Chris, in his own words: Being a gay man has led me to love and accept myself for who I am including all the wrinkles and birthmarks. For a long time, I thought that I had accepted my sexuality, but I realized I was still in the closet. Even though I grew up in Silicon Valley around all of these different support networks and mentors, I was still terrified. I came out to close friends, but always skirted the issue when relationships were mentioned. It was not until recently that I started making the conscious decision to no longer skirt the issue and when brought up to face it head on. I have learned to be proud of all facets of my identity and realizing that being gay does not have to shape my entire personality, but it has empowered me to accept myself, believe in myself and realize my passions.
Speaking my mind and communicating my feelings never really was a strong characteristic so when I started coming out, it was a huge step outside of my comfort zone. I grew up having extreme difficulty hearing and to combat this deficiency I have had nine ear tube surgeries. My lack of hearing led to a number of speaking, reading and writing challenges which in turn have challenged me to focus on speaking and writing poignantly and purposefully.
The gay community for me whether in San Jose, Syracuse or New York City has been a web of mutual connections. No matter how far I go, I have come to realize that not only do we share common experiences and struggles but also friends.
Once I started to understand that I was gay, my coming out process was dictated more so by the pace of others than my own. The first person in my family that I came out to was my older brother. Well, I kind of came out to him. In reality, he grabbed my phone while I was on Grindr. To this day, I cringe. After seeing the half naked men, he bolted from the room. I had a girlfriend in the first two years of high school so he was naturally shocked but we were able to talk it through. Went I went off to college, I told anyone who asked that I was gay. I had made the promise to myself that I would be as open about it as possible. Later in the winter of my freshmen year, I came out to my mom, well again I was not the one who initiated the conversation. She confronted me about it on a car ride to Tahoe. She wanted to know if there was anything I wanted to tell her and she reminded me how much she loved me and how she would always support me. Even though after all that support I was still terrified to tell her, I stumbled through telling her. Tears were involved and eventually everything ended in hugs. Coming out to my dad was a bit different. He had a close friend who died of AIDS so when I came out to him over Thanksgiving break, he worried. Even though not fully understanding HIV and AIDS I assured him that I was being safe and careful. My coming out story continues as there are people, members of my scout troop and high school friends, who I have not yet had the opportunity to tell. As each opportunity presents itself, I take a deep breath and say, “I’m gay.”