Parenting

The Crushing Isolation Of 'Coming Out'

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Scary Mommy and Lucy Lambriex/Getty

Oscar Wilde once said “be yourself. Everyone else is taken” — and he was right. You only get one chance. You are only given one life. But it took me 36 years to realize who that person was, who I wanted to be. And when I found her, I was terrified. Scared. I was so damn lonely and afraid.

Let me explain.

You see, I am many things. A wife. A woman. A mother. A runner. A writer. I spend my days advocating for mental health, and my nights caring for two beautiful children. Children who are my light and my life. And while I’ve been #blessed in many ways, I’ve always known something was missing. There was a hole in my heart and soul. But I ignored it, at least until this summer when — on an exceptionally warm day — I told my husband I wasn’t okay.

“I think,” I stumbled. “I think I’m gay.”

To say he was shaken would be an understatement. As we sat on the porch that evening, our future flashed before his eyes — as it did mine — and there was sorrow and anger. He felt our entire relationship had been built on a lie. He was hurt. Very hurt. You could cut the tension with a dull, drugstore knife, and he was disappointed, in me and us. And while I don’t fault him for his response — truly, I don’t — I was left feeling hurt. Gutted. Sure, I was being honest and authentic, but I had never felt more alone.

Of course, loneliness is a common and normal emotion. In fact, it is a universal emotion. Every human being will experience feelings of desolation, alienation, and/or isolation over the course of their life. But feelings of loneliness and isolation are particularly common in the gay community. Why? Because many LGBTQ people hide their true selves from friends and family before they come out, which can be an incredibly isolating experience, and this sense of isolation can be hard to shake, as was (and is) the case with me.

I peeked my head out of the closet in July but I don’t feel any better or stronger. There was no “aha moment” or sense of relief, and on more than one occasion, I’ve wished I could shut the door on my identity.

In some ways, it was easier living a lie.

In living said lie, there would be no discomfort — at least not for my husband. There would be no angst or anger. No tears, fears, or fights. Things would be simpler, easier. Nothing would have to change. We would be able to continue the status quo. I wouldn’t have to be on edge at all times. I’ve come out on a few occasions, but this is a story I will have to tell time and time again. Plus, my family wouldn’t be affected. I worry how my identity will impact my seven-year-old daughter and my 21-month-old son. And that is a terrible weight to carry.

It is a terrible burden to bear.

I also wouldn’t have to worry about losing my extended family. My father died when I was a child. My mother passed in 2020, and the only family I have is our family. His family. I don’t know what happens to me if and when I reveal my truth — and I’m terrified. I’m terrified I will lose them — the only family I have left. The only family I may ever know.

Of course, my husband has joked there will be a parade for me when I come out, publicly and openly, but I fear he is wrong. I’ve seen loved ones shunned for their sexuality. They’ve lost friendships and relationships. They’ve been hated and berated for being who they are. For embracing their true selves. I’ve spoken with friends about the isolation. Most are thankful they’ve come out, but they also acknowledge there is difficulty and hardship. It’s not easy. Coming out is full of sadness, fear, and pain, and some do not believe in or support LGBTQ rights.

Many communities, municipalities, and states lack LGBTQ protections.

Plus, I don’t care about the proverbial parade. I care about how I feel — in this very moment — and right now I feel like I’m alone in the middle of a frozen lake. The air is cold. The ice is thin, and no matter what I do, I’m destined to fall in. So I stand. Still. Stuck. Waiting. Breathing. Being. I stand, here and queer, but very much alone. But I’m standing, and that is something.

Scratch that: through it all, I’m standing — and that is everything.

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