Sunday, March 29, 2009

hey've taken my sad song and made it better

It is now that I celebrate life! Well over a decade has passed since I found myself returning to the Netherlands. Throughout the duration of the flight, I prayed to God begging Him to somehow open up a hole in the aircraft and suck me out while the pilot would safely land the remaining passengers at the nearest airport. Nearly twenty years I had lived and here I was still trying to come up with a way to end it all without embarrassing my loved ones any further.

The airplane landed safely at Schiphol where I was met by my family; my mother and father and my beautiful little sister who I have grown to look up to and admire for her insight, compassion and willingness to empathize with any individual’s situation. We walked arm in arm as we made our way through the airport parking lot. This would be the first and only time I’ve made the trip to Europe without experiencing the torturous jetlag that so often accompanies such a journey. My feet were on the ground.

Three months had passed; my family and I took a stroll through the small village that we would call home for the next few years. Although the Netherlands is known for its very progressive attitude toward equality, the village we resided in was a small Catholic farming town. Imagine my surprise when we walked toward the Centrum, in front of the church, there was a billboard advertising quality mattresses. On one side of the advertisement two young, attractive women were lying in bed together. The other side portrayed an equally attractive (ok, they were hot) male couple.

Every emotion known to mankind welled up in me as I tried to hide the excitement I felt regarding what seemed so normal for the townspeople I lived amongst. For fear I would out myself, I said nothing and tried not to stare as we walked past the happy gay couples on the billboard. Was it possible for me to actually live with this?

My sister, along with a very good friend, introduced me to several new and interesting people. I found myself learning the public transit system, hanging out at the pubs and going to discos. I was exposed to so much more than I could have ever imagined while growing up in small town USA.

It was during one night while my sister and I were at a local disco with two of our friends; playing a game of truth or dare I nervously announced “I’m gay.” The response I received was nothing like I had expected. You see, I had been carrying the world on my shoulders for my entire life. I was known for being angry and reactionary. I had overcompensated for so long in order to mask the truth. And for my sister to now know what had been the driving force for my anger, she wept. It was as if she understood, in the time it took me to state those two little words “I’m gay,” every experience and every moment that got me to this place and time. I made it.

The first person in my family that I was truthful to, she allowed me to lie when I needed to lie and she has always been there to fight my battles when I needed help. My sister, my advocate, told no one of my secret. She respected the space I needed in order for me to come to terms with who I am. She had the faith in me to know that I would.

Quite a bit of time has passed since that night. I’ve repeated those words, “I’m gay,” an infinite number of times. I would say the first thousand or so times was just as difficult as that night at the disco. But I’ve found that with the support of my family and the many friends I’ve made along the way, coming out of the closet has gotten much easier.

There was a point at which I didn’t believe I would make it. Because I said those two little words that evening at the disco, I received the encouragement I needed in order to carry on. I have been extremely fortunate for having crossed paths with the many who remain respectful and supportive with regard to my status and are rising to the challenge to help secure my status as a soon to be equal citizen.

Prior to getting to the place in which I could discuss activism, I had to learn to accept myself. Neither could be accomplished without the acceptance and conviction of my straight allies.

We so often forget that when we come out, our straight allies must also come out. When my parents explain why I am not married to their fundamentalist neighbors, when my best friend speaks out against the colleague for their homophobic “jokes,” they continue to come out to proudly uphold the truth and what is right. Thanks to the unyielding support and unconditional love I’ve received, my song continues to get better.

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