On June 18th, my very first article was published by GO Magazine. I spent the entirety of my piece describing the way in which I might die. I discussed police brutality against Black women, the intersectionality of my Blackness and my lesbianism (among other identities), and how those things would impact whether or not I was remembered. I asked myself and the broader world: Which communities are being left out of the data? Whose deaths were not memorialized? Who were we not marching for? My last request was that should I die, Black Lesbians should fill the streets and make sure that every piece of me is counted.
When I published my obituary, I instantly came out to the world.
I hadn’t considered that would happen when I was praying for approval on my submission. I had been out of a job for a few months, and I’d been feeling more than stuck — unsure of where to go next or what I was supposed to be doing. I’d always loved to write, but the idea of becoming a writer seemed too far-fetched. I was terrified — not of taking the leap, but of jumping in the wrong direction. What if the piece was rejected? What if it was accepted, but the community I’d written for despised it? I only wanted my mother to see me finally finding my place, a prospect she had gotten so excited about. I wanted her to be able to keep that excitement. Waiting for a response to my pitch was worse than talking myself into submitting. To be honest, I needed more pep talks during the waiting period than I did when I was considering submitting. Getting that “yes” felt like the breakthrough I’d been waiting for. I felt like I was grabbing at slime-covered strings for so long; it finally felt like the effort I had been putting in was amounting to something.
When the link for my article went live, I was uncloaked forever. It’s not that I wasn’t out in my daily life. I was; I have been out of the closet since I was a sophomore in high school. I told the people that mattered and was open about it to people who didn’t. My current girlfriend has been around the majority of my family and friends, and we are ridiculously affectionate in public. Though some of my older family members are a little oblivious, it hasn’t stopped me from being my ultra-progressive, flower child lesbian self. I’d finally learned to own it — to exude pride on a regular basis.
Yet here I was, realizing just how out of my reach my article now was. This was different. When you are published, you expose yourself to the world. What that world thinks of you has the ability to influence everything else you do from that moment forward. When you Google my name, this pops up — and it will forever. The shares, likes, comments, and texts were everything I needed to make me feel like my writing was worth reading. I was heard by the community and learned many felt the same way I did. I made so many people cry multiple times. Many people I knew my whole life were witnessing me actively bloom. I was literally living a dream that I didn’t know I had. What was there to be afraid of?
There’s an unwritten rule that as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you must reintroduce yourself to the world every time you leave the house. From the time you leave in the morning to the time you return at night, you are expected to lay yourself out for everyone to pass judgment. They decide if you’re worthy or not — worthy of success or opportunity or your life. Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is worrying constantly what those reintroductions — and the judgment that comes with them — will mean for your life and the people in it. There are a few of us who choose to never disclose our sexuality, who risk themselves instead of choosing not to subject themselves to that judgment. Just like the rest of us though, when judgment finally is passed, those people have to reckon with what may be lost.
Somehow I’d forgotten all about that as I stamped “Black lesbian” on my forehead. I gave away my ability to reintroduce myself as I pleased, and I didn’t realize it until my sister told my grandmother that I had been published. I hadn’t told either of my grandparents that I had sent my work to a magazine for a number of reasons, the biggest being that they are old school Black and don’t consider writing a real job unless I have a New York Times bestseller. They did, however, know that I am a lesbian; whether or not they choose to acknowledge it is a different conversation.
While I have yet to show my grandmother my article or the live reading on Instagram, I take solace in having done two things that I never would have imagined myself doing: submitting my work to an editor and owning my sexuality as publicly as I possibly could. The best part, though, was my little sister assuring my grandmother that there was nothing wrong with me. She was proud of me, and that alone made everything worth it. In some ways, I was lucky. There are many who fall out of the closet and don’t receive as warm of a welcome as I did.
That’s why coming out is a process; you have to feel ready, like if you hold it in any longer a rainbow will explode from your diaphragm. You have to be ready for whatever might come from it; that takes real time and often a ton of self-reflection. For the folks who fall out of the closet — whose prep time is cut short, who have to deal with what comes next way before they are ready to, who out themselves online or through email or text, or who, like me, scream their sexuality and/or gender identity to the world through one of their biggest opportunities — remember that we ended up making what is often one of life’s hardest announcements unintentionally. It’s beautiful because that’s how it should be: without the hoopla and panic and anxiety, without wondering what people will think or say about us or who we might lose because of it. Honestly, none of those worries should have any bearing on our lives in the first place; they shouldn’t have any bearing on life at all. After all, what we’ve been keeping locked up in our closets has always been a part of us.
I know that that’s not how the world works. I send out prayers to the universe on a daily basis that this will change one day. For everyone that is now processing their recent fall out of the closet, you are seen. You are not alone. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel like you’re abnormal. You have every right to take space or remove yourself from spaces that feel less than supportive or less like love.
As the summer comes to an end and the days get a little colder in New England, I plan on pulling up my article (and hopefully this one as well) for my grandmother to read. I’m sure she’s curious to see what I’ve written about — even if she won’t say so. The LGBTQ+ community is waiting patiently for the day where coming out is no longer needed; we are beyond ready for that day to arrive. Until then, I’d like to welcome others who have fallen out of the closet to our family. We are happy you’re here, and we love you.