PFLAG Coeur d'Alene

Juli Stratton – On Coming Out

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I met Juli while organizing a last-minute candlelight vigil for the Add the Words campaign. We quickly realized how much drive and passion we share for some of the same issues: namely, human rights and equality for all. She asked me to be a part of PFLAG, and I was (and am) incredibly honored. After reading her story, I can appreciate so much more the struggle, both internally and outwardly, that she (and I suspect many) face and, hopefully, overcome. I am proud to know her and have a budding friendship as well as be a part of the change she hopes to see in the world.

Here’s Juli’s story, in her own words:

January 29, 2014

I just finished watching the documentary “Bridegroom”. It is a love story, tragedy, story of family (biological and of choice), of coming out and of self-acceptance. It made me cry, laugh, it enraged me and it made me reflect on my own coming out and journey of self-acceptance. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you watch it.
This writing is about love and acceptance. Coming out is just apart of that. I came out when I was 15 years old. There wasn’t a big party, there wasn’t much talk, it was just the time when I finally realized that I likes girls more that boys and acted on it. It made me realize that for years, since childhood, I fought these feelings and as a result developed poor and harmful coping skills. My life has been a journey of unlearning, relearning, believing and accepting what is good and real.

Recently, I was visiting my mom after she had a serious health scare. We agreed that we would talk about anything that was bothering us, had questions about or just needed to say. We agreed that we would “get it all out on the table”.   I feel very close to my mom and have for some time but there were a couple things I had never talked to her about or asked her. One of them was my “coming out” to her. I told her that I don’t remember ever having a conversation with her about being gay and I wanted to know what her recollection of that time was. As she shared her memory of that time in our lives it became painfully clear how much other “shit” was going on in our lives and that my being gay was way down on the food chain. As a terribly self-absorbed adolescent (I really think self-absorbed is part of the official definition of adolescence) I was not aware of all the struggles that my mom was going through. It was just she and I, and most of the time it was just her and she was trying to provide for us in every way. I was nowhere to be found – even if I was physically present, I wasn’t there.   My mom loved me no matter what…this I believe with all my heart. She didn’t turn her back on me, she didn’t condemn me to a fiery hell, she didn’t shame me, she didn’t do a lot of the horrible things that I hear almost on a daily basis that parents do to their children for being true to who they are. She loved me! And she loves me even more to this day.

Mom, Amy and I at Amy’s and my commitment ceremony in 2006. It meant so much to me that she was there to share in such a special night.

It is still difficult to believe that there are some people, even in my family who may not like me simply because I am gay. Intellectually I get it but in my heart it makes no sense. Living in North Idaho gays are continually bombarded with the strong Christian belief that homosexuals are an abomination and are all going straight to hell. It baffles me that they can judge without even knowing me or any number of wonderful gay friends I have. I will save that rant for another time.

Juli, with members of NIC’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, illustrating the damage of name-calling

Back to love and self-acceptance…and coming out. After I got out of college I met a man (who was also gay) we spent a lot of time together, grew to love each other and got married. Wow, life was so much easier – for a while. It was easier when I was coaching to tell a parent “I’m married” and not have to field questions about being gay like I know a lot of coaches do. It was easier in the work place to say “my husband”. It was easier to go to family gatherings and not feel bad for introducing my partner as “my roommate or my friend”. It just seemed easier, until it wasn’t! After 15 years of marriage and most of it playing the straight game I finally came back out…this time for good and for real. It was the first time I used the words “Mom, I am gay”. Once I told her and she said “honey, it’s ok, I just want you to be happy”, my world opened up again. You see, my world had been reduced to the size of a thimble. For the last ten years I have worked to build that world back up one truth at a time. Today I can honestly say I am happy being exactly who I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do and that I am all put together but it does mean that I will never again deny my truth and who I am. I am loved and accepted, by those who matter.

In October I got a tattoo on my forearm that reads “Truth * Passion”. The Spiral is a sacred symbol that reminds me of my evolving journey in life and the power to flow and change. This is a constant reminder that I must live my truth and live with passion.   I can’t imagine my world without my mom in it. She is my constant champion and role model.   When that day comes that she is not physically here anymore I know that she will always be in my every thought and action when I am living true and she knows that I will always be loved and accepted.

Speaking on allyship and the importance of “adding the words”

Until next time, be true and live with passion!

See the original blog post here: My Journey in 2014: Love and Acceptance.

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