A few days ago it was National Coming Out Day and I got to reflecting. I’ve read that there are 5 or 6 levels of coming out. They range from coming out to yourself, to your friends, then to your family, all the way through to coming out publicly. For me, it was a process that started when I was 19 years old and lasted until I locked up that closet for good and gave a speech at my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary when I was 41 years old. In that speech, I quoted a book called Twice Blessed: On Being Lesbian, Gay, and Jewish. One of the writers said: “Coming out has to be better for the soul than living one’s life in various shades of invisibility.”
We live under the oppression of intersectionality where the outside world defines us by our traits and, as a result, we internalize any stigma attached to those traits. But I love the way the book turns stigma into a blessing.
I am twice blessed, being Jewish and gay. I am even thrice blessed being a woman, Jewish, and gay. I am also white, abled, middle-class, and smart. The blessings are endless. But describing my privileged blessings along with my stigmatized blessings makes me sound arrogant.
My answer is to go back to the statement, “coming out has to be better for the soul than living one’s life in various shades of invisibility.” We all live in the intersectionality of something. And what really matters is how we feel about and treat ourselves. I couldn’t love myself until I really understood and got to know all sides of myself. When I was 19 years old, a new friend began questioning me about every aspect of my life, my feelings of being an outsider, my values, my culture. Things I had never questioned before. One day, after weeks of questioning and reflecting, I was walking into my dorm building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the revolving door. And in that instant, I decided that I liked myself.
I had a lot of coming out after that. And somehow, I forgot that reflection as I spent the next 22 years drinking my way through life. Because it wasn’t enough to like myself; I also felt terribly alone.
It wasn’t until the day March 1, 1990 that I woke up again. I was reading a pamphlet about the second step of the 12-step program: we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And as I read that, I realized I was not alone, that there was a person—now in spirit—who had helped me through the pain of my life. I could feel her presence around me, with me.
I stopped drinking. And I came out to life on life’s terms. I am twice blessed, thrice blessed, multi-blessed. I now love myself. I give myself everything I need. What I get from others is icing on the cake. With my higher power’s help, I walk my own path, always learning, always in service. I choose to be visible in all my traits because that is better for my soul. And my soul is connected to a bigger world that I cannot begin to comprehend. It is not about arrogance. It is about knowing and accepting and being a loving human being.
Reprinted from https://www.conqueringyourfears.com/post/blessings