“I’m gay.” Two simple words I had said to myself a million times before in my head. Two simple words I had envisioned saying out loud to anyone, everyone, but the thought of saying these two simple words out loud was terrifying. I’ve always known that I was gay, but I grew up in a small, conservative town where people never uttered the word "gay", let alone could someone “come out” and be openly gay. It made for a very confusing and isolating time. I hid who I was and constantly lived in fear of not being accepted if people found out. I was afraid to be my true authentic self, scared of the repercussions of how people would treat me, or worse, forget me, if they knew I was gay. I wished I had someone to talk to, cry to, and confide in. I wished I had someone who would tell me that everything was going to be ok and what I was feeling was normal and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. Unfortunately at that time in my life, that person didn’t exist or was just as frightened as I was to reveal their true self. Without that support, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak my truth until I was well into my twenties. By that time I had finally found my support system along with my voice to finally come out.
I look back at that time in my life and wonder how things might have been different if I had found that kind of support earlier. That’s why I love the message that OITNI is bringing to the world. For people struggling the same way that so many of us have, knowing that there are allies and advocates like OITNI who will stand beside us and help us continue to fight for a day when the LGBTQ community is respected, included, and treated equally is inspiring. That inspiration hopefully means a world where that scared little kid who in the past would have fought to keep their secret hidden, will now feel supported enough to fight and scream their secret out loud…. because Out is the New In!