Why Am I So Gay?, a TEDx talk at Georgetown University, is an impressive speech by Georgetown University senior Thomas Lloyd. Lloyd says that “The reality of my own identity was that I couldn’t cover”, and he learned that he needed to own his own identity unapologetically.
This is such an important idea. As I choose to come out to family, friends and in the workplace, I intentionally thought through what it meant to own my own identity unapologetically, as I told my story. It was clear that there was no need for me to apologize. I knew that I needed to be proud and to be sure of myself as I came out, particularly to my family and at work.
Lloyd describes his junior high school years and his struggle to ‘cover’. He says, “The things that we take for granted, the ways that we navigate the world in normal ways were critical things that I had to think about every second of the day. I had to spend all of my creative energy in covering what it was that made me different.”
But then in high school, Lloyd describes a man who became a mentor of his. He talks about the director of his high school the debate team. This man was the first gay person Lloyd had ever met that, “owned their identity, unapologetically. Instead of expending his creative energy to change himself, and to cover, and to meet the standards that society wanted him to meet…he was able to apply that energy into a community and into students.”
It has been such a powerful concept for me to own my own identity in coming out at 55 years of age. I have felt so much freer and alive in coming out in a proud, honest manner. Now to be fair, it was a very long road for me to get to the point of owning my identity, but having gotten to the point where I made the decision to come out, I did not want to do it halfway. And coming out fully meant owning the message, owning my story and history, and telling my story with honesty, pride, and sincerity.
In concluding his talk, Lloyd talks about Georgetown University, but the message is one that is true for most of us. “The pressures”, he says, “to cover are real. … Let’s be normal now. Were we ever normal? Even if you are straight, what do you cover? What are things that you are not hiding? When you hide these things you are not building a community of similarity, you’re losing out on who you authentically are.”
I am so proud to be authentically who I am in the world every day. And every day is a new step, a new coming out, a new sharing of my truth. But I am also finding that with each step I grow stronger, prouder, and more integrated. I work every day to own my identity, unapologetically.