You Are Not Alone

I plan to marry my partner of more than seven years this May. As we both grew up in Christian families and attended Christian undergraduate and graduate schools, the process of coming out and coming to terms with being gay has not been easy or quick for either one of us. But I’m grateful for all those years of struggle and pain, because it’s going to make our celebration that much sweeter!

It almost feels like we’re planning the party to celebrate the fighting after a long battle.

We plan to dance until our feet hurt, eat cake until we can’t eat any more, share memories with our friends and family and cry tears of joy knowing our lives are now open and full of love and acceptance.

I consider myself a completely “out” person. I provide advocacy, education and therapy sessions for Christians who find themselves alone and confused about their sexuality. I help educate straight persons in the Christian community about homosexuality and advocate in conservative circles. I also counsel individuals who are in the process of figuring out their sexuality. None of which I do closeted and most days I feel so “out” that I couldn’t hide even if I wanted to—which is why I find myself completely dazed by the fact that two days ago I stayed closeted while in a normal, everyday situation.

I decided to shop for a wedding band at a jewelry store in a hip area of Los Angeles. As I was standing at the counter, the sales lady approached me and commented on how much she loved my engagement ring. I told her that I was looking for a band to go with it, and she suggested a piece that was exactly what I was looking for.

The next thing she said stopped me in my tracks. She asked, “What will he do?”

Literally, for about two seconds I had no idea who she was talking about. It’s such an open-minded part of LA that surely the salespeople would never assume that the only option for an engaged woman is a man. Realizing what she meant, I replied, “Oh, you mean my partner?” I purposefully used the word partner and was sure not to use she, or her, in reference to my fiancé. She responded, “Yes. What will he wear if you’re getting matching bands?” And I said, “We’re not getting matching bands,” quickly handed her the ring, and left the store. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could!  

Why hadn’t I corrected her? If there’s anyone I’d expect to correct even an innocent mistake like that, it’s me. I’m practically a gay spokesperson, but under pressure -- even in an unthreatening atmosphere -- I stayed closeted.  

While this completely threw me, I feel glad that it happened and it was a good reminder of one thing. The coming out process never ends for a gay person and always takes courage.

The coming out process is risky, hard, and ongoing, even with strangers to whom I owe no explanation.

There’s the coming out as a single person to friends and family, then the coming out as a couple. As an engaged woman, there’s the coming out to the wedding dress saleswoman and the cake taster and the DJ. As a married gay woman, I will soon be coming out to those who check us into our hotel on our honeymoon. When we have children, there will be a whole new group of people to come out to: school teachers, preschool moms, swim instructors, the list goes on and on. 

It’s sometimes exhausting, but the energy it takes and the importance of the task allows me to offer myself a bit of grace.

My staying closeted has nothing to do with being ashamed of being gay, but perhaps has more to do with just wanting to fit in and in the moment not to stand out. While it makes me feel better that this only happens occasionally, I’m glad it happens. It reminds me where I came from and helps me offer more understanding to those who live in closeted worlds every day.  

To those who haven’t told a soul and to those who feel that they live a lie, I want to tell you that you are not alone.

I pray you will find the courage to tell just one person. I promise telling even just one person will make a difference in your life. And against all odds, the thing that feels impossible might actually happen.

Someday you might be standing in front of your friends and family, pledging your life to the one you love, your fiancé who happens to be the same gender as you. You’ll be so grateful for the celebration, and the memories of being alone and scared will be just that -- distant memories.  

There is hope. You are not alone. 

Photo via Candice Czubernat

Comments (9)

I am so happy for the two of you, what a celebration that will be. I'm also so thankful for your willingness to share the continued journey. Living honestly as who we are is courageous, and particularly with the two of you- beautiful!

This is beautifully written and really captures the day-to-day struggles we sometimes go through in just living our lives. I appreciate you sharing this experience of "not" coming out to the saleswoman - although I am out and proud in my own life 99.9% of the time, sometimes correcting strangers' heteronormative assumptions feels like too much emotional work. Sometimes I just want to get done and get out without having to a) explain or justify my identity; b) FEEL like I have to justify it due to the look on the other person's face once I correct them, or d) make THEM feel better because after correcting them, they sometimes apologize profusely.

Yuck to all of the above. Thank you for your amazing post and I hope you and your wife-to-be have the absolute best wedding ever!!

Thank you so much for this. I also was raised very Christian, and the lengthy process of accepting myself followed by accepting that much of the Church (and my family) wouldn't do the same has been a difficult one. From the other side, I feel incredibly blessed every time a kid who's struggling with his/her sexuality asks me if it really will be all right, and I can assure them that it will. I have a wonderful partner, a wonderful life full of people who love me as I am, and if the price I have to pay for that is endlessly coming out, I'm willing.

This is a beautifully written piece--you made me get all teared up as I read. I hadn't really thought about how the coming out process happens again and again and again even once you're outer-than-out!! So thanks for educating me. And bravo for your courage...and your upcoming wedding. Love you!!

After coming out for the 100th or so time, it becomes like flipping a coin: "Do I come out and risk being alone because of rejection or do I not come out and stay alone because I'm unknown." Or you come out to strangers, not the same risk, not the same reward. Or find yourself testing the water before diving in because you've been burned so many times and are not sure of the wisdom of coming out at a KKK rally.

Tell just one person. . . the fear and shame of having been told what I am by narrow-minded or over-eager liberated people since I was nine years old keeps me silent. Closet is not the word for it- more a dungeon underground. I have no doubt it would make a difference. I just don't want that freedom badly enough to risk the possible trauma that has accompanied being outed against my will in the past.

Thank you for your honest explanation of your situation. I am constantly telling people how hard it is to have to come out over and over again when planning for the big wedding day! And it's completely understandable to "take the easy way out" from time to time and just walk away from a situation to save yourself the mental stress, or the person to whom you are speaking the mental stress of being corrected. Your strength and faith are an inspiration!!! Thanks...

Thank you for sharing your brave story, and your insightful perspective. The more authentic voices out there, the better. As a lesbian, I understand all that you expressed. Totally get it!! My prayer for you is that you balance your evident courage with self-compassion. Sometimes the fiercest LGBT advocates (myself included), can also experience normal human moments. : - ) Alright, stay strong, and keep shining your light, Candice. And a big "congrats" to you and your fiancee. I hope that your wedding is just wonderful. All the best to you both -- Sincerely, Kat, Interfaith Chaplain, New York University Center for Spiritual Life

Congratulations! I understand what you mean completely--I fear coming out to even my closest friends because I live smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt--Arkansas! It's awful going to family reunions and things and being asked what boy I'm dating and having to bite my tongue when all I want to do is babble on and on and on about my current wonderful girlfriend or the cute girl in band I'm working up the guts to ask out. Thank you for reminding me once again that I'm not alone--I know I'm not, deep down inside, but sometimes, it's very, very difficult to believe it.
I hope you have a happy, long, healthy marriage and the most lovely wedding you can imagine! I am praying for your happiness. :3

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