Come out, come out, wherever you are!
BY LIZ OAKLEY
My significant other and I recently went to a going away party for her manager at work. As we mingled, she introduced me as her "lover" to co-workers past and present. The introduction was met with warm smiles and extended hands.
Surprising? Well, maybe not; after all, she doesn't work for Cracker Barrel or any of the other businesses in this country known for anti-gay practices.
What may have been the most surprising was not how her co-workers reacted, but how I reacted. Calm, cool and proud to be with the person I love.
That's a far cry from how I would have reacted 10 years ago, or even two, for that matter. So ashamed by what I felt inside that being gay was not even an option, especially growing up in the Upstate of South Carolina.
I don't have to tell you why I felt that way. You hear it. You see it. But I guess life has a funny way of working things out, and by the time I was in my late 20s I was the most miserable pile of depression you have ever seen. I just found out that when I cut out that part of who I was the gay part I lost the will to live, period.
But an odd and totally unexpected thing started to happen as I began to come to grips with who I was. The fears that I had been ruled by for so long lost their weight.
As I slowly came out to family and friends (and I do mean slowly), I started getting stronger. I had no idea just how much energy it took each day to fight my identity. As I faced the fears I gathered their strength.
I was driving down the road the other day and an Indigo Girls (Gay! Gay! Gay!) song came on the radio that caught my attention. Amy Ray sings, "I have no need for anger with intimate strangers and I got nothing to hide. . . I drove out of there with no one behind me, feeling funny and free."
Who would have ever believed it, especially 10 years ago, that if I came out I'd feel funny and FREE.
Liz Oakley lives in Charleston.