Perhaps the most pivotal event in my coming out process was the weekend that I finally decided to accept that I was gay. And while starting my story there seems like jumping in halfway through the journey, I think it is essential to do so. Understanding what that weekend was like and where I was emotionally and mentally will shed much needed light on the rest of my experiences, even those that predate this particular event. Indeed, understanding where the journey prior to that eventually led has increased my appreciation for those earlier experiences.
As I often tell my friends, I did not so much come out of the closet as I ran out of it screaming. By the time I finally decided to stop with all of the lies and the attempts to be someone that I'm not, I had reached a critical point. Indeed, while I consider my official coming out anniversary to be April 1, 1996 (the evening I told a good friend that I was gay), the real turning point occurred two nights earlier as I lay in bed, planning my own suicide.
I had quit trying to convince myself that my attractions towards other guys were "just a phase" two years prior to that night. However, I had spent those two years hoping and praying that I would be healed of those feelings, conquering them once and for all. It had been a losing battle those two years, and I had finally reached the point where I was tired of fighting it. I had lost all hope.
That night, I realized that I was alone, and would be doomed to be alone for the rest of my life if I continued down the path I was on. I knew that my feelings would never change, no matter how hard I tried or how hard I prayed. I wanted a romantic relationship so badly, and if only allowed myself to seek that out with a woman like my religion, my friends, my family, and much of society told me I should, that desire would go painfully unfulfilled.
That sense of loneliness was even more pronounced because my closest friends were busy that night. To add insult to injury, two of them were busy spending the night with female friends they were either romantically involved with or hoping to become as such. This only reinforced my realization that while my friends could try their best to be supportive of my struggles, they ultimately had the benefit of walking away from it all and pursue that which I most wanted and could not find. Words cannot describe the sense of isolation and abandonment I felt because of this.
All of these factors resulted in my going into an emotional tailspin. I lay in bed in my grief and misery, and realized I could not go on like this. And at first, my mind locked onto death as a solution. I spent half an hour considering ending my life that night. This was not a passing thought, but a concerted visualization. I saw every detail of my death with vivid clarity. Indeed, my focus was so great that even eleven years later, I can still picture every detail of the knife I intended to use to slit my wrists and what I think it would've felt like to draw my own blood with its blade.
Fortunately, I never got out of bed or walked downstairs to the kitchen to get the knife. I'm not entirely sure what stopped me, but I'm glad it did, whatever it was. Instead, I finally fell asleep. Sometime the next day, it hit me just what I had considered doing the night before, and how much time and energy I invested in the very idea. That realization terrified me. As miserable as I was, I wanted to live.
But I also knew there was no way I could go on living this way. So I finally admitted to myself that if I wanted to live, I was going to have to accept that I was gay and get on with my life. So when I saw my friend, Kim, on Monday, I told her I needed to talk to her.
Kim used to go to the same college as the rest of friends and I, but had transferred to a SUNY school at the end of the last school year. She just happened to be visiting for a few days when all of this was happening in my life. That was fortunate for me, as I'm not sure who else I would have felt comfortable talking to at the time. I knew she would be supportive of me because she had come out to me the previous year. So when I saw her in the cafeteria, I jumped at he chance to confide in her.
We met later that evening in a small alcove in front of some instructors' offices in one of the buildings on campus. We had used this spot for a Bible study the year before, and it was a place both Kim and I knew well. I also knew we would have our privacy, which I needed at the time.
I don't remember much about the conversation we have. I do remember that it took me several minutes to work up the courage to actually utter the words "I'm gay" in her presence. I recall taking several deep breaths and opening my mouth to speak, only to find my voice had run away. But eventually, after a few attempts, I was able to overcome the panic inside enough to say what I needed to.
Naturally, Kim was accepting and supportive. She was also understanding of my incoherent and frightened state at the time. We spent at least an hour just talking. She shared some of her own experiences with me and emphasized just how proud of me she was. I babbled and cried.
It took me a long time to realize just how cathartic that whole experience was. Indeed, the sense of freedom of finally admitting who I was didn't really set in until much later, perhaps even more than a year. But that moment started me on the path that eventually led me to it.
More importantly, that moment saved my life.