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20 years out of the closet

Updated: March 18, 2014 4:15PM



Sept. 26 will mark the 20th anniversary of Britney’s coming out as gay. Before that, she wasn’t really in the closet — she didn’t lead a double life — but she did fight her orientation.

“I knew where my heart was and whom I was attracted to, but I believed that as long as I never acted on them, I wasn’t gay.”

Then, when she was in her mid-20, she gave up the fight. She wasn’t ready to act on her feelings, but she gave herself “permission” to do so, when the time was right.

“I spent hours at the library reading books I was too embarrassed to check out on my card. I read novels about gay women by gay women. I read books about telling your friends and family.

“This was 1993. Melissa Etheridge had only fallen out of the closet months before. Ellen’s character on her TV show ‘Ellen’ came out about a year later and it still took Ellen herself a year or so after that show to acknowledge she was gay. This gives you some idea how little acknowledgment there was about being gay.”

Once Britney was ready to come out as gay, she looked around for whom to tell first. “I chose my best friend, who, ironically, is named Gay. She was a former sorority sister and roommate. After I spilled out my story, she paused, then let me know it didn’t matter. Twenty years later my heart still pounds remembering that day.”

Next, Britney told her parents. They told her they still loved her, “no matter what.” Then she took what she calls the “platform dive method” of coming out and confided in about 80 people.

“These were people from all stages of my life — family, high school, college, law school, work. They had lots of questions but not one made me feel bad, sad, or unloved. To make things easier for my friends, I always told them not to worry because they were not my type. Some of us had lived together in the sorority house and I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”

One of her friends was rather insulted about not being Britney’s type. She asked her why. “I told her she was too tall for me. I’m less than 5 feet and she’s close to 6. She laughed.”

In 2006, when she was 39, Britney got involved in wrestling and signed up to wrestle in the Gay Games. “The day of the match, my mom came to make sure I survived. My sorority sisters brought their kids. Several of my bosses came to see me. The crowd was there to support me just like they had for the last 20 years.”

Britney says some things are the same since she came out that day. Gay is still her friend and her cat is still alive. But something important has changed.

“The last 20 years have taken gays from being the topic of juicy gossip, to the cool gay friend and finally to just being a friend.”

Are you hiding in a closet? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to cheryllavinrapp@gmail.com. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.

Creators Syndicate



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