Yesterday, October 11, 2011 was National Coming Out day and the thought of this while on several level sounds empowering can also be quite frightening. While I was giving a workshop in St. Louis last week one of the students at McCluer High School shared with me her desire to start a Student Gay Alliance at their school after a few of the students were being bullied at the school for being gay. These teens were teased so much that they were forced to leave the school. Then this young student asked me, “Ms. Santos, do you think kids should come out?” It was the first time I had ever been asked that question.
When should someone come out? And should they come out?
Without even thinking about it I thought about all of the people who have been killed, all the people who have committed suicide and all of the hate crimes for being gay. The question scared me. I would never want to tell someone what they should do or when they should do it. I mean really… I didn’t actually “come out” until my late 30’s. I looked at this student and said. “No! I don’t think people should just jump on OUT of the closet. I think that a person should come out when THEY ARE READY to come out. And by ready I mean emotionally ready. It’s a personal choice.
I wasn’t ready for a long time. I don’t think I could have come out in High-School I was having a tough enough time being Latina dealing with violence just because I was lighter than some girls with “good hair.” I don’t think I was equipped with that inner strength needed to be an out lesbian. I certainly didn’t have the courage when I was in high-school especially since I only wanted to be liked and accepted in high-school and my parents probably would have killed me. “Coming OUT” as an older woman was incredibly symbolic for me because I was forced to release all these religious beliefs and that desperate need to be accepted. As an adult it was a little easier for me because I was comfortable in my skin and the only person I even cared about what they thought was my daughter. However it didn’t prepare me for what I would have to deal with once I did come out~
My coming out story~ (excerpt from Finding Your Force A Journey to Love)
Careful what you wish for. You just might get it. I can’t tell you how many yoga sessions I’ve had where my closing prayer ended the same. I would ask the universe to send me the most magnificent expression of love. So when she arrived… she was definitely A LOVE UNLIKE ANYTHING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED. Those first conversations seemed fluid. We connected on a spiritual level. We were both writers, both single mothers raising teenagers. We talked every day for weeks. At first it was just about writing. We shared poetry. Then something started happening. I started to feel things. This was brand new.
Was I attracted to her? Was I feeling her in the same way that I had always felt men? Did I like her – like her… in that way? Was I having romantic feelings for her?
I had never felt this way before. Things were happening to me and I was confused. What I felt was beautiful. It scared me. It felt wrong. My upbringing was blocking the love I was receiving and feeling.
Then it happened one day. I was at war with myself. I was so confused. There was so much against me. I was feeling things for this person but I was torn. I was in the middle of yoga and I could not hold my poses. I kept falling. I was crying throughout my entire meditation. My chest was tight. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. This was foreign to me. So I did what I always do I prayed on it.
I prayed for understanding and healing. I began reading excerpts from the bible and every passage that I read was about how women would be stoned for this or that. Honor thy man!!! God made Eve for Adam… men and women were made to procreate… and anything outside of that was a sin.
I wanted to push what I was feeling out of my body. I wanted to resist and deny what I was feeling for this woman. I really believed that I was going to hell for loving her. That day while I was an hour into yoga and my eyes were closed, I continued crying and praying. I knew that my creator would want me to feel love. I could no longer deny myself who I am. Finally, I gave in… I allowed myself to feel everything. I released my religious and spiritual battle and gave into what was happening to me. I accepted that I was gay.
We were in bed when I told you. We held each other. I looked over at you and said,
“Baby, I need to tell you something.”
“What’s up mom?”
“I’m in love with a woman… I’m gay!”
You looked at me and said, “Are you sure momma?”
“Yes! I am sure.”
“Are you happy?”
“Yes… I’m very happy!”
“If you’re happy… then I’m happy for you. That’s cool!!! My momma’s gay.” You smiled and hugged me.
Your opinion and approval was the only one that mattered to me. Once I came out to you I felt free. I was liberated. I was so excited about this new chapter of my life. It was like I was born again. Everything was new to me. It always felt like there was just one piece missing to my puzzle and now I finally figured it out.
The moment I came out to you was one of the most special days of my life. The moment that I accepted that I was a lesbian was a moment of COMPLETION. It felt like I was finally a complete being. I wanted to share it the world. I wanted to shout it from the highest building. Once I knew that I had your love and support, I figured everyone else would just follow. I believed that the entire family would love me anyway.
Tyler Clementi, Rutger Student who committed suicide
Seth Walsh, 13 years old commits suicide
February 12, 2008
15 year old gay man killed for being gay
October 26, 2007
62 year old gay man killed for being gay
July 5, 2007
26 year old gay man killed for being gay
Brooklyn, New York
October 8, 2006
29 year old gay man died for being gay
14 year old Iraqi gay teen executed by police
Montreal Female Engineering Students
December 6, 1989
Fourteen young women were killed. They were killed because they were perceived to be feminists. The students killed that day include:
Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni
Two gay Iranian teenagers executed for being gay.
Young man who is thought to have been murdered because he was gay.
Lesbian teenager stabbed to death, because she was gay.
Gay rights and health activist stabbed to death in Mexico.
Richie was a 36 year old man, who the prosecution felt was lured to motel room and murdered for being gay.
Waterloo/Cedar-Falls area, Iowa,
Gay man murdered.
Young man murdered because he danced like a girl.
Sierra Leone, Africa,
African Lesbian activist raped and murdered.
Gay teen was murdered. He was beaten, strangled, stabbed, cut and burned.
Billy Jack Gaither, 39 – 19 February 1999
James Primus, 35 – 21 June 1993
Brandon Teena, 21 – 31 December 1993
Should you come out?
Come out when you are ready. Don’t allow anyone to dictate to you when that is. No one will ever walk a day in your shoes so don’t allow yourself to be bullied. Surround yourself by people who love you and accept you for who you are. Know that its your decision when to come out and KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED~
Peace, light and LOVE~