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    Come Out! Stay Safe!

    By Karen Williams–

    Come out, come out, wherever you are! How many times have we heard folks who are already out telling others to “come out” and to be proud? Choosing to come out about your sexuality and private life can be a life-changing venture. That old adage, “To thine own self be true,” will take on new meaning as you struggle within yourself to live your best life. Choosing to be authentic—to be who you are—involves internal struggle and sometimes, just knowing that, helps you manifest the courage to take on the challenge of coming out.

    It may be that you decide to come out to make it more comfortable for you to be honest with yourself and in your relationships with others. I certainly had that experience. I thought that it would be too difficult to be open and honest with some people yet closed and guarded with others. Besides, my memory is not that great and I was afraid that I would not remember whom I told that I was a lesbian. The fear would drive me crazy, and I knew I would not be able to carry off the “double life” charade without doing psychic and emotional damage to myself.

    When I realized that I loved women and wanted to make them my primary preference, I did a great deal of soul searching. It was the early seventies, I was still married to a man, and I had a child to consider. I remember that I prayed long and hard for my own well-being, and I vowed to trust myself no matter what might happen.

    I attended the first and only meeting of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO)—a national conference devoted to black women that was held in New York City in 1973—and after meeting and talking with several black lesbians, I felt something stir inside of me. I wrestled with the excitement I felt being around so many women-loving-women and during that conference, I summoned up the courage to admit the truth about my preference to myself. 

    I went home after that conference with names and phone numbers of lesbians who lived near me. I was so excited about my new realization that I couldn’t wait to talk with my husband. We were friends from college; I was sure that he would understand. We talked and talked and my continued bold assertions about my love of women eventually led to the dissolution of the union. I was only 22 and not quite sure what to do. I had that list of phone numbers, and with my newfound lesbian identity urging me on, I called that gym teacher whom I met at the conference, and the rest is “herstory”!

    He moved out, she moved in, and I began my life as a lesbian. There was no U-Haul because she only lived three blocks away! And we were fine for a while until my former husband’s family threatened to take me to court to remove my son from the home. I knew that, in 1973, I would not win custody in the State of Connecticut, so I fled to southern California with my son to stay with my father. I expected my lover to follow. She did not! Because of my vow to be true to myself, I survived this initial lesbian drama and have gone on to have many more. Yet I have never regretted my decision to be out, proud, confident, and dedicated to living in my truth as a woman-loving-woman, a lesbian!

    Our society tends to be so externally focused that we can forget that the most important person is YOU! As meaningful and significant as it is to be a part of a movement or a community, the quality of our lives as individuals is also important. There may be times when the only person you can truly depend on is YOU!

    You may find that once you make peace with your decision to come out and to be proud about it, you will gain the love and respect of many people. Some of those people may become part of your friendship support networks, and spur you on when you hit rough patches as well as help you celebrate your victories.

    I believe that “coming out” is a gift that you give to worthy recipients. If that recipient is your employer, so that you can take advantage of domestic partnership or health insurance benefits offered at your job, then it is worthwhile for you to do so. If the confidante is closer to home, you may find that the bridge of authenticity brings you together. Coming out to parents, children, mates, friends, relatives, and colleagues offers them the opportunity to be more authentic in their own lives, and to examine their beliefs. They may even learn to embrace and encourage difference because of your example.

    During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have lots of time to examine our long-held beliefs … about ourselves, others, and the world in which we live together. For many of us, this crisis reminds us of the AIDS pandemic that we lived through, and the many friends and family members whom we lost. We also had a federal administration during those years that did not care about our struggles or our losses. Yet we bravely banded together, fought, and came up with solutions to save our own lives and the lives of those we lived. “I Will Survive” was our battle cry!

    Today, we battle with many of the same feelings and this adds to our pandemic fatigue, yet we can’t give up the fight. Imagine how difficult it must be for some younger people to come out when we’re being asked to stay in! We can share our battle cry and be there for them.

    It’s time for us to reach out and continue to encourage people to “Come out, come out wherever you are!” This pandemic will pass, and when it does, we’ll be able to reach out and touch one another, in community, as our authentic selves, and help others do the same. After all, this is OUR world!  Let’s enjoy it to the fullest.

    Karen strives to be authentic most of the time. You can reach her at http://hahainstitute.com/

    Published on October 22, 2020