By: Selina Boquet
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to
blossom. –Anais Nin
Blossoming is a dangerous act. It takes courage to spread your petals to the world and gamble losing friends, family, and even your life.
Many people ask how I made the decision to come out of the closet.
I had a lot to lose. I was deep into my perfectly formulated heterosexual lifestyle. I’ve been asked how I could have left the church and my marriage of eight years to face Los Angeles alone with my two kids. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t painless, but it was worth it.
When I decided to come out of the closet, there was no one magical moment that pushed me into full bloom. Instead, it was a million complex movements that lead me to the greatest epiphany of my life.
I had many puzzle pieces that helped awake me out of my 28-year-long slumber. I always knew that I liked women, yet there is a huge difference between knowing that you are attracted to women and realizing that you are, in fact, a lesbian. Admitting this to myself was a long process.
One of my first recognizable turning points occurred after watching the movie, “Into the Wild”. I was surprised by my feelings of jealousy for the freedom of the protagonist of the story. As the plot unfolds, a young man turns down the comforts of money and modern society to live in a van in the Alaskan wilderness. He had no masks. No one’s personal agenda or religious expectations affected his life decisions. He was living the definition of pure freedom. Having that kind of liberating freedom in my own life seemed so distant and foreign that I broke down crying and couldn’t stop for hours. All night I searched through this mysterious sadness in my heart that I had pushed to the side for so long.
It didn’t make sense to me, though. I had followed all of the rules to success that had been taught to me. My mental list had neat little checks in all of the boxes. Church Leader. Check. Teaching Career. Check. Two beautiful children. Check. Husband. Check. I had the life that others told me would make me happy.
So then why did I feel so empty inside?
In the eyes of everyone around me, I had the perfect life. My grandma sure was proud of me. She loved to hear what we were doing in the church and how we were being promoted higher and higher into leadership.
“I’m so grateful all of my grandchildren (there are 27 of us) are workin’ for the Lawd,” she would proudly say at the end of each of our conversations in her sweet southern drawl.
When I started to see the truth, that I was gay, I felt empty inside. If I believed that what my church and my Southern Baptist family had taught me about homosexuals, then I served a God who hated me. I remember singing for the church choir and feeling like an absolute stranger to these people who were closer than my family. I knew that if they knew I was gay then I would no longer be welcome amongst them. The more I learned about my true self, the more I felt among enemies. This was difficult because as I had moved from Oregon where I grew up to Los Angeles just two years earlier, I didn’t have any family in California and almost all of my friends were from the church.
My co-workers were my only true friends in California and one in particular, Patty, helped me by asking me challenging questions and patiently listening to me. We were carpool buddies and we spent about two hours a day in the car together. She became my therapist and my great wise sage as she listened intently and supported me each step along the way as I discovered my authentic self. I owe her my life.
“You mean that you used to be gay, but you gave it up for God? How is that possible?” Patty marveled one day, “If someone told me I couldn’t be straight anymore, I had to be gay, I couldn’t do it!” I nodded with confidence and pride at my dutiful commitment to God, yet inwardly I was shocked at why I had never seen it that way before. Even in my disconnected state, it made a lot of sense, yet I wasn’t ready to admit that I had been wrong. Gay people aren’t made, they’re born. Tiny moments of clarity such as these accumulated in my thoughts and helped to take me one step closer towards my own acceptance of the truth.
Over the next few months my eyes began to open little by little as I slowly began to accept the fact that I was gay and that I wasn’t going to change. I started to see that I did not fit in the life I was living. Once I fully accepted that, I came out right away. On April 25th, 2008, approximately one year after my conversation with Patty, I told Omar, my husband, that I was gay.
As I look back at my journal entry from that day, I can see that even then I doubted my decision. I wanted the picture perfect life that had been painted for me. Yet as I wrote on that fateful day, ‘there is only so much pain one person can take’. Despair and self-pity run so deep in my journal entry, it scares me at how close I was to taking my own life. I remember that at my darkest moment, the faces of my two beautiful children came to my mind and a glimmer of hope flickered somewhere deep inside.
When it feels like you have nowhere to go, death can appear to be a good option. The number of people who have fallen for that lie and choose to take their own life, sadly seems to rise every day. I thought that I had come to the end, yet it was only the beginning. In the eyes of my children, I found the hope that I needed to carry on.
Anais Nin understood that there is more suffering in hiding from the world, than there is in revealing your true core by spreading your petals to the sun. The fear of pain and rejection is what kept me tight in a bud yet the philosophical poet, Kahlil Gibran, reminds us that, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The sorrow that once created canyons of emptiness inside of me now allows me to hold an ocean of joy.
Thanks to the struggle that it took to come out of the closet, I now possess a more profound level of gratitude for the simple things in my life. My hypocritical and judgmental friends have been replaced with loving, supportive friends and family who love me for who I am. It is better for someone to reject you for who you are than to love you for who you are not. Every day I treasure the freedom and peace that comes from living an authentic life.