Tony Guadagnino is a marketing consultant. Located in New Jersey, his clients are based across the country, focusing on social media to build their presence on the internet. He studied creative writing in college and is currently working his first novel on the subject of bullying. He lives with his partner Mark.
October 11th is a very special day. Not only is it my partner’s birthday, it’s also NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY. When it was originally founded by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, the concept was for a person to come out to family, friends and co-workers, and living their life as an openly gay person. The hope was that while there is homophobia throughout the land, people who know someone who is gay or lesbian will change their views and become more compassionate. In recent years, “coming out” has included the bisexual and transgender community. The date of October 11th was chosen because it was the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington.
Coming out is never an easy thing to do. You have to be mentally prepared to open yourself up on a secret that you have been hiding for years. You have to be ready to answer questions that may be asked, no matter how private, and answer them honestly. Your family may need time to process this new information, and you have to respect them and give them the time they need. The process is never simple, but it is a brave step every gay person takes.
My coming out story is difficult to discuss, but if my story can help others, I am willing to share it to my readers. I knew for years who I was, yet I tried to disguise it from my relatives the best I could. My family was very conservative, and they would have a hard time accepting my truth; there would be a lot of denial, and maybe even non-acceptance. As a result, I chose to remain in the closet for years, never even going on dates with someone of the same sex. There were temptations, and there were guys who were interested in me; however, I chose not to pursue that part of my life, figuring I would be free to do so later. I truly did not want to hurt my family. One day, I would figure out the most gentle and respectful way to tell them.
Unfortunately, the opportunity was robbed from me. Someone (and to this day, I still do not know who it was) took it upon himself to out me to my parents. I was just 23-years-old and still living at home. Psychologically, I was not ready for the life-changing discussion, but here it was, and the loving discussion I had hoped we would have turned into a hostile confrontation and blindside. My parents wanted me to seek therapy for my “disease”; I had to give up “that” lifestyle and remain in the closet for the rest of my life. I was to never discuss anything with any member of my family (including cousins, aunts, uncles), and if I did, serious repercussions would happen. Confirming my suspicions that I would never be accepted as a gay son, and recognizing that it was getting the “my way or the highway” lecture, I secretly packed my things and left in the middle of the night. They woke to find I had moved out of the house, with a note on my bed saying GOODBYE!
It took years of time (and therapy), but I am happy to say that things did not remain volatile. My parents and I found our way back to each other. The three of us recognized our own faults in how we handled it; running away was not the solution (nor is it ever), and expecting someone to live the way you force him was equally wrong. My Dad passed away 6 years ago this month, and I am eternally grateful that we came to resolution. My Mom and I are still close, and my partner is always welcome in her home.
Do I wish my coming out story was different? Yes! But, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Those who are still waiting, COME OUT! Whatever your path will be, it is a path that you must take. And as you saw in my story, everything will work out.