I have been inspired by a high school student and more recently Frank Ocean to share the following with you all:
I never told my mom, but she has to know. If I told her, I cannot imagine her treating me any differently because she loves me unconditionally. And this seemingly fits the definition of a ‘condition.’ Hence, her love would not change. Yet, for some reason, I have not told her; it’s never come up in conversation between us (Editor’s note: That’s a poor excuse). Maybe deep down I am concerned about her reaction; her opinion of me is valuable to me and I would be devastated if it ever changed. It’s hard to live the Buddhist ideology of not listening to either praise or criticism because they are different sides of the same coin, judgement. It’s even more difficult when the person holding the coin is a loved one.
On the other hand, I have told a couple of my closest friends and they all, thankfully, supported me. Not surprisingly, I was nervous about it; before I told them, I kept telling myself that I would not care about their reaction because this moment was about me. If they did not want to be my friend anymore because of this then so be it. I did not need friends like that; instead, I needed friends who would ride with me, love me unconditionally. But, I lie to myself often. I knew I would be heartbroken if they did not accept me even though I was the same person. I did not preface it with any long drawn out backstory of when I realized I was me, nor did I begin with gaging their love for me with fishing questions like “You love, right?” One of closest male friends, upon hearing my announcement, responded, after about two seconds of dead air, which felt much longer as I anxiously waited for his reaction, “So?” Another second or two passed, then he added, “I’m proud of you.”
Late last year, while at a conference, I shared, among a large group of people I did not know, my identity. Admittedly, that experience was both terrifying and easy at the same damn time. I was sharing publicly, but the large crowd also added some semblance of anonymity; I did not know these folks and hence did not really care about their judgements. More importantly, I was not alone; there were others who identified with me. The sheer power of numbers comforted me. Not sure where they were on their individual journeys, and truthfully it did not matter.
I am a heterosexual.
While I understand that my sexual orientation is privileged, I want to challenge the expectation that those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or those who do not wish to label their love with whom they love, must ‘come out’ and share their sexuality. Sharing, though it often seems like a public confession, neatly packs them into those tightly constrictive boxes in which society desperately wants to place everyone, as if our sexuality is the only part of our person. For example, Frank Ocean is dangerously being mislabeled, misidentified by many news pundits as gay and bisexual. Read the letter; he shares that he loved a man and never once used those terms that we, as a society, are so quick and ready to assign.
Additionally, I hope this letter challenges all of us to think about: the dilemma and difficulty of being oneself when ‘you’ are culturally devalued, the freedom and challenges that one experiences when one is openly ‘you,’ the inevitable damage caused with privileging others, the ridiculousness of defining one’s sexuality for others, the dilemma of sharing one’s sexuality, a private identity, publicly, the should-be-unnecessary and real fear of the consequences such an announcement produces.
I could identify with Frank Ocean’s strong feelings of being in love. He painfully, yet romantically, writes about his ‘missed love connection’ though he still experienced love. He then thanks the man who awakened those amazing feelings within him. A blind person can easily tell from the letter that Frank was in love. Filled with short staccato like sentences interspersed with longer ones, Frank Ocean builds to the climax, when he nonchalantly states, “I feel like a free man.” Unfortunately, such freedom, for many (and thus for all of us), is unfortunately not free.