On his 13th coming-out anniversary, Anthony Romeo shares advice about sex, selfies, and NOT second-guessing yourself.
July 11, 2002 was, by all means, an unremarkable day, a day in between high school and college that blends in with all the rest, mostly. It’s hard to remember what it was like, waking up that morning. I can’t tell you what I had for lunch, or who I talked to in the mall. I can’t remember what I was wearing, or whether or not I had taken a shower. The only thing I remember was the phone call, when I finally found the courage to speak the unspeakable truth about myself.
“I want you to know…I’m gay.”
And just like that, the rest of my life began. All in one moment, naked and new, stumbling out of a 17-year-old husk, blissfully unaware of what the world might be like, and unclear of how to navigate a brave new world of my own undertaking.
That’s a fancy way of saying, when you come out, you don’t get a handbook. It’s a unique process, individual for each person, and it’ll happen at different points in a person’s life. With that being said, on my 13-year coming out anniversary, I’ve put together the 13 tips they don’t tell you when you come out. Cheers!
Ready? Set? Go!
- You are off to the races, having just come out for the first time. The world is big and scary. Be brave, be bold, and be yourself.
The Buddy System
- Try to find someone you feel totally comfortable with. Maybe it’s a boy, maybe it’s a girl. But be sure it’s a non-romantic friend, someone who can tell you when you’re being stupid, or comfort you when you’re feeling down. And treat that person like the incredible resource that he or she is. Boats tend to float away from the dock, be sure you’ve got an anchor.
People Are Dicks
- Look. Okay. I’m sure you’re nice, and your friends are nice. Maybe you even have a nice family, in a nice town. But there are people in the world who are not like you. People who are mean, and angry, and hostile. Sometimes the world is going to feel like The Hunger Games. And sometimes people will say things to you that hurt you, and likely hurt you pretty deeply, because you’re gay. Feel that pain, and then remind yourself that you understand more than those people understand, you are smarter. Just because our Earth is round doesn’t mean it isn’t flat for someone else. Be bigger, and you’ll be better.
Know The Speed Limit
- Whether you’re coming out at 16 or 60, this is the right time for you. Don’t second-guess yourself. You just have to find the person you’re supposed to be, and get really good at it.
- There are so many characteristics that make you an exceptional, one-of-a-kind person. And being gay is one of those, absolutely. But so is being a brother, or a sister. A son, or a daughter. A neighbor, a community member. Be as committed to being as full a person as you can be; we aren’t defined by who we love, we are defined by who we are.
Catchphrases Are Your Worst Idea
- I’ve lived through fetch. And beeyotch. And fleek. And chantay. And millions of other annoying words that live and die in popular culture in the blink of an eye. Use all of your words, not just the ones that you think are going to go viral. You’re a person, not a character. I want to know you, not the caricature of yourself you’ve had done on the sidewalk, gurrrrrl.
“Well, you’re no ‘Will’, Anthony”
- That’s what my grandmother told me when I came out to her, after I told her that I wasn’t the stereotypical gay man like Jack from “Will & Grace”. And in her own funny way, she was right. I’m not Jack, and I’m not Will. I’m Anthony. And that means having to figure out what kind of gay man I wanted to be. I’m not like anyone else, I’m me. And that guy is a lot cooler than any character on TV. You came out because you didn’t want to be stuck in a mold? Then prove it, and be yourself, every day, all of the days.
You Can Play
- Coming out in the early 00’s was unusual, there wasn’t visibility among gay athletes. When I kept playing hockey after I had come out, it was difficult for other people to process. Not me. Stopping 90 mph slapshots was still a thing that I was good at doing. The world in which we live is more ready than ever to accept gay athletes, in 2015 the only standard against which you are judged is your ability to perform in that sport, not on who you love, for the most part. There’s more work to do, more visibility to be had. You compete, we win.
You’re Not The First
- This world is easier and better for you because it was harder and more terrible for the men and women who came out before you. Read up on the history of gays and lesbians in this country, learn about the people who helped kick down the doors for you. It gets better, but it only does so when we remember that it was once worse. Then we work together, joining that story. You will always be better served in this world when you remember to say thank you.
Mommy Doesn’t Want To See Your Pee-Pee
- WHEN you take a selfie, and share it online, it will always be online. No one is going to keep your secrets for you. That boobie shot, or that dick pic? The moment you send it anywhere from your phone, it will live forever in the world. Respect yourself, think about the image of yourself that you’re giving to other people, and really consider sending the same picture to your mom. Does Mom want to see your weiner? Then delete the picture.
- Meeting and connecting with people has never been easier than it is now. But thanks to smart-phones, it’s also a hell of a lot uglier and more complicated. Dating apps give us the ability to instantly reject people because we don’t like what they look like. Look, I don’t photograph all that well, but I’m one of the funniest people you’re going to meet. Take a chance on real connections with real people. Nothing replaces the feeling you get when someone smiles at you from the other side of the room. There’s a chase to falling in love, and it can be one hell of a ride.
How The Other Half Lives
- It’s 2015, and gay men and women have more legal rights and protections that we have ever enjoyed in the past. It’s an historic and tumultuous time in American history. But don’t forget that there are others who are still left on the outside, looking in. And as a community who has struggled, you have to always keep your heart attuned to the struggles of other people in the world. We have to send the elevator back down, because there is no replacement for kindness and empathy, none.
Wrap It Up
- You’re going to have sex, right? I mean, you’ll probably have sex. It’s one of the fun parts of coming out, you can finally find the people and experiences that give you the best sense of gratification and fulfillment that you’ve been missing. Be safe. Use protection. You think hearing the word “discharge” or “outbreak” is uncomfortable? Then be safe, and get tested. It means a longer, happier, and more satisfying sex life, for all of us.
And so, on my 13-year coming-out anniversary, a toast to you, the brave new members of this exciting new world. You’re doing something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Be on your best behavior, be happy, and most importantly, be you.
I am so glad you’re here.