On My Way Out

Stephen Francis

At the risk of sounding cliché, if you had told me at the beginning of my college career that by the time I was preparing for graduation I would be openly out as bisexual, in a wonderful relationship with a woman and the editor of an + magazine, I would have thought you were crazy.

Rather, I would have thought you were dreaming.

It’s a habit of mine to anxiously get inside my head in times of uncertainty. During my first two years of college, I took up dual residencies in my dorm room and in my head. Looking back, it’s clear the anxious wiring of my brain made the process of much more drawn-out, distressing and dramatic than was actually necessary. But I cannot go back in time, so I must accept that my process was my process. 

And although it was my process, there are so many people who helped me along the way. 

I am immensely lucky to have experienced all of the acceptance I have. It is much more difficult for me to remember tense moments than loving ones throughout my journey.

I truly cannot overstate my gratitude to everyone who gave me those loving moments. I’m not sure I can successfully thank everyone who deserves it.

Before I graduate and am out of here, though, I am going to try.

 

To my best friend: You’re the first person I came out to, even though you remember it more as us figuring it out together than me coming out to you. You casually listened to me the few weeks beforehand while I was dropping hints, choosing not to pry even though you could have. (I probably would have, which just adds another reason to my list of why I admire you). When I finally told you, the combination of comfort and nonchalance you showed me was the first sign I saw that things might turn out okay. You’re humble, so you might not think you did anything extraordinary. But you did.

To my brother: Some random day a few years ago, we were arguing relentlessly about nothing of value. Our parents took us and our kayaks to a bank of the Cuyahoga River, and we were stuck together for hours on the water. The arguing turned into listening to music and not speaking, which turned into paddling ahead of our parents and talking about everything we could think of. You never wavered in your support of me. Your words were unsurprisingly mature for your age. You’re a fiercely caring and compassionate person to those close to you. Don’t change.

To my other best friend: I remember crying while reading your impassioned texts about how I deserve nothing but love and acceptance. I knew that if I ever needed defending, you would be there for me. I know that it’s still true, too, no matter how bad I am at communicating. I’m very grateful for you and our friendship.

To my coworkers: Like pretty much everyone else my age, I came out at school before I came out at home. Coming out to people in my hometown was a big step for me. I spent a lot of time worrying that I would receive backlash for being open about my personal life, even on my personal social media accounts or in environments outside of work. It meant a lot to me that you never acted like anything was out of the ordinary, even though you originally knew me during high school, when I wasn’t out yet. I’m very grateful I get to exist authentically while doing one of the best jobs in the world. I’ve never thanked you for it, but I should have. 

To my best friend who came out to me after I came out to you: I tried to tell you multiple times before I did, but I wrongly assumed that it would change things between us. Now, I can’t even understand why I misjudged you. I’m sorry. When I finally did come out to you, it was because I had two dates planned in one week, and I was trying to figure out how to tell you one of them was with a girl. Afterwards, you asked me some questions and I giggled about one of my female celebrity crushes. It reminded me of when we were first becoming friends, when we gossiped at a sleepover about our male celebrity crushes. Eventually, you came out to me. That remains one of the funniest, most coincidental nights of my life. 

To my mom: One thing I am sure of is that you’ll always be there for me. I know you sometimes worry about my safety, but I also know that you always prioritize my happiness over everything else. There is not a doubt in my mind over whether you’ll always support me, and I know that will go on for years to come. I truly appreciate your patience and how deeply you care about me.

To my dad: You were, and remain, the most relaxed coming out story I have. That isn’t a commentary on anyone else, but an appreciation for you and the fact that you could literally not care any less. Something I fondly remember is your face when telling me that someone questioned you about my sexuality. You looked so genuinely confused about why anyone would care, and that really sums it up. I know you would care, though, if anyone ever caused any trouble. Thank you.

To my grandma: You’re used to hearing me worry about things that really don’t need to be worried about, and this was no different. I knew you would support me wholeheartedly, but I still put it off. I’m sorry I did, and I hope you don’t think that stemmed from me not trusting you. It definitely didn’t. You’re one of the closest people to me. Thank you.

To my other grandma: I’ll admit that I was kind of worried at first. Turns out, all I had to do was introduce you to someone who makes me happy, and you, in turn, couldn’t have been happier. I love you so much.

To my extended family: Me coming out to you was more like “Surprise!” while introducing you to my girlfriend. That created one especially memorable and nice conversation later held on Babi Kathy’s couch, and it deserves a special shoutout. But you’re all very sweet, and I appreciate you all.

