Untitled (“Coming Out Poem”)

Myself in 2015, at the age of nineteen.

This piece was written for and performed at Hear Us Roar: An LGBTQ+ Cabaret (October 24, 2015). Although I had begun my uncloseting process about a year prior, it served as my first public “coming out.” It contains frank discussion of closeting and homophobia, which may be triggering for some readers. I also recognize that not everyone has the desire to come out, or the ability to do so safely; I hope these individuals are able to find their sense of peace and belonging with at least one other person, or even simply within themselves.

I am small — by society’s standards “too young to know.”

But I do.

They tell my parents I’m…sensitive,

but I am just a prince dreaming of my prince,

of a gallant hero with strong morals and a jawline to match,

charging through the forest on his proud white horse.

I am small, and so is the square footage of my vocabulary;

I know how I feel, but I don’t know what I am, what to call it.

No one teaches me.

Instead they teach me of wives and expectations and that pigtails are for tugging.

They teach me to hide, to conform, that the way I am is not valid — not a “correct” way to exist.

I am small, and malleable as clay.

They teach me so well that I learn to believe them.

-

I am young and confused,

and I have a crush on the boy who calls me faggot.

He chases me down a hallway that instantly mutates into a long, narrow Hell

and each step I take (faggot) feels futile,

like trying (faggot) to reach the end of eternity.

If hearing the word once is a pistol,

this repetition is a machine gun

firing shot after shot into my back.

Faggot.

It’s a slur; I wonder if I deserve it.

-

I’m straight

and I wear the word like insulation

so the truth will stop punching me in the gut.

I am trying to convince myself just as much as I am trying to convince them

and each denial results in a heart-thumping wash of relief,

like I’ve just defused a ticking bomb.

I’m straight I’m straight I’m straight it becomes a reflex;

when the lie lives in your mouth long enough,

you get used to the bitter taste.

-

I am falling apart

because pretending was supposed to solve all my problems.

She is a woman,

and women are beautiful and powerful,

but her soft curves feel wrong beneath my hands

and I want things that I shouldn’t want,

that I fight every day to stop wanting —

tearing my very being into tiny tattered shreds,

a battle of self against self that never ends,

plagues my afternoons,

hollows out my solitary evenings

and pursues me into restless dreams.

I want to be held.

I want to feel small in someone’s arms.

I want chivalry and passion and to feel anything other than numb.

I want ‘her’ to be a ‘him’ and that’s not fair to her

and I am guilty and I am wrong,

and the word that torments me now is not ‘faggot’ — it’s ‘girlfriend.’

-

I am in love for the first time,

and I’m totally fucked.

The city of my existence is destroyed and rebuilt a hundred times

and I learn that loving his beauty doesn’t make me a freak or a pervert —

it makes me human, alive, complete.

Loving him shows me the purity in the way I was made,

and for the first time in my life I learn something other than self-loathing and repression.

Love is powerful

and this love is terrifying

but no matter how hard my indoctrinated mind fights to keep my walls of deception standing,

love has my heart, and it’s taking down those walls brick by brick.

-

I am an adult

(eighteen years old)

and the truth feels foreign on my tongue —

as if the words themselves are too big for my mouth

and scrape along my teeth as they try to make their way out.

I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and rehearse,

just me and my reflection this is confession,

and I am both the penitent and the priest.

Forming my lips around each syllable,

reshaping the words to make them fit.

I am —

I am —

I am swallowing my sentences.

I am trying to be honest and genuine, but I’ve been acting for so long

that I have no idea how to stop.

-

Somehow, I finally stop.

-

“I am gay,”

and that is a sentence I never thought I’d say out loud.

I am gay, and the time before those three words feels like a separate life

lived by a shadow of myself.

I am gay.

Such small words, carrying such weight.

I am gay.

Such a tiny phrase, bringing such liberation.

I am gay and I am proud to be a member of my community.

I am passionate about our history and I want to be a part of our legacy.

I am gay, and I am confident.

But every once in a while

it still feels synonymous with ‘faggot’ when I hear myself say it.

-

I am back in that hallway,

and I am running —

I am running until I sweat,

tears are running down my face,

water is running down my back

as I sit on the floor of my shower night after night and cry.

I am running.

I was running.

Not from that bully, not even from society’s expectations, but from myself.

I ran for eighteen years, until I stopped,

because running almost broke me.

Just like that, there is no more hallway left,

a dead end where the squeak of my shoes comes to a halt

and the silence is deafening.

I am cornered.

I take a moment to gather my courage. I turn around and stare the Truth in the face.

My hands leave my sides.

I will never let the truth destroy me — I took it in my arms before it had the chance.

If you or a loved one is struggling with self-acceptance / harmful thoughts, check out The Trevor Project online or contact them directly at 1.866.488.7386.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are loved.

xxv | he/him | artist, queer + pop culture historian, advocate.