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I See You: A Coming Out Story

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Written by: Julie @ITakeYouWithMe

   Thinking back, I always remember seeing him in a mask for his Halloween costumes…Spiderman, Batman.  He wore an awesome fabric Bugs Bunny head one year.  Symbolic?  Possibly.

   This he, who I’ll refer to as J, is the son of a close family friend.  J was always a somewhat shy kid but with one of the sweetest personalities I’ve had the pleasure to witness: kind, loving, non-judgmental.  Even though I’ve known him for pretty much his entire life, I just recently found out that everyone around him, whether close or just an acquaintance, did not get to see the real him until now.  He’s 18 years old.  I’m saddened that there’s a part of him that we’ve been missing but I’m ecstatic that it’s finally being shared.

   J is now an openly out gay man.  He decided to tell his family and friends after he graduated from high school about a week ago.  I couldn’t be prouder of him.  He’s still the same quiet, caring person that I’ve always known, but it’s almost like he’s new.

   I spoke to him at a recent family get-together and I’m honored to share some parts of the conversation with you.

-J has wanted to come out for a few years, but since he’s going away to college in the fall, he decided that this was the best time for him.  I referred to it as kind of starting “two new chapters” of his life instead of just one, and he agreed.  While he’s a little anxious about these new journeys, he feels empowered now to take on anything.  He also feels a sense of freedom – which I referred to as “two senses of freedom” – and he agreed with a chuckle after realizing the connection: he’ll now be away from home as an independent college student, but he now also has the freedom of being open about his sexuality.

-Is he fearful, especially with being a newly out gay member of society?  A little, but he knows he has the support of family, friends, allies, and the LGBTQIA+ community.  I know he also has his own resilient sense of strength and pride.

-All of J’s family and friends have been accepting of him since his coming out announcement.  While there are some family members that have set/strict views on sexuality, and some of his high school classmates were kind of taken aback at first, he feels affirmation and love (I hope to the extent that he always makes others feel).  He has not experienced betrayal or hate, and while he can’t be protected from them, it is my wish that, no matter what, he knows he matters, he knows he belongs, and love always wins.

   I believe a lot of this is summed up in one of my favorite quotes that I associate with the LGBTQIA+ community.  In his book The Fire Next Time, American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin notes, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.  I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

   Back to J’s love of wearing masks for Halloween.  The idea behind it is always fun; it’s kind of a thrill at that age to pretend to be someone you aren’t or someone you’d like to be.  This metaphor, though, is one of the most powerful that you can relate to coming out, sexuality, and the LGBTQIA+ community.  J could put on and take off his Spiderman or Batman or awesome Bugs Bunny head whenever he wanted.  It breaks my heart to know that later in his life he put on a mask to hide his true self and he wanted to take it off for years…but he lived in fear that he couldn’t live without it.  I’m thrilled he realized that he couldn’t hide behind it forever and recognized that he had many reasons to take off the mask.  He loves himself and so many others love him.  Further, as Baldwin said, the word “love” is not just used as a sense of being happy, but also the quest for bravery and growth.  J was undoubtedly brave when he revealed his true self to the world and I know he has grown so much as a person.  He may not realize it yet, but his coming out also helps in the fight for progress and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community.

   One last memory I’d like to share of J: when he was a toddler, we would always play Peekaboo with each other.  It’s usually only the adult covering their face with their hands and removing them in front of the toddler, but J liked doing that too.  We would both hide our faces and whoever decided to go first would yell “Peekaboo! I see you!”  It was cute and it was fun, but now, when I think about it, the words that we happily screamed at each other now hit me hard.  Foreshadowing?  Possibly.  You don’t have to hide anymore, J.  I see you.  I see YOU.  Peekaboo.


If you or someone you know is looking for resources on coming out:

Human Rights Campaign – Coming Out

The Trevor Project – The Coming Out Handbook


If you or someone you know is looking for resources for LGBTQIA+ college students:

Campus Pride – LGBTQ & Ally Prospective Student Resources

Best Colleges – College Experience Guide for LGBTQ+ Students https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/lgbtq-student-guide/

Become – Expert Advice & Resources For LGBTQ College Students

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