Imagine yourself as you are right now.
Imagine going about your day and living your life and feeling as though your only safety is being able to seamlessly blend in with the regular people. The normal people. The accepted ones.
Until you get that familiar pang of anxiety. You’re reminded that there’s this one little thing. This one word. This one little thing that’s different.
It’s a secret that’s been festering inside you, pressuring you, begging you to let it see the light of day. A secret you’ve kept from your family and friends, a little lie you’ve always had to tell. A secret you’ve never actually said out loud. A secret that never leaves you alone. Always there. Always in the back of your mind. So tiny, and yet so destructive. As small as one word.
A word that has entered my ears consumed my mind and escaped my mouth.
A word that makes a million others rush through my mind:
Scared. A word that is used a thousand times a day, a word that does not pick and choose genders or races or ethnicities. Confused. A word that had made me lie to those closest to me. Helpless. A word that could make my family love me less. Hurt. A word that had made me isolated. Alone. A word that had entered my head in seventh grade. Different. A word that made me think there was something wrong with me. Freak. A word that made me get a therapist. Sick. A word that has made my result to pills. Dependent. A word my faith does not accept. Disowned. A word that will make my sister scared of me. Phobia. A word that my brother and I will share.
… Now that doesn’t sound like an awful word.
How is it that this one word creates a million others, and all these rushing emotions inside my head and heart? I have to keep reminding myself of the other words that can come along too:
Community. A word that gives me a place to be safe.
Unique. A word that is now ok.
Hiding my true self and creating a façade has taken a heavy toll. Up until now I had always assumed I would live a perfect and “normal” life, the ones my parents planned out for me. I wanted that life. That easy, ready-made existence.
But now, I have to not only forge my own way, but I have to weigh the consequences of honesty, openness, secrecy and deception, and the toll they have taken on my head and heart, and how worth it they’re going to be. Lying appears to have a degree of safety but as you get older it wears on you.
I can see the damage of the fear, shame, guilt and self-loathing right in the mirror. The mirror where I stand for minutes, which seems like hours, convincing myself that there’s nothing wrong with me. The mirror where I scream that one word silently to myself. I scream it so loud that I sometimes I believe I’m saying it out loud. The mirror where I practice my “life changing” speech verbatim and practice what I would say to my family if they found out.
But there it is again. That word. That one simple word that tortures me.
Now take that one word and add two more.
With this you make a phrase.
A phrase that could free me or kill me. A phrase that brings acceptance or destruction. A phrase that is life-changing and true. A phrase that can mean serious consequences.
But just a phrase at the end of the day.
Just a few words, packed to the brim with meaning and energy and consequence.
A word is just a word until you decide how it will affect or define you.
And once it defines you it becomes a definition, a definition of oneself.
A definition of Me.
So here it is.
My one phrase with my one word.
I am gay.