BY EMELINA MINERO
Rainbow cake was sitting on the kitchen table, not Funfetti, but Party Rainbow Chip with matching frosting. Iced on the cake were the words, “I’m gay!” with a smiley face, and bouquets of rainbow balloons were tied to each chair.
I wanted my coming out experience to be a joyful occasion, even humorous. I imagined jumping out of a huge rainbow stripper cake, confetti flying everywhere, my arms raised in the air, gleefully shouting, “I’m gay!”
That was Christmas night eight years ago. I was 19-years-old, home from college for winter break.
This is what actually happened.
My family and I got back home from our annual Christmas night movie, and I went to my room, closed the door, crouched on the floor in the corner by my bed, and cried. I wanted to come out, but I was terrified.
I had made a pact with some of my college friends that we would all come out to our families. Two of my friends came out before I did, and their experiences weren’t ideal, one was actually quiet horrible. I sat on my bedroom floor, calling different friends, trying to get the courage to come out to my family, and going over different ways that I could do it. The rainbow cake was one idea.
As I heard my siblings getting ready to leave to their friends for the night, I knew I had to do it soon while everyone was still home.
I stood up, opened my bedroom door, walked down the hallway into my kitchen (there was no rainbow cake), and I started crying. In between sobs, with my head down, I said, “I’m gay.”
The response that I got from my family was amazing. They threw me a coming out party, and there was a rainbow cake. There were also rainbow balloons, rainbow and lesbian-themed gifts (my grandma Emmy painted me rainbow wine glasses), and even a coming out mixed CD with Dianna Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.”
I knew I was attracted to women when I was 5-years-old. I came out to my best friend when I was 18. I was never not out at college, and I started the coming out process to my huge Mexican-American family at 19 (like 500 plus cousins huge – on one side of the family).
Coming out of the closet was an ongoing experience for me. After college, when my aunts, uncles and cousins asked me what I was doing, almost everything I did was gay. Every time I opened my mouth, I was coming out.
“What have you been up to?”
“I’ve been writing. I started writing for Curve Magazine.
“You write for Curves? The women’s fitness magazine? I love that one!”
“I actually write for Curve. They’re a lesbian magazine.”
Once I turned 24, I stopped coming out of the closet about my sexuality. I didn’t hide my work or the gay things in my life. I just stopped caring about people’s reactions to what I said. I had no more fear about my sexual orientation.
What changed? Five years ago, I made the New Year’s resolution to love myself unconditionally, and I started by writing.
I kept a lot of journals throughout elementary school to early high school, and I was ashamed of them. I wasn’t ashamed because of society’s gendered and childlike take on journaling. I was ashamed because aside from my goals of being a WMBA player, tallying my sports card collections and writing ideas on making money, my pages were filled with my isolation and fear around my sexual orientation. I even wrote in code in case anyone stumbled upon my journals so that they would just think I was lonely, and not that I was attracted to women. I often thought about burning my journals so no one would ever find them.
My shame from 5-years-old to 18-years-old was packaged neatly between the pages of blue sparkling journals, black and white bespeckled composition notebooks, green 70-sheet, wide-rule subject notebooks, and various other journals I received over the years for Christmas and birthdays.
Writing can be scary, especially when you share it, but writing can also be powerful.
I have always been more aware of my self and my surroundings than most people my age, but when it came to journaling about my sexual orientation when I was younger, I had very little self-awareness. At 10, 14, 16 it was hard for me to take a step back and view my emotions and my experiences from an outside perspective. Instead, I let them swallow me whole.
Isolation, silence and ignoring aspects of my identity those were my go-to coping mechanisms. I was living in fear, and I was blind to how much support I had.
Self-love writing is different from regularly journaling, and self-love writing is what I have been doing for the past 5 years. It’s different in that it asks you to foster your self-awareness. It’s different in that no self-critical talk is allowed, unless you’re addressing it to confront it, challenge it and change it. It’s different in that it gives you an avenue to explore your emotions and the messages they’re trying to tell you without getting lost in them. Self-Love writing is a tool that I use to explore any aspect of myself that I want to learn more about or that I want to learn to love unconditionally.
