Funny, even just writing the title to this blog post evokes a lot of different emotions. For those of you who don’t know, October 11th is National Coming Out Day, and I am sharing my personal experience. To help shed light on the importance of this day, Egale, Canada’s leading organization for LGBTQI2S people and issues, asked queer content creators to share their stories in the most open and honest way we could. So…. here we go.
A note that this blog post may evoke challenging emotions for those of you reading it with difficult coming out stories. I personally believe that being as honest as I can might help one of you out there reading this to know you’re not alone in those current, past or future feelings. Coming out is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always all rainbows and parades.
In and around my second year University, I had just moved in to my first apartment with a friend from high school. I had discovered my new independence and was finally starting to feel more like myself than I ever had before. I was twenty-two years old and in an effort to rediscover who I was, I started to see a therapist.
Working with David (therapist) we came to the topic of my sexual orientation. Still a virgin at 22, it was a topic I avoided at all costs. With a lot of work and a lot of honesty, I came to the realization that although I had convinced myself I was “in love” with girls in high school, deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. You have to understand that not a single person in my family or circle of friends was out of the closet. The thought of me being first was not even on the table.
Initially, I told my roommate and my friends that I was bisexual during a trip to Toronto. It felt like a baby step in the right direction – and of course when I said it, no one was as shocked as I expected them to be. In fact, they were incredibly supportive and only wanted the best for me.
I still remember how I said it. We were getting out of the rental car in the hotel parking lot at the Marriott near the Eaton Centre, and I said
“I might make out with a girl tonight… or a guy,” and then I held my breath.
You have to understand that being gay, especially for some of us, is like the deepest darkest secret you know is true, but you can’t tell anyone. Not until you’re ready. Some of us are never ready… It’s really scary and for a lot of queer people, we have no idea if those around us will accept – let alone love – the real us. It’s a real fear that can drastically affect the psyche of a gay person.
I should make a quick note here, that for those of you in the LGBTQI2S community, I highly recommend reading The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. It has really helped me to acknowledge my feelings and process them in a healthy way. I’ve re-read it a dozen times in the past fifteen years.
So, I had come out successfully to a handful of friends. Next, my parents. I can’t tell you in detail what it felt to tell my late father, but I do remember the silence. It was deafening. As mentioned before, there were no openly gay members of the family – and I’m 13th generation French Canadian on my Dad’s side.
What followed was several months of a strained, if not non-existent relationship with my Dad. He was at his best, a beautiful man who taught me a lot. But he, just like all of us, had his limitations. He was religious, and on some topics, conservative.
For those of you with a strained father figure relationship, this isn’t new. And for those of you who aren’t gay it may hard to imagine. One day you try to muster up the courage to tell your parent something about yourself so they know all of you…. and the reaction above is what you get. Distanced. Strained. Difficult to handle, let alone process emotionally.
My mom, bless her incredible heart, was much more accepting. She just wanted me to be happy and that was exactly what I needed to hear. Although we have our family issues, she was and has always been the most supportive person in my life. And I don’t think I tell her that enough.
Thankfully, I had my own place and my studies at Carleton University to distract me. Over the course of the next year, I lost my virginity to a friend, which I am still grateful for. Especially when considering the challenges entering a new community I had no connection with yet. All I knew was the address of the gay clubs, some websites online where I could meet gay men, and that I had no idea what being a gay man was like.
I met my first boyfriend – with whom I am lucky to say I have a friendship with still to this day, and whom I am grateful for. I did a lot of catching up very late in life in my opinion, but I loved every minute of embracing who I was. I faced the challenges many gay men do, including issues with addiction and body image, but looking back all of the hardship has brought me to where I am today.
So, that’s my coming out story. It’s one of many that sound similar. One that might inspire someone to do the same. Or maybe help to offer some insight in to the process and the emotions of it all. But I needed to share in it today to add to the work Egale is doing this year.
“To help shed light on the importance of this day, Egale, Canada’s leading organization for LGBTQI2S people and issues, is giving a few Canadians the opportunity to come out in a bold and unforgettable way: on giant billboards across the Greater Toronto Area.
Each billboard will be strategically located in areas where the participant’s loved ones will be sure to see them. The billboards will include personalized websites with more details on each participant’s coming out story, as well as useful resources to help family and friends along the coming out process. Egale hopes that this campaign will help empower those who feel that coming out will help them live more authentically, and raise awareness on how to become supportive allies to the LGBTQI2S community. “
That to me is so inspiring. So incredibly beautiful. And I hope it offers the participants the release and love they deserve in embracing their true selves.
Coming Out Loud is supported by a network of partners, including Cossette for creative and strategy, Cossette Media for media placement, Pattison, Outfront, UB Media, AllVision and Bell Media for generously donating media space. For more information please visit comingoutloud.ca
Join in on the social media conversation with us by following @EgaleCanada on Instagram, @EgaleCanada on Twitter and by ‘Following’ their Facebook Page. If you are comfortable in doing so, share your story and use the #NationalComingOutDay hashtag. Know that you are loved, and you have a community waiting to support you. And you have me in you need.
This blog post and all social media have been offered without charge or sponsorship to help share this important message.
For more behind the scenes of this and other amazing brands I’m working with around the world, make sure to follow along with the #DoTheDaniel Instagram account. I’d love to have you join on the adventures.
Photos: Daniel Reyes & All Social Media accounts listed above
Don’t forget to be kind & laugh a little more this year
*Please note that this may be a sponsored post and promotional consideration may have been offered by participating brands – our disclosure can be found at all times by clicking here.