Everyone Already Knew I Was Gay

George knew gay

How many years had I let go by without telling people who I was, even though most of them already knew?

Often times, I find myself pondering “Why didn’t I accept me sooner?”

How could I have gone for so many years pretending to be something I wasn’t? Why did I let outside factors dictate the way I wanted to live my life?

And then I ask the final question: “Why did everyone know this but me?”

*****

A few years ago, I went home to New Jersey for a holiday weekend during the summer. On the drive I decided that I was going to finally let go of the monkey on my back and tell this “secret” I had been holding for years.

While hanging out with my mother at the local bar, my liquid courage kicked in and I told her that I had something to tell her, but would talk about it in the morning. The next day, my mom called. Terrified, I answered the phone. OK. You can do this, I thought to myself. I started to cry. My mother asked what was wrong and I blurted out: “I’m gay.”

I was prepared for the worst. Is she going to be distraught? What if she doesn’t accept it? How will our relationship continue after this? But, instead, she said: “Well, I was about 95% sure.”

Wait a minute: 95% sure? I wiped the tears from my face, and the conversation we had couldn’t have been better. She told me to stop being a shell of myself and to live my life for me.

With that confidence in hand, I decided it was time to talk the matriarch of the family, my Nanny. I got up the courage to call her and we talked about what was going on in my life, how church was for her, then we gossiped a little before I finally said it: “I’m gay.” Her response? “Oh, well I knew that.”

Wait. What? I breathed another sigh of relief.

After some thought, I came to realize that I was coming out of a closet that I apparently had never been in. I believed for years that I would have to hide this piece of my life out of fear of rejection, what my friends, family, and fraternity would say about me. Thoughts of being an outcast, disrespected, and isolated overtook me—I would keep my secret as long as it appeased others.

I realize now how crazy it is to allow what a person may think about me to dictate how I live my entire life.

Slowly, I began to let more people in. If people asked, I would tell them. I would start to bring it up in general conversation and watch people not even flinch at the statements I was saying about being gay.

How many years had I let go by without telling people who I was, even though most of them already knew?

The more people I told, the better I felt about myself. The crazy thing about it was that finally letting people into that aspect of my life was more of a relief for them than it was for me.

No more misguided questions about who I was dating, or why I hadn’t brought anyone home. No more saying “They are waiting on me” when it really was a “he” I was going to see.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that with every success story about coming out, there are probably 20 more horror stories. Everyone’s experience will be different, and many will not be as easy as mine was.

But you must ask yourself: Who am I living for? Am I living for what makes everyone else happy or what makes me happy? Am I the best person I can be to all these people in the world, if I am living my life inauthentically?

I am many things and being gay only makes up a part of me. I will no longer allow the thoughts and actions of others to outweigh the peace of being me.

And neither should you.

George Johnson is a advocate for social change in the realms of gender, higher education, sexual orientation, and race.  He has been published in Ebony, HuffPost College, Diverse Education and TheEdAdvocate. Follow him on twitter @iamgmjohnson.

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