Halloween freshman year crept up on me fast. As sorority girls found bunny ears to disguise themselves, I finally took the opposite route by unmasking myself.
On October 11th, National Coming Out Day, Florida State University’s Pride Student Union placed a closet door outside on Landis Green. Usually the meeting spot for students, Landis Green became a doorway for all those who felt like they couldn’t be themselves.
I sat casually on a bench with sunglasses and wondered how these students must feel. Why was it so easy for them? There were hundreds of students passing across the green. I realized how thrilling it must be to take life into your own hands, so I followed the grass path to the closet door.
A girl with a pink pixie cut greeted me and asked if I would like to carry a sign with me when I walked through the door. I told her “Yes,” and she handed me options. These signs each had one word on them: ally, lesbian, trans-gender, trans-sexual, and etc. The tiniest word was the one that weighed the most – three letters that caused me so much confusion, torment, and judgment in my life
The door was right in front of me, but I felt like we were miles apart. With a sign in hand, I put one foot in front of the other and took deep breaths as if preparing for my Broadway debut. I felt lonely at this moment, just as I felt lonely my whole life. My friends and family didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand me. The only people around me were members of the Pride Student Union and passing strangers.
The Pride students stared at me with encouraging smiles, clapping, and cheering, “You can do it,” and “You’ve waited your whole life for this!” They were right. I had waited my whole life for this moment, a moment I never thought would come.
Even though I could see through the door and the scenery appeared the same, I knew it would be different. I would see the world in a better light because the world was going to see a better version of myself: my real self.
For a moment I hesitated and recanted all the “mistakes” I made growing up; all those times I chose to try out for musicals rather than sports teams or cared more about fashion than sports cars. Every assumption others made about my sexuality was about to be affirmed. It was this moment that I took control of who I was and who I was going to be. It was as if I had the strength of Hercules when I lifted the sign that said “Gay” on it.
The word “gay” had hung over me for years as an insult: “That’s so gay,” or “He’s so gay,” were phrases that convinced me that it was wrong to identify as such. It took only a few seconds to pass through the door, but those few seconds closed the door on what had been a lifetime of fear, pain and disappointment.
In my household, being gay was wrong. I came out to 100 people before I told my parents that their once perfect son had what they deemed a flaw. My parents weren’t shocked, but they were worried. They just wanted me to be their idea of “normal,” but I wasn’t going to stand back and let other people normalize me and tell me who I was supposed to be.
Today, everyone knows I’m gay and proud. Most of them don’t remember the person they used to know and frankly I don’t either. I don’t think I was ever flawed. I was born this way and the open-mindedness and accepting atmosphere of Florida State University helped me realize there is nothing wrong with that.
Coming to college, I thought my most memorable experience would be my first home football game or graduation day, but neither of those can compare to the moment I came out. I was surrounded by strangers who didn’t have any inclination as to who I was. That final moment of being on the other side of the door was the first moment people experienced the real me.