I like men. That's been public knowledge since late 2006. I got comfortable enough to freely discuss it about a year later.
Back then, it bothered me. Not that I never notice the little (and of course the big) social and legal issues, but I can honestly say that, at least for me, it changed. I can't say that it got better. Me coming out didn't change anything outside. But I got better. Coming out and being honest with the world around me made me more comfortable being me.
I was in high school. I had a lot of things working against me. I was never the best looking or the fittest or the best at the whole social interaction thing. Pile 'likes boys' on top of that and you don't exactly get a kinder world. Yeah, I did have problems. But I had fewer problems looking myself in the mirror. I knew, when I stared into my own eyes, that I could really see myself. Finally, I could look and know me. Know Voss.
2005 was when I first dared to breathe the words to another soul. That was a different kind of coming out. That was a testing ground, and I was lucky enough that it went well. He ended up being my first boyfriend.
You may not be that lucky. You might get hit or shunned or yelled at. Or you could be luckier than me. You could find the absolute love of your life. You could remember it as the best singular moment in your existence.
February of 2014, I came out as genderqueer. And again, I found myself more comfortable. Little things that bothered me, like getting mistaken for a woman or being grouped in with the 'ladies' when hanging out with my female friends, didn't bother me so much.
But more than anything, that experience proved something to me: it's not a singular experience. It's a parade. Little moments, little events, little steps toward fully accepting yourself. Your sexuality, your gender, everything.
Coming out of the closet can be one of the most daunting things members of the QUILTBAG+ community will ever have to do. Hell, it'll pretty much definitely make the top ten list for just about anyone. And that sucks. It sucks that we have to come out. It sucks that there even is a closet, because it's a closet that we didn't build. I certainly didn't. Ever since I came out, I've been working to tear that damn closet down.
And thank God, we're getting close. We have thirty states now with legal same-sex marriage. The majority of the US population is in support of same-sex marriage. We're making progress. When I try to think about the changes we've been through, try to see it through the eyes of someone from the forties or fifties, when this thing wasn't talked about, wasn't acknowledged... well, I can't. There's not way in hell I can even begin to fathom the way the world must look now. But I know that whatever little bit of that truth I can touch upon brings tears to my eyes. Finally, they can begin to be who they are, undo some of that damage they incurred from the closet society built them into.
If you're in the closet, know that there are people on the other side of that door. There's a whole community waiting to take you in. People who have been through it before. If you don't think you can, you'r wrong. You're dead wrong. You're stronger than you could ever imagine. I know that just because you're in the closet to begin with. You're bearing that weight, and that by itself has made you nigh-indestructible. You can do this.
If you think you can't because there aren't a set of arms there to embrace you, you're wrong. There's someone there. There's me. I'll be there no matter what. Contact me here. Twitter me. Facebook. Smoke signal. Don't think you'll fall. You probably don't know me. I don't care. Talk to me if you have no one else. Or call a hotline. But don't let anything stop you.
Blow up your closet.