And in that instant, I decided that I liked myself.
I had a lot of coming out after that. And somehow, I forgot that reflection as I spent the next 22 years drinking my way through life. Because it wasn’t enough to like myself; I also felt terribly alone.
It wasn’t until the day March 1, 1990 that I woke up again. I was reading a pamphlet about the second step of the 12-step program: we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And as I read that, I realized I was not alone, that there was a person—now in spirit—who had helped me through the pain of my life. I could feel her presence around me, with me.
I stopped drinking. And I came out to life on life’s terms. I am twice blessed, thrice blessed, multi-blessed. I now love myself. I give myself everything I need. What I get from others is icing on the cake. With my higher power’s help, I walk my own path, always learning, always in service. I choose to be visible in all my traits because that is better for my soul. And my soul is connected to a bigger world that I cannot begin to comprehend. It is not about arrogance. It is about knowing and accepting and being a loving human being.
It’s not my weakness, it is my openness.
It’s not my doubts, it is my questioning mind.
It’s not that I say too much, it’s my courage to share.
It’s not my fear, it’s my prudence.
It’s not my stupidity, it’s my choice of what I want to know.
It’s not my credulity, it is my trust.
It’s not my depression, it is my acceptance.
It’s not my recklessness, it is my curiosity, and love of life.
It’s not my chaos, it’s my artistic soul.
It’s not my weakness, it is my UNIQUENESS.
Thank you for sharing your coming out story. Coming out day is such a big day for the community and it is an amazing time to hear people’s journeys. I appreciate that you shared it this morning. The poem was really powerful. That power of words, that reshaping. Reclaiming words—in the LGBTQ community, taking away the power of ‘queer.’ That was such a slur that was against us, and it was taken and reclaimed—queer is our power word, this will not be used against us. This will be a word that unites us.
Thank you for sharing your coming out story. As an older lesbian, it took me a long, long time to come out. I was not out during my career years from fear of being fired, which I could have been. I was fortunate to meet a gay man when I started at another workplace. We immediately connected and became close friends. He said that we couldn’t let people know about us until we had proved ourselves. In other words, someone has to trust us and see that we are as capable as a straight person in our profession. And then, after years of gaining their trust, then we could come out. The life of a gay person, especially those of us who had to spend years hiding, is quite different than the life of a straight person. We have things in common but there is hiding. A big blessing for me has been that I do have empathy for other minorities. Maybe because of our experience, we are able to have deeper feelings and thoughts about other minorities’ struggles and triumphs.
Thank you. I got a kick out of the ‘thrice-blessed.’ It’s such a great attitude. “I’m not chaotic, that’s my artistic soul.’ It’s like reframing every single thing. It’s all about perspective. It’s the same quality and how you look at that. This is the dark side and upside to many, many things. I think it’s really sweet that people who suffer much tend to be the most compassionate, those who are ostracized, how that can be turned around and become a strength. It’s very inspiring.
I was struck by the line that ‘I give myself everything I need. Anything I get from others is icing on the cake.’ I remember being socialized to think that I would get something from a partner when we got married. That that was what it would take to complete me. It seems that was a common view in the world. It’s just not true. Someone else cannot complete you, you have to do it yourself to become whole. It’s really up to a lot of inner work in yourself. If you get help from others, it’s wonderful. But it is our own journey.
Thank you so much for sharing. So inspiring. I have admiration for the courage. Especially the courage to live in the outer world. What is truly motivating for me is your ability to love yourself, to be yourself. I’ve been in 12-step circles for so long and there was always something missing. What I think was missing was meditating with groups of people. I’ve gained this now and I’m reaching levels of healing that have been impossible for decades. And I’m trying to embrace it. It’s so inspiring.
Thank you. Everything that’s been said, ditto. I know I am privileged, I know I have not had to hide many parts of myself. A few years ago, I realized that what my family wanted to be was killing me. I likened it to coming out of the closet. No, I don’t want to do this, that is not who I am. That line you wrote about coming out is better for the soul. That’s what I felt like. And once I did that and could trust myself to take care of myself, a lot of my resentments towards my family members went away. I knew I wasn’t going to let my soul be sold.
Thank you for the shares. The one piece that I took into my meditation was that ‘it’s not my chaos, it’s my artistic soul.’ I sat with that. The words came up ‘tell me how you feel inside.’ I let that be the mantra for the meditation. And things felt like they moved. My struggle has been to thaw out after an event that was traumatic. Just getting in touch with my feeling and making those shifts from the critical parent inside to something that is amazing. Today, I’m going to continue to ask myself tell me how you feel inside.
The whole thing about reflection. It came up the other day (see blog Oct 8) and that’s what this morning was. Reflecting, when the reflection happened, what it was and is. I’m glad to hear everyone’s reflections about what they are and what they are doing.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and reflections and blessings.