Two years of living life Out Loud

Exactly two years ago today, I decided to come out publicly. Though it was only days after I had told my immediate family, I had been planning how I wanted to tell the rest of the world for quite some time. For weeks, I worked on this article, which I published in a then-Greek life online and print newspaper, trying to express to the world my experiences, my life, and my hope for acceptance.

When the moment finally came to hit “publish” on that article, I’ll admit I hesitated; I’ll even admit that I had been in the exact same position several times before and chickened out. But this time I didn’t. I was ready for my life to change, because I could not keep on living the way I was. So I quickly hit publish, swiftly copied the link and posted it on my Facebook page and turned my phone off before heading in to my last final of the semester.

I have to say, publishing something like that right before a cumulative final was not the smartest move on my part. I spent most of the time sitting there, heart-racing, contemplating the fact that my life would be different once I tuned in that final and looked at my phone.

Part of me wanted to fly through the final; the other part of me never wanted it to end.

Of course, the final did eventually end and the time finally came for me to embrace whatever the world was going to throw my way. So, I held down the power button on my phone and breathlessly waited to see what the reaction would be.

I find it hard to explain my feelings in the moments before I was about to see the reactions that people had to me coming out; I suppose it’s kind of like skydiving. You’re full of adrenaline, fear and excitement, and you jump out of your plane and there are only two options; either your parachute opens up, supporting you, keeping you whole and safe, or it doesn’t, and you plunge down into what are your deepest, darkest places.

Fortunately for me, my parachute opened.

The outpouring of love and support from friends, family, and even people I didn’t know was more than I could have hoped for, even in my wildest dreams. My life was changed for the better that day and not a moment goes by that I don’t appreciate that fact.

Since then, I’ve been able to do more than I ever expected; I’ve been able to connect with an amazing community of LGBTQ individuals across the country, incorporate LGBTQ advocacy into my education and professional life, and I’ve even had the opportunity to speak at a national conference on behalf of LGBTQ athletes. Basically, I’ve been able to live my best life possible, and it all comes back to that moment when I hit publish on that article.

I owe it all, every single minute of every single day since, to the moment that I hit publish.

And what frightens me, exactly two years later is this: if I was faced with that same moment today, I’m not sure I could have done it. I’m not sure I would have been able to make myself hit the “publish” button, because the world closeted young adults are facing today is far different than the one I came out into.

I came out in what will undoubtedly go down in history as the most pro-LGBTQ national administration in modern time; closeted individuals now will be coming out in the exact opposite. It crushes me to think of how many people out there, who are just like me, that are afraid to come out because of the national dialogue currently going on in our President-elect’s proposed administration.

What is even more disheartening is that these fears are not unfounded. Where I work, shop, vacation, or carry out a variety of other normal activities could all potentially change in the next few months or years. What hurts even more is that these changes will be brought about thanks to people, some of which are friends and family, voting for a man who ran by preaching division, hate, and intolerance.

If you voted for Trump, you are partially responsible for what is to come. Those might not be the reasons you voted, but they are a direct consequence of your actions. The line for basic human rights is about to be drawn in the sand, and hopefully this time you will recognize what is at stake.

For me, there is no going back, which I am incredibly grateful for. Like I said, if I had to face coming out now, I don’t know whether or not I could do it. Yes, there is a community bursting with love, joy and acceptance waiting to accept all LGBTQ individuals with open arms, but in the closet it is so hard to see past the hate, anger, and intolerance of those blocking your way.

So two years later, I am conflicted: so happy and thankful for the way my personal life has evolved since coming out, and sad and fearful for myself and others like me, whether they are out or not, and what the future has in store for us. I’m not sure what the next year or two will bring, but I do know that’ll I’ll be able to face it thanks to the incredible support of these past two years.

To those contemplating coming out, just know there is a community out here waiting for you. I’m not going to say coming out is easy, fair, or straightforward, but there are people out here who will stand by you, no matter what.

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