Why I Stopped Coming Out of the Closet
This one thing made me never come out of the closet again.
I was 8-years-old when I first said those words out loud. I came out to my sister's pet goldfish, Herbie. I was in the kitchen. He was in his fish bowl on the yellow stovetop counter.
I was 5-years-old when I had my first crush, and I was 5-years-old when I realized that my crushes were different from the other kids'.
It was reading time. Me and my kindergarten peers were sitting in the front of the classroom, and my crush kissed me on the cheek. Our teacher stopped reading and sent us both to the back of the class – to separate tables. That was one of many moments that made me believe that it was not okay for me to share who I was attracted to.
At 18, I came out to my best friend in high school, and I lived completely out of the closet at 19 – when I moved across the country from California to Virginia to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College, a homonormative, matriarchal culture that made me feel comfortable to live as my whole self for the first time.
When you ask for people's coming out stories, they often say it's not a one-time experience. You're constantly coming out, for your whole life. You'll always be coming out of the closet: to strangers, at work, to family of friends.
That was true for me as well, until I stopped coming out of the closet at 24.
I had no more shame. I had nothing to fear, and I had nothing to hide. At 24, there was no more closet to come out of – there was just me.
This doesn't mean that there were no more moments where people found out about my sexual orientation, but it does mean that I was no longer scared of or uncomfortable with those moments.
It took me 19 years to become comfortable with my sexual orientation. There were a lot of contributing factors, and one of them was writing.
In 2010, I started to work with my mom, Michelle Minero, a therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery. Together, we created the Love Warrior Community (http://www.lovewarriorcommunity.com/), an online community that uses creative expression to foster healing, self-acceptance, body acceptance and self-love.
In 2010, I started to explore self-love writing, and I published it on the Love Warrior Community. Self-Love writing gives you an opportunity to reflect on any aspect of your life that you want to work on. It's a tool that has helped me to navigate through my own self-love journey.
I remember when I first wrote about my sexual orientation. Every time, I felt scared before I hit "publish," like when I wrote "What If We Don’t Want A Formula To Life" (http://selflovewarrior.com/2012/02/08/what-if-we-dont-want-a-formula-to-life/). I imagined sharing the article on Facebook and Twitter, and it made me uncomfortable – but I did it anyway. Self-love writing didn't only help me process my thoughts and my emotions, but the act of sharing it pushed me outside of my comfort zone, in a way that I wanted to be pushed, and it helped me to slowly let go of the fear that I held.
The more that I shared about myself, the easier it became to share, online and offline. Through that process of sharing, I not only let go of my fear, but I brought in self-acceptance around my sexual orientation, as well as confidence and support. The more authentic I was to myself, the more people saw me for me and accepted and loved me for it. The most valuable thing I gained from self-love writing wasn't the support from others, but it was the support and love that I gained from myself.
We're on the verge of 2015, and I continue to use writing as a tool in my self-love practice, but the focus of my writing has changed. I now write about listening to my body, loss and grief, letting go of negative thoughts, work-life balance, joy and accepting all of the experiences of living with bipolar disorder and paranoia.
Each January, I recommit myself to love. Instead of using the communal energy of New Year's resolutions to support one-off goals, I use that to strengthen my Self-Love Diet practice.
What is the Self-Love Diet? It comes from the book Self-Love Diet: The Only Diet That Works (http://theselflovediet.org/), which my mom wrote. The Self-Love Diet is regularly offering yourself love through the lens of your spirit, body, mind, emotions, relationships, culture and world.
This January marks the fifth year that my mom and I have been writing daily self-love posts throughout January to recommit ourselves to loving ourselves. Each year we invite people to join us, and every year a few people do, but last year was the first time that it began to take off.
Last year, 100 people participated, submitting over 500 self-love posts from the US, the UK, Australia and Costa Rica. This year we're expecting more people to participate.
We share a daily Self-Love Diet writing prompt, both on the Love Warrior Community and our Facebook event page for the 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge. You can share your writing to be published on the Love Warrior Community, you can post it on the Facebook event page or you can write in your own journal.
The support and the emotional honesty that people shared last year touched me. Some people followed our prompts, and others wrote about whatever inspired them that day. Some people wrote pages, and others a single sentence – and all of it was powerful.
One woman wrote, "Today I stood naked in front of the mirror and said I LOVE YOU. To every part of me."
Another participant wrote, "I am going to continue writing self love posts. I think this has really helped a lot. I have found new strength that I didn't know was there, and I have learned some things that still need work. I have learned that I am not alone, and that I can ask for help. I am grateful that I have found new friends this past year that see me for who I am, and help me move forward towards being healthier. I am committed to following this path of self love and am anxious to see where it leads me."
Another woman wrote, "Writing a love letter to myself today after being triggered by the question, "when did I start apologizing for my body?" I have apologized in many ways for being the size, gender and age I am. Not today…"
We all have a self-love journey, and this January, I invite you to focus your New Year's resolution on yours.
You can find out more about the 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge by joining the Facebook event (https://www.facebook.com/events/1532973040295644/).
I hope to see you there.