Throughout the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across varying coming out stories from people in my immediate circle. Each story has been different. Some have been sad, some have been loving, one has been deeply affected by culture and others have been, well, non-events (their words!).
My friend, Anna, her story is one of those non-events, and I mean that in the very best way possible. I first heard this story on a humid evening in New York during World Pride (how fitting). It gave me chills and I teared up when I first heard it because it just made me feel so… normal, in the most normal way possible.
Anna was generous enough to tell me the story again and let me record it to share with you all. You can listen to Anna tell the story herself or take a little read below (content warning: swears):
You know what it’s like, you come out to people every fucking day. Like you still come out to people now. Everyday. Which is really annoying. But I had a list of, I suppose, important people that I had to formally come out to. And I don’t even know why my Dad was the last on the list because it’s not like he ever indicated that he was going to be particularly difficult to tell. I think just he was the most important person in my life so I sort of… was a bit more reserved about telling him and waiting for his reaction and stuff.
I remember I was living with him and he was working, but we didn’t see each other that much because he was working 12 hour days, and I was at uni, and then working after uni and stuff. So we kind of had this lame but cute communication system via writing on the back of envelopes. So there was always a stack of letters and stuff on the kitchen bench and I’d get home and there’d be a letter from him saying something super mundane like, “Anna, can you grab some apples from the store” or “Here’s fifty bucks for fuel (or whatever). Love you, Dad” And then I’d write back and be like “Yep, here’s your apples you cheapskate, give me a $100. Love, Anna” or whatever. It was just really mundane.
And so, it was the weekend and I was standing on one side of the bench and he was standing on the other and I remember I was just standing there holding this stack of letters, and some of them were letters he had re-written on and some were new mail that had just come in the mail. And he was on the other side of the bench and I was just like “I need to tell you something” and he was just like “What?!”, like super suspicious, I think he thought I had crashed his car or something. I was like —— and I just stood there really fucking blankly and then stupidly blurted out I’m gay and then I was like “I’m really gay” which I don’t know why I felt the need to say that, but I did. [Laughing] You know, just to be really clear, “I’m REALLY gay”. And I was like “I have a girlfriend”, just to add that final kind of nail in. He just kind of looked and me and thenwas like, “Okay”. And I sort of waited for a bit more of a reaction and he was like “Can you pass me the mail? Like, can you pass me that stack of letters?” and I was like “What?! What the fuck?!” and I remember being really upset because like, what is that, what is that for a reaction?! So I was like “What do you mean, do you not what to talk about this at all?” and he was like “No, no I don’t. I love you and I want for you to have someone who loves you for you and for you to be happy. I don’t care whether that’s a guy or a girl or whatever. You’re my daughter and I don’t really want to hear about you with boys, so why would I want to hear about you with girls? So can you just… pass me the fucking mail?”. And then I was like, “Oh okay” and passed him the big stack of letters and that was kind of it.
But it was kind of perfect in the sense that it was the first time that I realised the best way for someone to react when you come out to them is not to react. Like there was no kind of over compensatory “Oh wow, I know a gay guy that works in IT and I’m, okay with him!” or.. yeah, anything like that. He was literally just like “Okay, cool, pass me the mail. Let’s go on about our day.”
I think my favourite bit about this story is that Anna’s Dad didn’t make any assumptions about Anna’s identity. Or, if he did, he didn’t have any problem being corrected.
I like this because I’ve come to realise that while coming out can often allow us to feel like we are living as authentically as we can, we mostly come out for other people. We come out because the people around us, even those who care about us deeply and lovingly, are conditioned to make assumptions about our identity. By default, we are who society tells us we should be, and what coming out does is to correct that.
That really sucks. What an unecessary pressure and unfair burden to place on people.
How beautiful will life be for ~everyone~ when people don’t have to dread coming out because nothing is assumed, and people are just free to live their lives exactly how they feel they should?
For me, Anna’s story is a reminder that we’re on our way there.
As much a creative project as it is a self-development project, I know I wanted to dip my toes back into some illustration as I don’t do it much at all these days.
I’ve had this style rattling around in my head for a while, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Inspired by Anna’s story, this illustration is titled ‘Stack of Letters’, a flippable cacophony of shapes and colours. Kinda like Pride, I guess.
Watch the Process Video
I did my best at recording the whole illustration process. I used a clothes rack and my iPhone to record from above. What a fancy setup. (You can hear Anna’s story from ~2:20)
Donation = Print
Did you know?
When Anna first told me this story, I thought she said “stacks of lettuce”. I couldn’t work out why her and her Dad would write on lettuce. Of all things. Honestly.
This the first of a 4-part Pride month project. Each week I’ll be producing something new in an effort to push myself to be more visible, and feel comfortable doing so. If you’d like to support this project and the issues it surfaces, please consider donating to my fundraiser. All proceeds will go towards Minus18 and Black Rainbow.
Btw, a share goes just as far as well :)