My "coming out story" doesn't include one particular A-ha moment in which I realized that I wasn't straight. My story doesn't start with memories of my childhood where I figured out that I was "different" from the other kids. What's great about my coming-out story is that, it's MINE. Today, on "National Coming Out Day," I'd like to share more of it with you...
About four years ago, I met the woman who's now my fiance. Her name is Leah. Leah was the first woman I ever dated. If I'm being honest, Leah was really the first PERSON I ever dated. As a teenager, I didn't chase after boys (or girls). I spent a lot of time wondering what it'd be like to be in a relationship, but I never found a 'teenage fling' that so many people experience in their adolescent years. During college and into my 20s, I put my career and dreams of working on the radio before anything - friends, family, and most other relationships. It wasn't until I moved away from my hometown of Minneapolis, started working in radio full-time, and experiencing life on my own when things began to "click."
The first time I realized I had feelings for a woman, I wasn't completely surprised. But, I wasn't overjoyed either. I was scared, nervous, curious, cautious, excited, and a ton of other emotions that you can't match with a word. My family's beliefs and faith made it so that "scared" was an emotion that stuck around for the first part of my coming out story. It is, perhaps, why I never discovered this part about me before I moved away from home. Growing up, I went to church most Sundays, prayed before every meal, and didn't know any (openly) gay people. When I first realized I had feelings for a woman it's not like I had someone to call and ask for advice on how to navigate through them. With the support of my brother and a few close friends, I stumbled through coming to terms with this part of me - the part that was attracted to women - and eventually, Leah walked into my life. Just as I had always been told about love - it hit me when I least expected it.
When it came time to truly come out and tell everyone - my family, my friends, my coworkers, my audience on the radio station I was working on at the time - I was, you guessed it... scared. I lived in a small town in Iowa, and I'll admit that I had stereotypes about what that community would think of their beloved country radio personality who was now in an open relationship with a woman. I was afraid that my family would disown me. I was scared that I'd lose friends because of some secret I was keeping - a secret I didn't even know I had.
But, I did it. I talked with a few people directly... my mother, my cousins, auntie, best friends... and had conversations that I'll never forget. I shared a post on Facebook that went out to the rest of my friends, extended family, acquaintances, people I knew in high school, people I had worked with in the past, and strangers I had been talking to through the radio for years. I was SCARED to hit "post" and share that I'm in a relationship with a woman! Something I've never done or said before... but, I did it.
And you know what? People were very supportive. They were very loving. They thanked me for my bravery! Me, brave? But, I was sooo scared to say this! Were there people who didn't accept this new piece of information about me? Yes. But you know what? That's okay. "Some will accept your love, while others will not. This is their problem, not yours." (Master Choa Kuk Sui)
My "coming out story" is one that is still being written. I share this with you today not to pressure anyone to come out of the closet, but to hopefully make it easier for someone who is scared to see that someone else survived the scary stuff. If I wouldn't have faced the scary stuff, I wouldn't feel the freedom that I feel now... the freedom to openly share about my relationship with Leah and my relationship with the LGBT community.
Take it from me, you don't have to pick a label. You don't have to pick a letter in the "LGBTQIA" acronym... you simply need to pick YOUR truth. Pick your truth, stick to it, and be free.
Thanks for reading my story. ~Jillene
Email me at Jillene@kticountry.com or send me a message on Facebook HERE.
About "National Coming Out Day"
On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital... The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBTQ community often reacted defensively to anti-LGBTQ actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.
Each year on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly. (Human Rights Campaign)
The LGBT National Help Center exists to serve gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people by providing free & confidential peer support and local resources. Call the LGBT NATIONAL HOTLINE for more at 1-888-843-4564.