For me, coming out wasn't as bad as it has been for some, but nonetheless, I did experience the exact same feelings and emotions before deciding to be honest about who I am.
I came out to my parents first when I was 25. I went through high school and college thinking something was wrong with me or that I was going to be punished for the feelings of attraction I had for other men. So for these reasons, I tried dating women, and I kept my true feelings to myself. I had almost settled on the fact that I was just going to live my life being single and pretending to be straight. At the time, I wasn't even sure what being gay meant, but I was certain that telling people about my feelings would cause trouble for me and my family.
When I was 25, I met my first boyfriend and thought I was madly in love. Because I couldn't talk to anyone about my feelings, I couldn't get any advice on love and relationships. To complicate matters, he was abusive, both emotionally and physically. I moved in with him, and allowed him to control my finances, and pretty much, my entire life.
My feelings were so overwhelming, that I had to come out to someone, so I came out to a friend, who at the time was also "in the closet". To ease into telling my parents, I started by telling them that I had discovered my friend was gay, so that I could gauge their reaction. Their reaction wasn't bad, but I could tell that they didn't agree with it, so I kept quiet.
I became unhappy in my relationship, and my mom knew something was wrong. She finally asked me: "Are you like your friend?" and I said "yes". She and my Dad began crying and saying things like "you can't be sure because you've never really been with a woman", and my mom blamed my dad for "not teaching me how to be a man" and not having the "talk" with me about sex and relationships. I was strong enough at this point to tell them that it wasn't their fault, and that I was born this way. They then tried to blame my friend and my boyfriend for "making me gay", so I left.
Two very long weeks passed and I didn't speak to my parents. I was angry with them for not understanding. They were upset with me because they knew I wasn't happy. What they didn't know was that my unhappiness wasn't because I was gay, but because of the situation I had gotten myself into.
My wonderful parents did not give up on me. I was very lucky that they didn't because I needed them. They decided to show up at my boyfriend's house to confront both of us. It didn't go well. I was still angry and told them that they had to leave. Another week passed. I eventually called my mom and apologized. We wept and I went out to see my parents. We talked for hours, I tried to educate them and they honestly tried to understand. The hardest part was my mom telling me that she was embarrassed and watching them both struggle with "what they did wrong in raising me", but I tried to reassure them that they didn't do anything wrong.
Thankfully, I had made some great friends, and one of them had become my best friend. He decided to intervene one day and came and helped me secretly move out of my boyfriend's house. I found a apartment and tried to get my life back together. I eventually was able to get over the relationship and move on and I became very happy and aware of who I am. In doing so, I was able to help my parents understand and they became very accepting and understanding. It did take years, however, for them to become advocates and for them to feel comfortable enough for me to tell other family members.
Additionally, it took time for me to get up the courage to tell people like my employer, my friends, other relatives, coworkers, etc. PFLAG helped me understand that being me was OK. As I grew stronger, I started volunteering with PFLAG, and as a result, I meet new people every day. In doing so, I'm always coming out to them.
Today, I'm thriving, I'm successful, I'm courageous, and I have confidence in who I am. I have a wonderful husband who adores me and we are building a wonderful life together. I owe this to the support of everyone around me. I've learned that my circle doesn't have to include anyone who is negative or who brings me down. My circle is supportive. PFLAG is my family, and I have wonderful friends, family, and coworkers who are supportive and lift me up!
My advice is: Never compromise who you are for anyone. If you need help with finding courage to come out, come to PFLAG, or talk to a close friend or someone you trust. You'll be surprised how much it helps you.
~Scott Money, PFLAG Winston-Salem President