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Out, hoping others will follow

Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM

On Monday we met Patrick, who was a senior in high school when he decided to stop allowing society to define him. He “turned on that light in the closet, found the knob, and walked out with tears in his eyes and some extremely sweaty palms.”

Over the course of a year, he came out first to his best friend, then his 14-year-old sister, then his 22-year-old brother.

“One night, the four of us went up to my parents’ room and shared the news. Truthfully, it was hard for them to understand at first. I was bombarded with questions as I sat there holding my sister’s hand. My favorite was, ‘How do you know?’ To which I replied, ‘How did you know you were straight?’

“It took only a second of confusion and recognition before my mother jumped up and gave me a hug I can still feel today. Like I said earlier, I am lucky to have two of the most supportive parents.”

Patrick says after this milestone, he felt more empowered than ever. He was in college and became a campus leader. He studied abroad in Ireland and England. He’s become a champion for gay rights and a mentor in the gay community.

“Since coming out of the closet, I’ve encouraged people to be proud of whom they are. I continuously support individuals who hope to walk out of the closet proudly. I understand that I’m extremely blessed, and not every coming out story has its happily-ever-after. I’m an avid supporter of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign.

“But trust me, I know it’s hard to believe that things will just ‘get better.’ And, truthfully, what does that even mean? It’s kind of naïve to tell yourself, ‘Oh, it’ll get better.’ There needs to be some effort. If we’re proud of who we are, no one can knock us down. We need to accept each other, but it starts with accepting ourselves.”

Patrick would love to say that he has a full and satisfying romantic life, but he doesn’t. He’s had one serious relationship, but isn’t currently seeing anyone. “I enjoy going on dates, but it’s often difficult to find individuals that I’m interested in who are openly gay to friends and family. That has definitely been another struggle in and of itself.

“Closeted individuals tend to come out to others in the gay community but struggle with opening up to family and close friends. I know some students around campus who are gay, but they’re still in the closet. We live a near double life before coming out.

“My biggest fear when I was thinking of coming out was that I would be classified by a negative stereotype that some people have of the gay community. In college, the more masculine gay students struggle on coming out for fear of being ‘de-masculinized’ and rejected from their peers. Even though they know they are gay, most of them aren’t out.

“I’d rather go on dates with guys who are open to their friends and family, but I’m more often attracted to the more masculine guys who, more often than not, are still in the closet.”

Are you still in the closet? Did you come out? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants, to cheryl

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