Just over four and a half years ago I came out! Sharing the story of my journey to understanding and accepting who I was and ultimately am today transformed my life. Today, Oct. 11, is National Coming Out Day, and in honor of that, I need your help!
My first experience of coming out was to my family and friends. The whole process was positive, and the fear I had of being disowned and unaccepted by my family and friends turned out to be baseless.
My second coming-out process was at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. At the time, I was in a relationship with another male athlete, and the relationship status listed on our Facebook pages indicated so.
Sitting around in the Team New Zealand athlete lounge early in the games, the other athletes and I were adding each other as friends on Facebook. To clarify, my relationship was not a secret, but I had not spoken about my then-boyfriend to anyone on the team before the Olympics.
Getting a little bit caught up in the excitement of having new friends on Facebook, I was accepting new friend requests without any hesitation.
Once accepted, one girl decided to give my Facebook profile a good creep. Once she stumbled upon my relationship status, she blurted out, "Blake, are you in a relationship with a dude?"
If there were a gold medal for turning cherry-tomato red, I would have won it! I tried not to panic and realized that I was having to come out again. I hoped that it would be as positive as my previous comings out and decided that the best solution was to embrace it.
I responded with a quick and slightly dull "Yeah," which she answered with a loud and positive "Awesome!"
I tried to play it cool, but it was hard not to smile. I took a look around the room, and the walls were not crumbling down. Everyone kept about their business, and with such a simple, casual, and positive exchange the 2010 New Zealand Winter Olympic Team knew I was gay!
It was that exchange that gave me the added inspiration and encouragement to come out publicly. Coming out to my family and friends had not been an issue, and coming out to the New Zealand Olympic Team had not been an issue, so I figured that coming out publicly would not be an issue, and -- no surprise -- it wasn't!
Upon coming out publicly in May 2010, I thought that that would be last time I would ever have to come out. Boy, was I wrong.
Since then I have had to come out again and again. Seven out of 10 times it's to a taxi driver when traveling in the back of a cab. But last week I found myself in a coming-out situation that I had never experienced before, and I wasn't sure what to do.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning my fiancé and I grab breakfast and coffee from the bodega across the street from our apartment. It's family-owned and operated, and with our weekly visits they have come to recognize us and anticipate our order. No longer do I receive an odd look when I ask for a toasted-everything bagel with cream cheese and peanut putter. Try it, trust me!
Last week I let my fiancé sleep in while I went out and grabbed our breakfast. While paying for our order I was chatting with the son of the owner, who looks to be around 15 years old. He said, "You and your brother are always in here, and you really love a cream-cheese-and-peanut-butter bagel!"
Now, having been alerted by others to the very slight similarity in our looks (#boyfriendtwins) once or twice before, I wasn't too shocked at hearing him say that. What I was shocked at was my reaction: I just smiled and laughed without correcting him. Here I was, having to come out again, and I didn't know what the right thing to do was. Should I correct him and perhaps risk compromising the quality of my bagel, or should I just let him figure out on his own that two brothers don't normally spend every Saturday and Sunday morning getting breakfast together?
While I am a big believer in using visibility to champion and highlight diversity, it had been four and a half years since I'd last smiled and laughed without correcting someone who'd assumed I'm straight.
I would love to hear your best coming-out story, and also what you would have done in my situation.
Here's to National Coming Out Day! Here's to coming out again and again! With each time it gets easier, but as I learned, no one coming out is the same as the last.
Happy National Coming Out Day!