Another deep blog post: on “coming out” as a rite of passage – breaking free to become one’s own adultAugust 17th, 2020
The handcuffs in this blog post’s image aren’t, for me, symbolic of anger at the external forces that held back my rite of passage of coming out.
Yes, there were myriad forces at play that were handcuffing as I grew up [my own upbringing, as liberal and progressive and wonderful as it was through the credit of my awesome parents, was still one that was tinged with deeply religious culture, education and societal influence]…
But, as I wrote before, the past is the past:
I don’t, for a second, fault those who love me. I don’t – because I can’t – fault my past. I can’t change my past. I can’t undo my homophobic past.
I can only love now, and ever forward.
No, the handcuffs are symbolic of the personal all-encompassing chains that surround one’s entire life before they come out, and the scary freeing complex and triumphant and confusing and uncertain and amazing feelings that are unravelled once the chains break.
In the image, I want to focus on the breaking of the handcuffs, and what happens when they break:
Coming out is a rite of passage
I wanted to write about this today and highlight this rite of passage aspect because, I think, sometimes the transitional life-changing aspect of the coming out experience as a claiming of “growing up” and “entering adulthood” and “entering one’s own self” is not fully appreciated amidst the many other layers of the journey of coming out.
This has, since coming out and meeting other queer people both romantically and socially, been one of my most favourite discoveries of our human community: that all of us who come out have experienced a major life story of transition, of breaking the handcuffs, or coming into our self… of having this rite of passage.
Non-queer people experience rites of passage too: be it moving out from the familial home for the first time, getting proposed to or proposing to someone, telling one’s parents that they’re having a child… there are many moments along the way when one dramatically shifts from being a child to being one’s own adult.
For many queer people, the moment of vocalizing – especially to your family – that you are anything other than the boxed/hetero-normative/pre-conceived narrative of life and that you have to claim your own story and define your path your way… that’s MAJOR.
*** Let me tell you my story ***
It’ll surprise no one – because we all have it in our own families too; no family is perfection – that growing up I had fights with my parents sometimes. These fights always concluded with love and resolution, though. My family was one that lived a loving model of talking things out. This wasn’t a bad thing at all; but maybe consequently, I developed a self-imposed expectation of resolution and peace with my family. Again, not their fault at all… I think this was all just the product of deep love and my own mental processing of the way arguments were supposed to unfold: that I would wind up with my parents being happy with me.
11 years ago, I finally came out. Maybe I shouldn’t say “finally” – anyone is to be celebrated for coming out whenever they do. But anyways, I finally did it, and without sharing too many details of a private family experience, here’s the punch line:
This was the first time – ever – that I didn’t forge a timely resolution with my parents about what I’d shared.
They weren’t mad; far from. Love wasn’t shaken, they weren’t disappointed in me. But there also wasn’t confetti. It started an 11-year and continuing journey of evolving love and understanding and education for all of us: a beautiful opening of dialogue and support among my entire family for each other. It’s been amazing.
But that moment: that chapter of my life of coming out was the first time I ever left a family discussion without resolution. I owned my own house at the time, and it was a hugely mentally dramatic (triumphant/scary/amazing/terrifying) experience to open my parents’ door, leave their house, get into my car and drive away to my own house.
This was bigger than when I’d spent my first night in my own house, or when I’d moved away for university, or even bigger than when I hopped on the plane to leave Canada and start my job working on a cruise ship.
This was me, becoming me, openly transparently and with all of me laid bare
This was my rite of passage.
This was me, leaving my parents with uncertainty, unresolved processing, and an unconcluded dialogue. This was me deciding it was time to leave, go my own way, and not turn back. There was no turning back… eventually I had to head home to my own house, as an entirely new me (that I’d, of course, always been… a truer, fuller chapter of me).
Coming out is life-changing.
It’s never perfect. (And I fully acknowledge that my coming out journey was way more privileged and wonderful and supportive than so many queer people who have absolutely harrowing and tragic experiences).
It’s terrifying. It’s painful: rites of passage are painful in some way.
But the gains, the transition, the life after, the rewards, the ownership of self, the entry into adulthood and all that comes with the transition…
are the sweetest reward for growing up!