Poet and NYWC workshop leader Geer Austin has led writing groups for LGBT homeless youth at New Alternatives, Sylvia’s Place, and the Times Square-supported housing project. On National Coming Out Day, he shares his coming out story with The Narrator — and a little advice for the other 364 days of the year.
Editors and publishers think coming out stories are passé, but coming out of the closet is still a rite of passage for every LGBT person. And for every person who comes out, there is a new story. Some are tragic – Tyler Clementi at Rutgers springs to mind. Some are full of angst – read A Boys Own Story, a coming out classic by über-gay author Edmund White.
But coming out doesn’t have to be a wrenching experience.
My coming out story was a combination of the benign and the joyous. I attended Bard College, a school that appears on all the lists of LGBT-friendly campuses. I was a student in the dark ages before there were any such lists, but being gay was no stigma even while I was in school.
At Bard, I gave up girlfriends after I fell in love with a wealthy, popular, talented, and handsome boy, who also fell in love with me. We didn’t live happily ever after, but we spent three mostly happy years together.
Shortly after coming out to myself, I came out to my older sister Liz, and I wasn’t worried about her reaction. Liz had always been my best friend. She had even enlisted her best female friend, the hottest girl in our school, to teach me how to kiss when I was fourteen, a skill I would employ with my new boyfriend. When I told her about him, she said, “That’s so cool! I can’t wait to meet him.”
My hope on National Coming Out Day is that all coming out stories from this moment on will be as benign as mine. I hope all parents, siblings and other relatives, clergymen, educators, and employers take a page or two from my alma mater’s and my sister Liz’s playbooks. On National Coming Out Day, make your LGBT friends, relatives, clients, parishioners, and colleagues feel welcome in your hearts and homes. And if you don’t do it today, it’s okay to do it the remaining 364 days of the year.