Any teacher worth her expertly managed pension fund will tell you that the greatest classroom rush is when your kids get it. Well, as I sat there surveying the faces of the teens whom I've witnessed in just about every state of miscomprehension, I noticed something new. Rarified. Exhilarating. Collective understanding of something really, really big.
My best friend for a quarter century has been "out of the closet" all of his life. Me -- since I was 26. We find we agree on almost everything except Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and gay pride. He calls Pride "a bunch of half-naked gays taking up space on a main street -- why bother?" I say it is one of the most important celebrations a gay or lesbian may choose to partake in.
At 15, being called Fagboy on the football field happened. Ironically enough, it was a straight kid with immaculate gaydar who gave me that name in high school. I was thankful that the moniker never lasted more than that year, but those words 'Fagboy' have stuck with me ever since. It would take a few handfuls of girlfriends, over two decades of denial and seven full years of hiding on the other side of the planet -- in China -- before I learned to let go of my fear, my shame and the idea that being gay was wrong.
Because today is National Coming Out Day, I was reminded of my own journey. Almost two decades ago, I came out of that supposed "closet" publicly and purposefully for when I finally figured out I was gay, I wanted to shout it to the world. I eventually found the label "gay" something to be proud of. The gay label is just one small part of the big picture. But take it away and I wouldn't be me.
I came out to my family 10 years ago this month. It was, without question, the hardest thing I have ever done. For a long time, I tortured myself about my sexual orientation. It took a long time before I could even think that little sentence, the one I used to find so horrible and isolating, the one that goes like this: I'm gay.