I’ve been thinking a lot about those words lately, trying to define them and what they mean for me personally. Since accepting myself as lesbian I have come out to many people including friends, coworkers and family members. Some of those conversations have been easier than others. From many friends I felt total and complete love and acceptance. Not an eye was blinked nor an ounce of love diminished. Others didn’t quite know what to do with the information (and still don’t) and it may be some time before there is any amount of understanding, if ever, but I understand that they need time for their process just as I do for mine.
Now that I’m “out” it’s not nearly as hard to tell people that I’m gay, it’s simply a part of who I am and I feel no shame in letting people know. Yet as I’ve thought about coming out I’ve realized it has been a very small part of my journey. I understand why there is so much focus on coming OUT – this is the visual part. It’s the part that other people can see, and we live in a world that likes to see things. We like proof. We like having something to show. But “coming out” says little about the oh-so-important internal process of coming IN.
“Coming in” is a phrase I adopted about a year ago when I began learning to accept all parts of myself, sexual orientation being just one small part. By “coming in” I refer to the process of learning self-love, of accepting oneself totally and completely. It means being who you are regardless of the expectations from society or family or culture or… or… or…. It means living true to your own soul, your own heart and following your own voice, whatever that means for you (and it will be different for everyone).
My major “coming in” happened before I felt the need to come out to anyone. I was able to learn to accept myself before I had to worry about acceptance from others. (There is a HUGE paradox here but that would require way too much time and I know I only have your attention for about 47 seconds, so I’ll save it. My own story will reveal itself more in future posts, no doubt). Coming in is a constant process though. It’s something I must do over and over, getting to know myself each new day as I allow myself to change and grow. In regards to sexual orientation, I found that because I was able to come in first I had a lot less fear about coming out. Once I was no longer hiding from myself I didn’t feel as much trepidation in letting myself just be who I was…even in public. (I’m still a little hesitant about dancing around in my undies in public, which is one of my favorite solo activities, particularly in the kitchen, but perhaps that’s for the best.)
Coming in isn’t all lollipops and butterflies though. In my experience, I was the hardest person to gain acceptance from. There were a lot of voices telling me who I should be and what I should do and believe, and it wasn’t easy to find my own voice. It took a lot of hard years and experiences before I woke up and realized that I am actually worth loving JUST the way I am, moles, gayness, undie-dancing and all. And it’s something that I continue to work at, a continuous process that will last a lifetime. But oh, the payoff. As Oscar Wilde so wonderfully put it, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
And so it is.