“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson
I’ve never been good at introductions – just ask any of my high school teachers or college professors. If they remember me, it’s certainly not for my penchant for writing. It’s also likely not for my vocality or profound contributions in class. I am more of the quiet, introspective type.
I’m 25 years old now, and I am finally ready to confront my habitual silence and the metaphorical lump I’ve been ignoring in my throat for the majority of my life. I’ve taken on the challenge of learning to love, accept and be proud who I am. To really acknowledge every part of oneself is a daunting task. It forces the individual to delve into the deepest parts of their being and confront all of the darkness they hold, whatever the reason. To some that may seem rather painless, but I assure you it’s not. It’s definitely not for me. Not when so many people in the world are telling you that there is something fundamentally wrong with you and that you shouldn’t be who you are. Not when people are still getting beaten up and killed just for loving and being loved. Not when a small group of people has the power to vote and to decide whether or not you should have equal rights.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” -Nelson Mandela
I’ve felt for a number of years that I haven’t been true to myself, fearing that people wouldn’t approve and that I’d be ostracized. I’ve kept people behind a towering wall because I’m afraid they won’t treat me the same. Internalizing such an integral component of who I am is exhausting. It takes an enormous amount of energy not to talk about something you so desperately want to share with the world. It’s time. I don’t want to hold it in any longer. I’m ready to join the conversation. I’m gay.
Talk to just about any gay person you know (and trust me, you do know at least one whether you realize it or not) and they’ll probably agree that those two words can be the hardest two to say. For so long, we’ve been taught that being gay is somehow wrong. We’re also taught to fear that which we do not understand. This is just one of the many reasons I’ve decided to come out. There’s nothing to fear. What is there not to understand about love? Love…is love. It’s all the same. I’m just gay. I’m just attracted to people of the same sex. That’s all.
By going through this process, I’ve learned to embrace my “otherness.” I like that I’m different than the majority of people. It’s a great reminder that I am an individual.
“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world…so be that one person.” -Richard Buckminster Fuller
Why now? I want to help to advance this movement in any way I can. I don’t know of any openly gay professional runners, and I think it’s time for one to get involved. Believe it or not, I did not at all intend to write about this when I started this post. It was going to be a recap of my Fall racing season and an overview of my goals for next year. When I started to think of what changes I could make to be a better runner, I got sidetracked with how I could be a better person, and this “secret” lingered incessantly in my mind.
I discussed it for the first time on my 21st birthday with my Aunt Alice. It’s a funny thing – always wanting to wait for the perfect time to tell someone. What makes any particular time “perfect” is as much your guess as it is mine. I don’t know how much time I have in this life and in this body, and I don’t want to waste another minute. I treated it as a sort of gift to myself. I was an emotional wreck – my voice trembled, I couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing. I cried as I searched for my words. Once I finally found them, I was so comforted by her response: “And?” We laughed and talked late into the night and early morning. The feeling of being able to share such an intimate part of myself with someone close to me, which I think is so often taken for granted, was incredible.
For me, it’s about self-discovery, self-respect, and releasing the shame I’ve felt for so long. It’s time for me to stop waging this war on myself and to mend the fracture between who I once thought I should be and who I am. This doesn’t define me. What I hope defines me is the way I treat my family, friends, coworkers, strangers in the street, or the barista at Starbucks if they mess up my order. I hope to someday be defined by the lives I touched and the impact I had, however big or small, rather than whether I loved a man or a woman.
As I wrap this up, I think I would be remiss not to thank a few people. Thank you to my amazingly beautiful parents and siblings: your unconditional love has gotten me through so many difficult times that you never knew I was having. Thank you to my closest friends who already know I’m gay and still love me the same. Thank you to my first love with whom I spent three and a half years: we may have realized we weren’t meant for one another, but I’ll always cherish what we learned about ourselves during our time together. Thank you to everyone who has worked in any way to shift the political climate for gay individuals: you all inspire me to fight for what I believe in and for who I am. Finally, thank you to anyone who may be struggling with their sexuality right now: you all remind me that there is so much worth fighting for. You all deserve to love and be loved freely, and it will get better.
I’ll finish this off by urging anyone to contact me if you feel compelled (matthew.llano (AT) gmail.com). I would be happy to hear your stories, help you navigate what you’re going through, or welcome you into this conversation.