Self-love writing is one aspect and one tool of my Self-Love Diet practice, which is cultivating love for myself through exploring my relationship with my spirit, body, thoughts, feelings, relationships, culture and world.
I’m now 27, and I have very little shame about any aspect of my identity. When it comes to self-love writing, I don’t write about my sexual orientation anymore. It’s no longer something that I need to work through.
The biggest thing I struggle with now is living with bipolar disorder and paranoia, but through self-love writing and my Self-Love Diet practice, I’ve even let go of most of the shame and fear with those experiences. Although either are no walk in the park, I now see them as gifts, and I see how working through them I have been able to strengthen my love for myself.
With bipolar disorder, I’ve worked a lot on creating structure and creating a stronger relationship with my emotions. Although certain emotions can be difficult to experience, I see each emotion as a gift with a message to tell me, and I now have the skills to decipher those messages and act accordingly in the most loving way possible in each moment.
Paranoia can be terrifying, and sometimes like a living hell. I struggled a lot to find the positives within paranoia, but about six months ago, I realized the gift in it. Working through it helped me to release my anxiety, to become adept at self-soothing, to confront my fears and to live life with more peace and joy.
Through my Self-Love Diet practice, as well as a support system I’ve created for myself and seeing a psychiatrist, I don’t cycle into either as frequently, and when I do, I know I can handle it.
Through my Self-Love Diet practice, I can honestly say that I love all of myself. Loving myself doesn’t mean that I never have self-doubts, insecurities or negative thoughts, but it does mean that I’m equipped to become aware of them, confront them and try to change them. Loving myself doesn’t mean that life will always be easy, but it does mean that I’ll be able to navigate it in the most loving way. Loving myself doesn’t mean that I will always choose the most loving thing for myself in each moment, but it does mean that I will be kind and patient with myself.
Every January, for the past 5 years, I have recommitted myself to love, and I encouraged myself to do that through co-creating a 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge with my mom, Michelle Minero, a therapist who specializes in eating disorder recovery.
This year marks the 5th Annual 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge. Last year, 100 people participated, submitting over 500 self-love posts, from the US, the UK, Australia and Costa Rica.
I’m inviting you to join us.
We’re born into a society that teaches us that we’re not okay as we are, and not just relating to our sexual orientation. In school, self-love isn’t in the curriculum. It’s not something that’s taught by society. If we feel flawed, we’ll pay money for diets, for clothes, for whatever to fill the void and the feeling that we’re not enough.
Everyone has a self-love journey; you just have to discover it. Once you discover it, you can choose to explore it. I’m inviting you to explore yours.
This January, instead of following a traditional New Year’s resolution, choose to commit yourself to love.
My mom and I will share 31 Self-Love Diet writing prompts, one for each day this January. You can share your writing on the 31-Day Self-Love Diet Writing Challenge Facebook event page. You can write in your own journal. You can also submit your writing to be published on the Love Warrior Community, where we will be publishing each writing prompt. The Love Warrior Community is an online community that we co-founded that uses creative expression to foster healing, self-acceptance, body acceptance and self-love.
Last year, one woman shared her journey of coming out of the closet at 52, with kids, and navigating dating.
Another participant shared, “I have discovered that I have a fear of succeeding, its easier to rationalize not achieving goals when we don’t try, but it’s harder to accept when you work really hard and it doesn’t work out. I want to find a way to get past this. I feel there are a lot of things that I am holding back on but I should be able to accomplish. I’m tired of looking at the ‘what it’s’ and not going for it. I am jumping and I hope I can handle what ever comes.”
Another woman shared, “I am aggressively pro me. I will not limit my options based on my insecurity.”
My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to recommit myself to loving myself. I’m excited to further explore my self-love journey and to strengthen my Self-Love Diet practice. It may not always be easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
I hope you join me.
Emelina Minero is a self-love enthusiast, passion supporter, mental health and LGBTQ advocate and feminist who does freelance writing, editing, social media and publicity. Follow her on Twitter @CommKr8veWriter.