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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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Out & In & Out

National Coming Out Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love coming-out stories and so far have not tired of learning how we come to realize who we are and communicate our truths to others.

There’s a coming-out story in the novel I’m writing:

Penn came out to his parents the Friday of his Thanksgiving break of freshman year. With his grandmother and an aunt and uncle visiting, he ushered his parents into the garage for privacy. He chattered about how college had changed him, unsure if they would understand what he was about to tell them. Right before he said the word “gay,” his mother’s eyelids flickered, and she made eye contact with his father. He knew they already knew. His eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the garage. The faint highlights of objects emerged: the ragged blue shine of a dirty shovel, the gloss of a hose whose end had tumbled to the floor. The beauty of those objects overwhelmed him, acknowledged him in that moment as much or more than his parents, who stood silent.

His father thanked him for telling them, the words formal but tone of voice genuine. His mother said she didn’t know what to say. His father then grabbed his shoulder, eyes wet with grief and love. “But we want you to know we love you,” he insisted. His mother turned away, perhaps grateful that someone else was handling the heavy lifting of this news. Penn sensed she resented that his father smoothed things over so easily. It was unlike her to miss an opportunity to speak for herself.

To be clear: this scene is fiction. I didn’t come out to my parents while standing in a garage. But I’m sure they knew long before I told them; for that part, I definitely drew from experience. The announcement had been a long time coming. In the 21 years since I had my revelation, I’ve remembered moments that rang the clue phone so loudly I’m appalled I didn’t pick up earlier.

I realize that I had my first boyfriend in first grade: his name was Hans. He was even more of a mama’s boy than I, and we were inseparable for a while. I knew I shouldn’t have a crush on him like I could have with a girl (funny how a close female friend was assumed to be a crush). But I couldn’t help feeling somehow connected to Hans, even though I thought he was kind of a weirdo (the mama’s boy thing).

One day on the playground, where we were playing with the girls, Hans kissed me. I can’t remember what inspired him, and I neither wanted him to do it, nor did I see it coming. All I knew was that it was wrong. Few of the other kids noticed, but word got around, and I felt uncomfortable being around him after that. I pulled away from him to protect myself.

I think I knew I’d reveal something about myself, something that I wasn’t equipped to explain but that plenty of people already had an opinion about. He was prissy and didn’t keep his hands to himself like other boys. Not that he ever touched me inappropriately, except for not asking/warning me about the kiss. I remember not minding this about him; what I minded was other people seeing this behavior. What stinks most is that I wanted to be around him. I liked him. He was my friend. He’s one of the few male humans I would feel any kinship with until I came out.

Last I heard, Hans had married a woman (so much for the smothering mother theory). And I’m the one who celebrates Coming Out Day (hello, irony!). I hope he’s happy. I am.

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