By Rick Clemons for YourTango.com.
It wasn’t overtly apparent to me. After all, I was in the womb preparing to journey down the birth canal. Bright lights, bug eyes staring at me, faces too close to my delicate skin and loud voices all awaiting me at the end of the tunnel. Of course, there was also the warm bath to remove the crusties and a heat lamp that I would later appreciate as a tanning bed. But most importantly — even if it didn’t carry a Vera Wang label — a fluffy blanket, replacing the warm swimming pool of mom’s womb, awaited to warmly swaddle me and protect me from this scary thing called the outside world.
At that moment, I had my first “coming out” experience. Of course, it meant nothing to me — my mental capacity was yet incapable of grasping what “coming out” and being gay meant. Still, the DNA wire crossing was complete, never to be undone.
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Age 19, hormones raging, second year in college, 1,000 miles from home, I was confused, putting on a good front, sneaking off campus to dance classes, sneaking peeks at certain male dorm-mates, wondering what the heck was happening. Finally mustering up the courage to call mom and dad and have the talk, I did it … I came out!
Doing the best they could with this new revelation, spiritual therapy with the college pastor was the route taken to help me through this confusion. I did my best, swallowed my true feelings, set aside my thoughts about how handsome the pastor was and moved on through the therapy.
Finished college. Landed my first job. Stepped into my first experience of living on my own in a remote area of New Mexico, completely capable of exploring my sexuality. And, I did … kind of. Mostly in my mind with a few random hook-ups, even though that phrase hadn’t really been coined yet.
Moved to Texas, stepped up in my career, met a great gal and decided “Let’s get married; that will fix everything.” Not exactly. What it did was allow for me to shine in front of every else’s eyes and pull the wool over my own, just enough for me to exist and get by … for 13 years!
However, before entering into the arms of matrimony, I did drop a little hint of my past to my then fiancé, but I did it in a way that wasn’t a true confession. It was more like a a little FYI about my past sexual exploration. Kind of a “coming out” of sorts. Yet still not a complete coming out.
Roll forward, 2001 and the big one! The actual “coming out” to my wife. My life flip-flopped and the journey of “coming out” reached a plateau, or so I thought.
I was out. Out to my wife, my kids in a way they could comprehend at 5- and 2-years-old, to my parents, my brother, friends and co-workers. “Okay, wipe our hands of that. This is how you come out and it’s done!” Oh, no, no, no! Who was I kidding? You never stop coming out!
To say that I’ve kept track of how many people I’ve come out to would be an outright lie. However, as I think over my life since I said, “Frankly my dear, I’m gay,” I would estimate I have probably come out to at least 900 people and that’s just my Facebook friends. Then there are co-workers along the way, other parents at my daughters schools, neighbors, new friends, friends of friends, doctors, dentists … the list goes on. My best guess would be, close to 5000 people know I’m gay!
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You see, I’m like an open book. I don’t hide that I’m gay, nor do I wear a rainbow flag on my head and shout it from the rooftops. I’m simply gay and if it comes up in conversation, I work it in or answer the questions. Never really thought of it as a big deal and don’t usually try to make an issue of my sexuality. However, not to long ago, the queen of Hairspray caused me to really “come out.”
On Oct. 17, 2012 I was invited to be the “Coming Out Expert” on The Ricki Lake Show, for a segment entitled “When Gay People Lead Straight Lives.” Excited, thrilled, in awe, were just a few of the feelings I was experiencing. Nothing weird was going on, until I was brought onto the set and realized in less than one minute, I was about to “come out” on national TV.
Yes, the thought had drifted through my gray matter a couple of times leading up to this moment and pushed aside. Now it was real. Like Wylie Coyote running off the cliff — there I was — suspended in air, knowing there was no turning back. However, then the reality hit, this “coming out” was only in front of the 200 plus crew and audience members that were watching the taping. Whew!
Yet, there still was no turning back. The show would eventually air. And, air it did! Nov. 2, 2012 — the day that hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, found out I was gay! However, the journey doesn’t end there! Not only are bits and pieces of the show archived on the internet and in the vaults of filmdom, now, once again, Thurs. January 24th, the show will re-air and I’m once again “coming out!”
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If someone were to ask me, “How do you come out?,” this wouldn’t be the way I would advise them. Yet there is wisdom that bursts forth when you have the chance to sit on the same couch as the person that made Tracy Turnblad, a household name.
Now, I truly get this “coming out” process more than ever before in my life. Sure, I’ve always known, I never will stop coming out. Heck, for that matter, here I am writing an expert column on YourTango, a site that gets millions of readers each month. In reality, I just “came out” to millions more people (provided they read this article).
Does this mean I am more gay or a deeper shade of rainbow as a gay rights activist or a special bright light that shines brighter than the average LGBT person? No! In fact, all it means is, “how to come out” takes on many different flavors. My “coming out” and “being out” is uniquely my way of being in the world, the same as your way of being who you are and being in the world is yours.
So, from the recesses of mom’s womb, to the stages of The Ricki Lake Show, coming out is simply about me being me. Authentically, truly being the person I am destined to be. How about you? What’s your “coming out” journey about? Sexuality? Loving yourself? Accepting your flaws? We all continue to come out of something. Thankfully, not everyone does it on national TV!
Rick Clemons, The Coming Out Coach
Certified Professional Coach (CPC), Energy Leader Index, Master Practioner (ELI-MP)
Rick Clemons is a Certified Professional Coach who’s been featured on The Ricki Lake Show, and is a highly sought after radio show guest, blogger, author, and Sex Coach U Faculty member, who lovingly addresses the many facets of Coming Out for all who are touched by this Journey. Rick also hosts his own radio show, The Coming Out Lounge.
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This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: How I Came Out Of The Closet On National TV.