In this trio of posts, I tell the story of the day I came out. If you haven’t read part one yet, I recommend doing that.
Here’s part two of the story.
I held up my hand and watched it shake as Dr. Soper lectured in my environmental policy class. I glanced at the people seated around me and thought, “The slim, impossible, definitely untrue chance that mind reading is real and that they can know what I am thinking in my head right now, makes my body want to collapse. Just the idea that they soon won’t have to read my mind, makes me want to run out of this room. What I do today will affect the rest of my life.”
I game-planned the next few hours. I would finish this class. Then I would walk to the cafeteria and buy one slice of pizza. (Because who knows what will go down and when I will be able to eat next.) Then I will go in the Chaplain’s office, eat the pizza, and post from there because that place, more than any of other place on this campus, was and is my happy place.
So I did those things.
My faith mentor and assistant chaplain, Lauren, was away from her desk so I plopped down into it. I shoved the pizza down my throat while pulling together the exact photo and exact words to share on both Instagram and Facebook. Everything detail had been planned for weeks ahead of time. It was just a matter of copying the little text blurbs from the notes app on my phone, grabbing the photos that were filed away there too, and putting it all together on my social medias like I had run through in my mind over and over and over.
I got up from the desk and walked back out to the cafeteria. I looked out over the masses of people. It was lunch hour and it was packed. In my four years, that place had become a place that I didn’t know could exist. Freshman year, I first sat alone at the tables on the far side, near the windows. Then I was embarrassed that others would see me sitting alone, so I moved to the tables outside. Specifically to the tables outside, around the corner, out of the view of the windows, and behind wide concrete pillars. There I could see the mountains, and the sky, and most importantly, no one could see me.
By that day though, the cafeteria was a different place. It was the place I would walk out into with a tray in my hand and have friends holler at me from across the room. They would holler at me to come sit with them. It was the place in which walking to those friends and I would pass other friends and awkwardly have to tell those second friends that I wasn’t going to sit with them because I had already verbally committed to sitting with those first friends. It was the place I would sit with those first friends while worried about those second friends, while also waving to a third group of friends, all while really trying to stay focused on that conversation with the first friends. All before eventually finding a breaking point. Then I’d give up and just run around like a joyful madmen talking to friends groups two, three, four, five and six. I could spent hours in there. Those friends in there saw me and knew me and loved me, and they allowed me to see them, know them, love them right back.
The cafeteria was a place I did not know could exist. It was a collection of bodies that meant more to me than any other collection of bodies. It was a space that taught me that I was worthy of being talked to, worthy of being loved.
But I was about to show them a part of me that I hadn’t showed them before. And in every part of my mind, I was convinced that would change everything. I assumed that that day, that hour, that precise moment, was the last moment I could walk into the cafeteria like I did. I assumed that I would never walk into it again. I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to.
I assumed that in that next hour I would become the gay person to Pepperdine, the weird gay person to my friends, the person to be stared at, the person to throw slurs upon. That’s the only way I had seen queer people, at large, be treated by non-queer people. Yes, I had thirty great friend acceptances to point to, but I also had one, one from a best friend, that went really sour to point to as well.
But there was also a part of me that was giddy, that was excited and anticipatory. Despite my fear, despite my belief that everything would change, by this point, I was ready for it. I knew this was just what would happen, the only happen that was ever meant to happen, and I got to do it. It got to start today.
Christianity taught me that to lose one’s life is to find it. I viewed the imminent loss I assumed I would face as actualization of that Christian practice. I believed there was nothing more Christian than believing so strongly in a good cause that you would give up whatever it asked of you.
So I stood at the top of some stairs, looked over the cafeteria and gave it one last look.
I walked outside to call my grandma and my brother, the last two of my nuclear family to come out to. I found my friend Yash, called him into the Chaplain’s Office, and we prayed together. Then I went to my computer and to my phone and hit publish on both.