The original story below can be found on the Coming Out website, a 501c3 non-profit that shares LGBTQ coming out stories, organizing them in a way that makes it easy to find relatable stories. In celebration of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, Coming Out is sharing new written and video stories like Drew’s below. Anyone can submit his or her or their personal story on the Coming Out website to inspire and comfort people who come from all walks of life.
A large chunk of who I am and how I define myself can be put into one word: teacher. I’m crazy about what I do. I’ve taught health and physical education for the past five years, and feel so fortunate to be in love with my profession. However strong my connection was with my students and co-workers, there was always something that remained unknown to them. Closeting myself for 27 years as an adult professional was challenging, and I believed I couldn’t be openly gay and continue to be respected and loved as a teacher. In October of 2015, I left a teaching job in large, rural, Chambersburg High School, mostly because I wanted to explore my sexuality, and I didn’t believe I could come out where I was at and be accepted and loved. I was so worried as to how my students and coworkers would respond. Teaching PE added the element of being in the locker room, and I was petrified at the thought of students or parents thinking I was a pervert and spying on their children. When a new opportunity came in October, I applied and jumped at the opportunity to teach in Brooklyn, where I currently reside. It was so difficult to leave, but I was ready to be me, and to become more open in Brooklyn and the challenges that awaited.
Only my closest friends knew I was gay, but I came out to the world with a Facebook post on New Years Day of 2016. I was with a guy I was secretly dating, and I posted it at a sushi restaurant, and then put my phone down and didn’t check it for two hours until I got back home (I was on winter break). When I finally checked my phone, I had some 900 likes and comments, and every single statement was loving, positive, and encouraging. I cried, and I still look back and read the statements when I’m having a bad day. How could I have doubted the people in my life so much? I was so scared of what everyone would think that I didn’t even consider that I could be accepted and loved.
Everyone and their mother commented on my status, including some of my former students (who had graduated and were now Facebook friends), so word quickly got around Chambersburg, and before I knew it I had emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, and texts all showing love and support from former kids. They all said it didn’t matter, that they still loved me, and that they were so happy for me, and nothing could change that. It meant so much more than I could ever articulate.
I recently had the opportunity to go back and visit Chambersburg HS on mid-winter break, and I got to speak to all my former students, and even share my story with a few who inquired about it. Never in my entire life did I think I could be out, proud, and even sharing my story with students! It was an unreal experience.
Before I left Chambersburg and moved to Brooklyn, there were always speculations about my sexual orientation. Students would ask if I had a girlfriend, if I was gay, etc., because naturally they’re very curious, and I understand that. I can now say to all my kids and the world—I’m gay and I’m happy. I do not regret my decision of moving to Brooklyn in the slightest, even though a part of me felt like I was running away to cope. My only regret is that I wish I would have given my old community more credit and trust. When you know people care about you and love you, the little things (like your sexual orientation) don’t matter in the long run.