Today is National Coming Out Day. To mark the occasion, I’m reprinting here an item that a Facebook friend, Matthew Ryan Thompson, posted on his timeline last October.
I first met Ryan in 2017 on an ill-fated flight from Philadelphia to Cleveland by way of LaGuardia in New York City. No we didn’t crash, thank God — just the opposite actually. We couldn’t get airborne. I boarded the flight and we taxied out somewhere on the runway to await our turn. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Some hour or two later, I forget exactly, we taxied back to the airport where a group of us experienced an exasperating yet quite fun all-nighter sitting together outside baggage claim. We grew sillier and punchier as the hours dragged by.
Ryan had been sitting across the aisle from me and back one row as we waited out on the runway. Sitting on the plane and later back in the terminal, he emerged as the leader of our weary but merry gang. He helped make the night a memorable experience — in the good sense. If you ever get stranded, he’s the guy you want with you. Ryan and I became Facebook friends that night, as did several others.
Off My Chest & Into the World
By Matthew Ryan Thompson
Originally Published on Facebook, October 21, 2019
Just have to get this off my chest and into the world…
Contrary to some ideas, opinions and beliefs… being gay isn’t a fad or a phase. It’s not fashionable and it’s not a choice. The only choices I had growing up as a homosexual was to either live the life I was given (gay), suppress who I was born to be and “fake it,” or even worse… end everything all together. Believe it or not, my first choice was to end it all.
I remember praying and wishing and hoping that God would change me. Yet, I sit here today (still gay and very proud) with memories of those late nights. Memories of fear and embarrassment. Memories of rejection and bullying and shame. Looking back, I don’t think I was searching for answers as much as I was looking for a reason to believe in, well, anything. A reason to believe that I was meant to live this life as a gay man. I didn’t find my answers through faith in God or any religion… honestly, that is where I found the meaning of conditional love and rejection. I found my answers in others like me. Others searching for their will to live. People… just like me. People who were told hurtful things out of fear and hatred. People looking to be “normal.”
I remember the day I wrote my “letters.” I remember sitting in my room staring at my notebook… fearing that if my family and friends ever found out my “truth” they would disown me. That was fear talking. Hell, that was fear screaming at me. My family and my friends loved me. They still do. But fear wouldn’t allow me to see that. Fear didn’t allow me to feel loved or proud. Looking back, I sat for hours writing what I thought would be my last words to the people that I loved the most.
I cannot describe the loneliness and pain my heart felt at just 15 years old. I thought by killing myself I would save my family and friends from shame and disappointment. I never once thought I was worth loving or caring about. Why? Because shame and sorrow overshadowed any sense of pride in my heart. Be it my own pride or anyone else’s.
I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I “came out.” It was the scariest thing I have ever done. But it was what I needed to breathe. Coming out brought me back to life. Being “in the closet” was a feeling of safety and suffocation. Safety because I felt nobody could hurt me if they didn’t know I was gay. Suffocation because I felt like I was keeping a part of me hidden from the world. I felt bigger than the space I allowed myself to live in.
Growing up gay was not always about my sexuality. It was a constant flow of feeling different. Almost like being painted in color while everyone else was drawn in black and white. I remember watching kids play from my front door at a very young age thinking to myself “what is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal?” But nothing was wrong with me… what was wrong was the stigma and fear and lack of acceptance and understanding that surrounded my homosexuality. It was never about politics until it became political. It was never about acceptance until I was rejected. It was never about love until it became conditional. It was never about safety until my safety was threatened.
Everyday kids are thrown out of their houses because of being queer. Studies show that a massive portion of those kids/teens are either forced into homelessness, turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide. Love and acceptance can help save lives. I know this because it helped save mine.
Trying to understand homosexuality is tough. It’s even tougher to understand and to process for someone going through it. Coming out is a learning process for everyone involved. Instead of seeking to understand, I encourage each and every one of you to learn to accept each and every person for who they are. Those like you and those not like you. Accept the differences in yourself. Love yourself.
I am very lucky to have the family and the friends that I do. I’m loved and accepted for who I am and supported in ways I never knew that I needed. Fear can destroy a person. To be honest, I fight fear everyday. I believe we all do on different levels.
I am sharing my story in hopes that someone reads it in their time of need. No matter what you are going through. Just know that love and kindness can save a life. Listen to each other. Support one another. Make room in the chaos of your mind for positive thoughts and action.
You are loved. You matter. You can and you will make it through this tough time. Embrace yourself. Embrace others. I love you… you can do this.
Title image: Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
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