National Coming Out Day: My Story
When I was in high school, my mind was firmly fixed on fitting in, not coming out.
God it was exhausting!
But I did it. I lived a closeted and false life – busy and happy on the outside and screaming on the inside – screaming to get out.
I marvel at my ability, back then, to compartmentalize.
But the lying always got to me. I hated hurting the girls I dated, lying to my friends and avoiding the questions from my relatives about when I was going to settle down and get married.
There were sleeping disorders, a long struggle with panic disorder, and I had too much to drink sometimes to cope with the pressures. There were a lot of struggles, a lot of dark days.
To stay sane, I did what a lot of closeted gay people did back then and still do today: I buried myself into my career.
After working at a couple of smaller newspapers, I became a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times while still in my 20s. (That’s me, pictured at my desk in 1992). My professional self-esteem was off-the-charts but on a personal level, I was a ticking time bomb.
I began to crack in unexpected ways as the years went on. The pressures of living a lie, having secret relationships and trying to maintain a high-pressure journalism career were enormous.
After 11 years at a paper to which I had been utterly devoted, I left to pursue being an entertainment journalist. In retrospect, it’s clear that I left to come out – completely out.
The clean start helped and I was out from day one at my next job as a staff writer at The Hollywood Reporter.
By the time I began a glorious seven-plus years stint at the LA Daily News, I had come out to my family which was quite an ordeal at the time but one I was finally ready to take on. I had come out to most of my close friends several years earlier and their unflinching support helped get me through it all – and a really great therapist helped a lot too!
At The Daily News, I must have been making up for lost time because I became the gayest man that newsroom had ever seen! In 2006, I started the paper’s first gay blog Out In Hollywood and two years later, was honored by the LA City Council for pioneering coverage of gay Hollywood, entertainment and cultural issues in a mainstream newspaper.
I also spent several years as a contributing writer to The Advocate writing several cover stories on everything from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to American Idol’s reluctance (this was in 2008 and pre-Adam Lambert) to have openly gay contestants.
It was a wonderful period of my life and career and it was all possible because I was committed to living out and proud. When I was “downsized” from the paper in 2009, I continued to embrace my publicly gay identity with the launch of Greg In Hollywood.
I can never again live in the closet or even be a person who “happens to be gay.” Being gay informs everything in my life – especially during this critical time in history when we are making great strides toward LGBT equality.
Last summer, I was emcee at my high school class reunion (see photos below). There I was, an openly gay man in a roomful of people who, decades earlier, I had been terrified would figure out I was gay. It was nice to be warmly received by so many of them and even have a couple of classmates come out to me!
But what was most important is that it didn’t matter what anybody thought anyway.
Being out continues to be rewarding – perhaps because of all the years I was in, all of the National Coming Out Days that came and went when I remained silent and felt sick inside.
Those days are long over for me and I hope they are for many of you.