30 Till 30 | I Came Out Eight Years Ago — Does it *Really* Get Better?
TLDR: It’s complicated.
The build up to coming out is very dramatic and epitomizes gay culture almost too well.
First, you (and you alone) decide that it’s time to come out of the closet. Too long have you spent your nights stuck between the winter coat and the suit your parents bought you in the eighth grade that doesn’t fit anymore—it’s ridiculous, it’s appalling, and it’s too cramped.
Next, you find a way to tell your parents without backing out. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people coming out to their parents while they’re in the car, something about being confined in a small space? Me? A family meeting that I highjacked to “end these (oftentimes tumultuous) meetings on a positive note for once.”
Then, you rehearse the words: “I. Am. Gay. I AM gay. I Am GAY. i am gay. I’M GAYYYYY!” No iteration sounds right.
Finally, you get the words out and…the world doesn’t explode. You and your family shed a few tears and then you have dinner in awkward silence and act like nothing ever happened! No follow up questions. No drama. Not for me and my family, anyways, but we never really were the ask a million questions type (not on this topic).
Eight years ago, I got lucky. My coming out experience used to be a rare one; as the country becomes more and more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve started seeing more positive coming out stories—like mine—and I think that bodes well for humanity. But I didn’t have those stories growing up. I grew up learning about Matthew Shepard and watching movies like Brokeback Mountain and Prayers for Bobby. The HRC ads screamed “IT GETS BETTER”, but I never really knew that it would! Eight years later and i’m living as an out and proud gay man thinking “okay yeah, they were right.” But if I had known that sooner; if I had more positive coming out stories, I probably would’ve stepped out of the closet much sooner and wouldn’t feel so stunted.
That was something a lot of my peers and queer elders experienced a lot of because society wasn’t so readily accepting of our community. While all of our straight peers had the experience of dating and being in a relationship when they were expected to, the rest of us either had a beard or remained single and “waiting for the right girl.” So when the rest of us came out at 19, 22, 32, or 42, it was like we had to play catch up as adults and in the moment, life and love didn’t feel like it would get any better. If anything, I felt like more of a child at 24 trying to date than I did at 19! Every decision I made felt wrong, my confidence was shaky and, to quote Buffy Summers, I felt like cookie dough—not quite done baking.
So to answer the question: No, it doesn’t get better; not quite. For starters, I’m attracted to men which is already a net negative, but each of my experiences are so unique to me (and yours to you, dear reader), and so there’s no guidebook to figuring out what “better” even looks like! I don’t know what I’m doing, but no one else does either. And that’s just life, now isn’t it? Gay or straight, we’re never quite sure what we’re doing nor are we settled with who we are and where we are in life. We can’t all be cookies because if we’re all cookies then we’re done baking. We’ve cooled down and someone is preparing to eat us and then what? We’re dead, that’s what.
So no, I can confidently say that, eight years later, it does not get “better”—but it does get easier.