To my favorite professor: You stress your appreciation for inclusivity, but you don’t need to. I already know. You’ve been widely sharing your support for queer people since before it was as common for people to do so. You’ve given me advice on any topic I ask about, and you’ve cared, whether it was about my writing or my life. You gave me advice to be bold before I was ready to be bold. You were ahead of me, and I really appreciate that. There’s no such thing as too much “mom advice” from you.

To my other favorite professors: Learning from you both was so enriching. Your kindness and intelligence helped me expand my knowledge on topics that will benefit me throughout my life. It was truly memorable having professors who cared about me and who I could talk to. Beyond that, though, because of you guys, I have insight into what I want my life to look like down the line. Knowing you has given me more than course knowledge; it has given me an example I can relate to, which is something I haven’t had until now.

To my ex: I was in a relationship with you when I first started coming out to people. I think that’s part of why I was so nervous about it all. When I was nervously preparing to tell you, I was bracing for the worst, even though I wasn’t truly expecting it from a person as kind as you. All you did was emphasize my right to be my own person and feel whatever I feel. You have no reason to read this, but if by chance you do, please know that me coming out was in no way an invalidation of our relationship. And thank you for your kindness, from start to finish.

To my best friend who I told after you shared your thoughts: Thank you for trusting me. And thank you for being a safe space for me to share my thoughts and secrets, whether they’re important or just musings about Harry Styles. In all seriousness, deep conversations with you mean a lot.

To my best friend whose wedding I’ll be in: You show me passionate acceptance, and I appreciate that. Reflecting on all of the weird situations we’ve been in throughout college has been hilarious. Having an open mind in college has resulted in so much growth; take that with you into the future.

To my best friend who helped me through a bad period of time: We all need the guidance of a lesbian elder every once in a while. I especially did while I was going through that one phase– you know the one. You would come over and give me advice instead of hang out with your own girlfriend. And outside of that, we grew a great friendship. You rock.

To my best friend from home who I don’t talk to as frequently as I should: The fact that we wouldn’t talk for weeks– or months– and then you’d drive to Kent to catch up is a good testament to what a great friend you are. I wholly appreciated it every time. Sorry for the time you came to Kent and staying in my room meant being thrown into the role of therapist. You gave me advice about a girl you didn’t know when I never even told you I was dating girls. I’m always going to be here to support you.

To my best friend who’s always there for others: I remember a few times when I reached out to you while feeling low. You really hyped me up. You always suggested ways for me to connect to the queer community before I had taken on those opportunities. You’re always quick to encourage and comfort others, and that’s such an amazing quality. Please continue to show that same kindness to yourself. Also, Pride was awesome. Thanks for coming with me to my first.

To my best friend who I ran a gay magazine with: It remains a major bummer that we only talked for one semester during college, but I’m so grateful that we did. Just in that short time, you became one of my closest friends. Thanks for taking a chance on me and encouraging me always. I’m so glad I got to explore my passion for this area of journalism. I miss your sense of humor, your honesty, your gossip, your talent, your happiness and your hot takes.

To my best friend who likes to write: You do like to write, right? And I do too? I’m so grateful I met you and that you dragged me out of my comfort zone. I’m also grateful that you always accepted me for me. You are repeatedly a better friend than I am, but please know that I’m going to keep annoying you with my friendship, anxiety and writing questions for a long while. Maybe once bars reopen, we can go out in matching outfits again. I’ll try to look even gayer next time.

To all of my friends: I’m so lucky to have all of you. I really can’t properly express how much I love and appreciate you all, not only for your kindness, but also for the surplus of amazing memories we have. Spending time with you has been one of the best and most consistent parts of my life, regardless of how long I’ve known you. You allow me to be genuine, and the sincerity you’ve shown me in return is priceless. 

To anyone who has confided in me: I am here for you. I want you to remember that for as long as you can.

To everyone who has shown me kindness and acceptance: Thank you. So much.

To my girlfriend: Coming out became a lot easier once I had someone I cared about so much in my life. I know you would never pressure me into doing anything I wasn’t comfortable with, but I’m grateful the timelines of our relationship and my coming out process lined up. Thank you for showing me such care and understanding. I hope I can keep giving you the same. For many reasons, I’m very lucky to be with you.

To the Fusion team: There wasn’t really any “coming out” with you guys, but I can’t not mention the incredible time I’ve had these past two semesters. I am beyond grateful for the people who came before us who gave us the opportunity to work for this magazine. And to our current staff: I am continuously in awe of your characters, and I’m better for knowing you all. You’ve all given me a place to laugh, talk about LGBTQ+ issues and hang out with the gays, and I’m very grateful for that. And that’s the tea.

K Bodrock

Love,

Alex

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *