I remember thinking I could never "come out". That if anyone discovered this shameful secret, I would be better off dead. I remember sneaking off to a Lady Gaga concert with some friends and seeing gay couples holding each other. I remember going home and crying because, there it was, everything I ever wanted but could never have. Raised in a very strict and religious family, I knew that kind of life was simply not an option. So I swallowed my pain, tried to "fit in" with my peers, and resolved myself to an unhappy life I managed to convince myself I deserved.
"Stop telling people you're gay. Why do you broadcast it? Just keep it secret." These were actual words from family members when I finally mustered up the courage to "come out". I use to think like that too... that I could just continue hiding this "shameful sin" and act like it didn't deeply permeate my thoughts every single day. This unrelenting inner turmoil annihilated my happiness, my focus on education, my confidence and my motivation to succeed in anything.
The closet isn't a safe place to be mentally, physically, or emotionally healthy. At 210 pounds, I was overweight because I just didn't care about my health. I felt like my existence was absolute trash so I treated my body as absolute trash. So much so, I still bear stretch marks on my stomach from all the solace I would seek in food.
In my final year at UCLA, I came to a breaking point. I wanted so much more out of life, so I braved the consequences and admitted my "shame" to my friends. I was met with so much support, understanding, and unconditional love. It's been five years since I came out, and I have drastically changed for the better - mentally, emotionally, and physically. Those stretch marks I use to be ashamed of? They are now faded and serve as a reminder of my journey.
My life is so utterly amazing because this "shameful secret" ended up being something that has given me strength, confidence, and self-awareness. Looking back now, I am grateful for the hardship I faced before. Because I "came out", I now have the most incredible friends and an even better life. Life is better lived OUT and LOUD.
Los Angeles, CA