The first time I wrote the word gay was my senior year in high school for a class assignment in psychology class. This moment was the catalyst for my coming out. Up until that point I couldn't even imagine putting the letters G-A-Y together as one word. It was the one word I erased from my vocabulary. I couldn't even use the word to describe someone else for fear of having people connect it to me personally.
The assignment was entitled 'My Me Project.' We were instructed to develop 10 to 15 pages of things that showed how we perceived ourselves: collages, essays, and letters to future children were all supposed to ignite a mirror of self. At first the project seemed corny and tedious, yet it completely changed the way I perceived myself and has remained with me as an adult.
I started the project with a collage of all my favorite things: fashion by D & G, music by Mariah Carey, and lots of pictures of male models. I wrote a short story about the first time I met my idol Mariah Carey and my trip to Canada the previous summer.
But all these things seemed so disconnected from who I really was. The core of my being. The person I wanted to be.
It was all very materialistic and disconnected from reality—all superficial things. To make it more personal, I decided to write a story about my best friend Johanna, the person who I trusted with all my deepest thoughts. The only person who knew I was gay. However, I couldn't write about how important Johanna was in my life without including that she was the only person I was out to—the only person who gave me a sense of acceptance.
I decided that telling the story any other way would be a lie and that I should write down the story in its entirety.
The beginning was fairly easy —basic story line plots. However, my hand, pen, and paper hit a writer's block when I got to the part where I had to write the word gay. I wrote down, 'and then I said, I'm ____,' and I couldn't continue.
What was I thinking? Writing down 'the word' would out me to all those who came across it.
My teacher, for one, would be the first to read it and would automatically give me a failing grade! She would call me out in front of my peers and humiliate me by reading it out loud.
What if I accidentally left it lying around my room and my parents or brother came across it? They would disown me forever.
I decided to skip to another part of the project, the letter to my future child. This was also difficult. I never thought I would want to have kids because it was something only men and women did, like marriage. All part of straight society.
I began the letter:
Dear Future Child,
I'm writing this letter because I want you to know about your father when he was younger. The things I did to make your life better. My parents never told me much about them, so I always felt disconnected. Always asking questions that sometimes didn't get an answer.
I want you to know I was just like you when I was your age.
Then it came to me! What if my child was gay? Would he be afraid? What would I do to make life for him better? The answer seemed simple. As if it were there all along. I had to be honest not only with myself, but with everyone around me. I didn't want to continue to be afraid.
Afraid that writing down the word gay would kill me.
For the first time ever I wrote down the word that made my story complete. I even typed it out more than a few times on numerous drafts, 'and then I said, I'm gay!' After that, my project included more than a few times the word gay. I had finally overcome my fear.
My teacher loved it! She gave me extra points for making it very personal. I never understood the power of the written word until I was set free from fear of disclosure. Since then, writing my life stories has become a major part of freeing myself. The truth is a scary thought, an uncensored reality that we all must face at one point or another. I face this truth through my writing.
Emmanuel Garcia is a student at Columbia College. He continues to free himself through his writing on his Weblog at emmanuelgarcia.blogspot.com .