As a teenager, when I thought about my life to come, I thought about how I would make my mark on the world. I would ask myself what I could be or do in the world where I could leave a mark? Would I be famous? I would imagine all sorts of possibilities. But it was more than being famous, it was doing something great in the world that people would respect and know me for. I think these are the questions most teenagers ask themselves.Over time, however, my life took a very different path. Because of my homosexuality, which I thought I had to hide, I was determined to keep a low profile, keep my head down, not let the gay show. So that desire to do something great, to be known in the world, was replaced over time by a different desire: to keep the gay hidden.
Today I am faced with a very different challenge. I have come out in all parts of my life: family, friends and work. I am about to come out to a wider audience at work when I present in two weeks at a leadership meeting. And after a lifetime of hiding the gay, all the old tapes start to play in my head, at random times, suggesting that I keep my head down.
But I have the opportunity to make a positive mark on the world. I have come to a point my life where I can make a meaningful contribution to the lives of many other people by being honest with about who I am as a gay man. It is an interesting conundrum because as I move forward, I need to check myself regularly to stop those old tapes from playing.
In two weeks, as I stand before about one hundred and twenty five people at the leadership meeting, I will talk about the LGBT resource group the company is forming and my role as the LGBT executive sponsor. At the end of the introduction of the resource group I plan to come out. As the date draws near, my passion is cooling a bit. And I recognize the cooling as part of the old tapes, whittling away at my desire to come out in a big way, whispering: ‘Stay hidden. Keep quite. Why do they need to know?’.
I believe that coming out in this way will have a positive, and possibly even profound effect on my life, and the lives of my coworkers. But to get there I really need to fight against my innate desire to stay hidden.
So, I have written what I want to say. This weekend I will edit that document. It is really a fairly short presentation, but I want it to be crisp, sincere, and powerful.
I am afraid. I have waves of fear, and a little voice in my head that says, “Why do you want to do this?” And I see in subtle ways how I work to tamp down my own joy and excitement.
I hope by writing about this, I expose the internal mechanisms that try to keep me from coming out more broadly and publicly, so that I can indeed move forward successfully.