Dear 20-year old Closeted Me,
I’ve never been one to beat around the bush, so let me get it out right from the open: you are about to live the lowest point of your life. I know you are confused, alone, and scared.
I know you’ve struggled to fit in since you came to the US from Vietnam at such a young age. It’s true what they say – kids really can be so cruel. I still remember all that teasing in 3rd grade about your broken English and hand-me-down clothes. I remember the feeling of dread when the recess bell rang, because you knew you’d spend it sitting by yourself, and you didn’t want any of your classmates to know.
Fast forward to college, you are faced, yet again, with another challenge of being different. But this time, you have the choice of keeping your difference a secret and avoiding the pain of being an outcast yet again.
I remember those college days vividly. On the outside, you were living the dream. You’d made it to UCLA. You had good grades, great friends and felt like you were finally visible.
But on the inside, you were gripped with fear. You were afraid that if they found out who you really were, this life you’d worked so hard to create would all slip away in a heartbeat. I remember how much you hated yourself for liking the new Taylor Swift album and how you would roll your windows up in fear when you saw another car come close because it was “gay” to enjoy her music. I remember all those nights desperately asking God to change you, because you’d been told in bible study that the devil was giving you these thoughts. And I remember the day you decided against running for Student Body President despite the encouragement of your friends, for fear of being outed on the campus campaign trail. The thought “What if?” will continue to haunt you for a long time.
But I am here to tell you: the life you are trying so hard to protect is not truly bringing you joy. You’ll realize that the thing that makes you different is the thing that will set you free: from judgement, from fear, from the weight of other people’s expectations. One day, you will not only get to listen to whatever music you like, you’ll dance with abandon until 7am with the people you love the most in the world. One day, you will not fear being outed for who you are, but rather will look forward to meeting others who are like you because you are “family” by virtue of your shared life experience. You will travel to the farthest corners of the world with your fiancé (spoiler alert: the sexiest and most intelligent man you will ever meet) and never feel alone because what makes you “different”, now makes you part of a very close knit community.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. It will get worse before it gets better. You will be outed by someone you trust and many people will find out about your sexual orientation without your consent. It will be some of the most painful days of your life, and in some of the darkest moments you will even consider taking your own life. But you will get through it. And on the other side, you will learn to love yourself more than you ever have. That little, insecure Vietnamese boy will never go away entirely, but his voice will grow fainter compared to the many of those who care for and love you. It doesn’t just get better. It gets more exciting, more joyful, and much more fun. And most importantly, there will be lots and lots of Taylor Swift.
Hang in there,
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