When I “came out” it was in my senior year of high school. I was in sports, every extracurricular activity, and I was popular. As soon as I started dating a girl my whole world changed. Friends I had known for years became distant. People would look at me completely differently and some just stopped talking to me altogether (even to this very day). At the time it didn’t seem to faze me because I was happy in my newfound freedom and relationship.
This post is in collaboration with Providence St. Joseph Health – Well Being Trust. All stories and opinions expressed are my own.
When it came time to tell my mother I didn’t think I would have an issue. During one phone call I had asked if I could bring a girlfriend to our weekly family dinner. At first my mother didn’t seem to care. I could tell she wasn’t getting what I was truly saying. I asked again if I could bring my girlfriend hoping a new choice of words would sink in. I remember thinking she seemed shocked, but then she didn’t say anything more about it. Family dinner night came and went and although it seemed to have gone well (on the outside anyway) my family was not very welcoming or as okay with the idea as I first thought. My mother and I stopped speaking for about a year and I moved from New York down to Florida. She did not understand my new relationship and neither of us wanted to have the much-needed heart to heart “talk”. I had lost so much-from friendships to family that I felt only a move could help ease some of that pain.
It wasn’t long before I found myself back in New York and my mother and I started to work at mending our relationship and moving forward. However, with each new dating experience I was discovering the reasons behind my mother’s uncertainty/insecurity. I was raised in a very faith driven Christian home but that wasn’t the reason. My mother with struggling with concepts outside of religion. She worried I would never marry or have kids and that society would not accept me. I have never been one to push my personal life on anyone, but I do strongly stand by my choice of partners. This is my life and my normal
Fast forward to motherhood and starting the IVF process to conceive my son. Things were finally starting to look up for me and my family. I birthed the first grandchild and he paved the way of acceptance. In 2012 I could legally be married in the state of New York and Katie became my wife! After almost 7 years of marriage I can happily say all the worries my mother once had, have all been slowly put to rest. It wasn’t an easy journey-we struggled a lot along the way. Being in a same sex relationship comes with its own challenges. I sometimes forget to tell new people I meet until it comes time to introduce them to my wife. Not on purpose, but because to us it is a normal way of life. As society grows and acceptance becomes more widespread my hope is that more and more who come out do not struggle with the challenges those of us in previous generations did. Though my wife and I have a more passive approach to Gay Pride we still help pave the way for future couples by being a living example of what “gay” life is like in the 21st Century.
Did you know LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition. **LGBTQ people are at a higher risk than the general population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. **High school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are almost five times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers **48% of all adult transgenders report that they have considered suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 4% of the overall US population Many LGBTQ people live with a mental health condition and identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning. Many people in this community struggle in silence because of stigmas and opinions of others. It’s important to prioritize our mental health!
My advice to those who are struggling or know someone who is fighting with isolation or a mental illness in the LGBTQ community is to seek help! One of the best things I did when “coming out” was to be honest. I didn’t understand all the feelings I was having and did not want to be “labeled”. Sometimes it felt like the world was against me and in some cases it really was. I struggled for many years thinking I would never be accepted but followed people like Ellen DeGeneres (an openly gay celebrity). From there I found my tribe of accepting, supportive people who have become my foundation through the years. As you reach out or find help you too will find your tribe of supportive people. The struggles you have in this journey will be different than mine but not any less valid. Seeking professional help can really guide you in the direction of living a happy life both mentally and emotionally.
Look for resources and organizations that can help and support you like Providence St. Joseph Health – Well Being Trust who are experts in community outreach to help break stigmas and form support groups to work through family rejections or victimization. And prioritize advocacy for civil and human rights to help fight discrimination, prejudice and harassment.
Help support mental health for LGBTQ individuals and share these resources!