I AM….

June is celebrated worldwide as Pride Month and to show solidarity to our LGBTQIA+ community members, our team at Shadow’s Edge wanted to share Brian Garcia’s story about what it was like coming out to his loved ones and learning how to accept his true self. Brian is the co-founder of Capturing Dragons Studio (a brand that uses their creativity in photography as a tool to unite, inspire, and empower the unheard voice in their community.) and has been an incredible person to collaborate with on several of the projects we are currently working on.

It is a very sad fact that many LGBTQIA+ teens and young adults live in fear of being rejected by those they love, whether that be family or friends. Coming out can be a stressful time in someone’s life, but it shouldn’t have to be. Everyone deserves to love and be loved for who they are!

If you are currently going through a challenging time because of others’ lack of acceptance and support, know that there are many of us in the world that want to be there for you when family and friends are not. We have provided a list of resources at the end of this blog entry for those of you who are in crisis.

We hope you all have had a wonderful Pride Month, and thank you to Brian for sharing his story. You can see his company’s work and read more of his blogs at their website www.capturingdragonsstudio.com

“I Am…”

“I am gay.”

In the 32 years of my life, these three words have held power over me in extremely different ways. Once upon a time, I identified these words with fear, judgment, and insecurity. I was fighting a constant battle with myself. I felt weak and like a coward because I couldn’t fathom ever uttering those words to my family and friends. What would they think? How would I be judged? I didn’t realize I was the one judging myself and degrading who I am. It took 26 years of performances to please the audience in my own story. All the pretending left me depressed and vulnerable until I decided to create a new narrative.

Love, however cliché it is, gave me the courage to finally open a closet that was locked with my doubts and worries. The night I came out to my mom, I didn’t possess the strength to say, “I am gay.” Instead, I showed her a picture of the man who brought so much happiness and joy into my life. I was a terrified and trembling 22-year old who was finally revealing who I am to someone special to me. I was devastated to find out she neither would nor could accept my sexuality. The torture I felt that night lasted weeks and weeks turned to months. The fear I held

inside for all my life had become a reality. My mental health suffered drastically, and suicide crossed my mind numerous times. Death sounded way more relaxing than always crying. Imagine feeling the pain of your heart and soul being torn apart. How was I going to survive this? At this point in my life, I had isolated myself from everyone, my friends, and my family. All I had were my thoughts, and they were consuming me.

“I am alone. I am afraid. I am insecure.” I could say all these negative, hurtful words to myself, but I still could not say, “I am gay.” My greatest ally during all of this was time. It is true what they say, time heals all. My mom eventually came around to accepting who I am. Still, I held a grudge against her for the many years of emotional suffering I went through as a result of her initial reaction. Even after coming out to her, I still found myself keeping my sexuality a secret. I couldn’t handle my brothers or my grandma having the same response.

Years later, after two failed “secret” relationships, I made a drastic change in my life. I picked up and left for the land down under, Sydney, Australia. I was 26 with nothing holding me back and looking for excitement and adventure. This was a critical time for my identity. I came back with acceptance, love, and respect for myself. People didn’t know me in Sydney, so I could be whoever I wanted. To be honest, I still didn’t honestly know myself at that point. This was the perfect opportunity for me to find out what kind of person I wanted to be. I had never felt so free in my life. Every day was exceptional, the people were welcoming, and the lifestyle was exhilarating. My year living in Australia healed the wounds I had created inside myself for 26 years. No longer would I hide who I am. Instead, I would be loud and proud.

It was only recently that I realized it took three-quarters of my life for me to accept who I am. I had expected my mom to accept me instantly. I was under the impression that parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, but the truth of the matter is parents are humans too. They also have emotional obstacles they must confront to gain clarity of certain situations.

My mother had a difficult time facing these challenges and although it contributed to the internal turmoil I was facing, it helped contribute to the man I am today. Would I take back the endless nights driving around with suicidal thoughts? How about the anger which grew inside me for not feeling whole? This was my journey, my story. In the end, this roller coaster of a relationship with my mom caused us to become closer.

Truthfully, we all have different coming out stories that we will tell for the rest of our lives: to friends, on dates, partners, and our kids. Reliving this experience brings out a lot of emotions, but now I am no longer afraid of these feelings. All of my sufferings have led me to become strong and proud of who I am. Within my story lies the foundation of power for myself and my mental health.

After so many years, I can finally shout to the world, “I AM GAY!” These words flow out of my mouth with such passion, pride, and strength. I love being gay, l love myself, and I love my community. I could never imagine my life any other way. For anyone out there who is having a difficult time coming out, I have to say you are emotionally stronger than you give yourself credit. Burst that closet door wide open. Stop judging yourself. Start living the life you know will bring you happiness and love. You can do this!

Stay Strong. Stay Proud. Stay Happy.

Happy Pride!

Resources

https://www.qchatspace.org/ A digital LGBTQ+ center where teens join live-chat, professionally facilitated, online support groups.

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

https://itgetsbetter.org/ A nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth around the globe.

https://pflag.org/ The first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies.

https://www.isp.com/blog/lgbtq-youth-online-resources/ – A a list of resources that highlight available outlets online.

By Brian Garcia