My Big Fat Greek Coming Out
A Greek girl’s journey from the closest to self-acceptance and happiness.
Growing up as a kid in my Greek family was great. I loved all holidays, traveling with my family, playing sports and learning my language so I can speak Greek to my grandparents. I grew up with two sisters who are both married and have children of their own. I, on the other hand, am the one who shocked my Greek parents. I tried to “follow” the rules, get married have children, because “that is when your life starts,” they would tell me. That is what they think—definitely not me. My life doesn’t start with a husband, my life is me, and I dictate how that goes. Funny how some people think.
Well, unfortunately, although I had those strong thoughts way deep down inside of me, I still did what I thought I had to do to make my family happy. I dated a guy for about 4 ½ years, a long time, I know, and I guess now looking back, I was going through the motions. I saw how happy it made everyone so I kept going but I almost felt like I was acting and not being the authentic me. I felt very empty and lost inside and in that relationship. I was just there. Well, after 4 ½ years, he proposed to me and I said yes. Frightened and feeling very lost, I remember saying to my mother (the next day) that I made a mistake by saying yes. My sisters were so excited they practically planned everything for me. As time went on, I was more distant to him, very cold actually and he didn’t deserve that. I noticed I began to feel anxious and I didn’t know why. I started to lose weight, 20lbs actually in one month. I could barely eat, and then things got worse. As people around me would talk about the wedding, or shop for a wedding dress, inside my head and body I was drowning. I felt that I was someone I wasn’t. But everyone around me was so excited. My body knew I was making a mistake, and I had a breakdown. I could barely function, I was anxious every day to the point of being afraid when left alone. I gave back the ring and ended the relationship.
Again, no one knew why. Even I kept suppressing the real reason. Finally, I went to a therapist. I sat in her office and told her a bunch of reasons why I didn’t want to get married to this man. She knew there was something much more deep seeded and kept asking me why do I feel this way, and I kept saying, “I don’t know.”
She insisted, and asked again, “Why do you feel this way, you do know why?” And after pushing me a bit, I looked up at her and said, “Because I’m gay.” She smiled. That was it. I was so terrified to even say the word gay. She explained how it was my culture and my family and upbringing that had me feeling this way. Which I agree, that did play a huge role. I was scared. I was suppressing the real me for almost 28 years. I was almost afraid to admit that I liked women, out of shame. Out of shame of what my parents and sisters would think of me. Sad isn’t it?
Well, eventually I did date women and realized when I was with a woman Wow, so this is what true contentment feels like. This is how my sister feels when she looks at her husband—pure happiness. My soul felt different, I felt complete. This is who I am. This is who I have been since I was born. And that’s okay, actually it is very okay because I’m loving another person, I am not hurting anyone and for once, I am genuinely happy. But now I was living a secret life. I was dating a woman but no one knew. I was open with myself finally and happy being me, but to everyone else, she was a he. I couldn’t live that way anymore. I was sick and tired of having to lie about who I was seeing. I didn’t want to live that way, no one should. I wanted to be able to talk about the person I cared about openly to my sisters, I wanted to say she instead of he. I couldn’t bear this anymore, it wasn’t fair to me. And so I came out to my sisters who were shocked at first but very accepting and understanding. However, their first remark was “Don’t tell mom! You’re going to give her a heart attack.” Hmm, that’s not nice to say, why would I give her a heart attack? Well, I told my mom and it didn’t go so well. She was unaccepting to the point where she said some very hurtful things to me and I moved in with my sister for a short while. My mother was ashamed, how could her daughter like another woman? She told me she couldn’t show her face in public, that I ruined her dignity and that I was an embarrassment. Worst of all is when she told me that she wanted to die because of me. My soul was crushed. My heart hurt and broke; she is my mother, how could she say these things to me? I am her child and all she cared about was what people would think instead of my happiness and loving me unconditionally.
It was a tough time and I wasn’t strong then. I didn’t know how to react to that but feel sad and so I left with a feeling of: “Oh my God, am I an embarrassment?” In the meantime, I came out to friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and everyone around me was accepting and loved me for me. Me as a human being, for being Xanthi the Realtor, the sister, aunt, friend, niece, cousin, not being Xanthi the lesbian. That did and does not define me, who I love is who I love. My mother and I bumped heads for a while, but thankfully, in time, she apologized for the hurtful things she said. I forgave her for not knowing any better and she told me she loves me unconditionally although she doesn’t understand “it.” And that’s okay. That is her issue, not mine.
I was so relieved by how amazing everyone’s response was to me because I was expecting the worse and I had my uncle and aunt hug me and tell me how much they loved me, in fact, my uncle said, “This is what you were worried about? This is nothing and please don’t ever torture yourself anymore. We want to see you happy.” That was music to my ears. I was open and out to everyone at this point and I never felt more alive. I had no secrets, I wasn’t hiding anything. I was free, I was me and I was HAPPY.
I felt strong and independent and secure with myself. It took a lot to get there but I did. It’s scary at first maybe even confusing but this is who you are and it’s a beautiful thing. Never be ashamed of who you love and are. It’s not easy for many people to confront themselves and live authentically in the open, because of family backgrounds and fears but if I could do it, anyone could. If I could help even one person who is terrified or scared, I would tell them this. Your parents are not going to have a heart attack, so don’t worry about that. Yes, it is scary at first but at the end of the day, those who love you will always love you no matter what and if someone has a problem with you, that’s their problem, not yours. Life is too short to live to make others happy. Living your life and being yourself is the best happiness you could do for yourself and as long as you are free to be you and love who you love, then that’s truly all that matters. Your world will open up, mine has.
Family is tough and not everyone will be accepting. Like I said before, I had a very difficult time with my mother, VERY difficult, and it takes time but it got better for me. Be true to yourself and listen to your inner voice. You are a beautiful soul and don’t hide or suppress yourself. You deserve to live how you want just like everyone else does. Do it with pride. I am now 34 years old, and I am glad I didn’t waste or wait any more time before coming out. At the end of the day, a good response to someone coming out should be: So what. Don’t hide and live in fear over your sexuality, you are doing a disservice to yourself. Life will pass you by and one day you will look back and say, “What was I doing, and for what? I lived in fear, anxiety, shame and why? Because of my upbringing and my culture, my background.” I took charge and now I am still the same person, I am still Xanthi, but I am living for my happiness, my world with good people who love me and love me in every way as I do them.
Fear nothing, be who you are, know who you are and live it! Love is love! Embrace it and embrace YOU!