I had prepared myself for coming out, but I was too preoccupied with the telling to anticipate the loneliness that set in afterward.
Coming out at 24 unexpectedly hindered my social life. While I started being sexually active around 21 years old, I didn’t engage socially until this year – actually, just a few months ago. As a result, I’m making up for lost time in the friends department. Adele said regrets and mistakes are memories made (sing, queen), but truthfully, my regrets and mistakes are still just that.
Related: I Came Out Over Thanksgiving
By the time I came out, I had missed out on forming friendships with other queer folks that I could relate to and share similar experiences with.
Depending on how many people there are to tell, the whole “coming out” experience takes planning ahead. I focused so much on anticipating everyone’s reaction that I lost sight of how I was feeling.
While I love my friends, a slow disconnect had formed between them and myself and it was my own doing; I’d never felt more isolated from them because of my lack of queer friends.
When I did go out, it was exclusively to straight bars with my straight friends. After coming out, I began to grow tired of the same song and dance. I’d been living a sexual gay life in secret for so long that I had forgotten about the social part until coming out, and it dawned on me that that had to change.
It’s not that I wanted to replace my friends or that I’d outgrown them, I just needed other people to relate to.
I experienced my first gay bar when I visited New York this past October. A friend took me to Blazing Saddles, which is basically the gay Coyote Ugly. It was the first time I felt a sense of home. No guard was up; I felt comfortable and at ease. At the airport the following morning, I was reliving the experience at the bar thanks to all the country music now downloaded onto my phone (bless you, Reba). When I got back from the trip, I was anticipating the next time I could feel at home, but sadly, that feeling never came.
I came back wanting to feel comfortable in my own city after having that in New York, but what I returned to was more of the same. As a result, I actively started going on more friend dates.
Making friends in your mid-twenties is hard and making gay friends seemed even harder. In a very 2015 way, Twitter became a great tool for making friends.
Noticing that I followed other gay guys who lived in my city, I made an attempt at befriending some. Slowly I was being let into some circles, but I wanted the people I’ve known for the majority of my life to share in these new experiences.
Finally, I convinced my best friend to escort me on an outing to a gay bar.
Though her disdain for the amount of Carly Rae Jepsen played was unappreciated (#JusticeForEmotion), she had a blast. It was on the car ride home that I unraveled; obviously fueled by alcohol. I broke down, telling her how much it meant that she came. Amidst my Kim Kardashian ugly cry, I started to let go of the loneliness and remembered that, as far as I’d come, this was still a process.
I’m making all the right moves but I selfishly expected everyone to transition into my next chapter as quickly as I did post-coming out. In hindsight I realize I should have given my friends time. Her accompanying me on a night out superseded the bar; it reminded me that I’m not totally alone.
If I could go back and prepare myself, I wouldn’t have made things difficult.
How I came out was perfect for me, but I wish I didn’t hide for so long; the repercussions have been hard to overcome. I’d advise myself to not be afraid to be social with other queer people while I was in the closet because I was afraid they were going to sniff me out. And I’d also tell myself to befriended some (not all) of the guys I had sex with instead keeping a distance because I was afraid of getting attached.
Unfortunately, you can’t change the past, but you can learn how to deal and move forward, like Mandy Moore did in that movie no one saw.