Coming out of the closet is the best, most life-affirming, glorious, wonderful thing I've ever done in my entire life by far. And I've done some pretty cool shit.
Coming out was better than any career move or any exotic vacation I've ever taken. Why?
Because my life began when I came out, baby.
Life begins when you come out, baby.
I knew there were going to be some pretty epic challenges about being openly gay. I knew I was putting myself out there for brutal hatred, and trust me, kittens, I'm not one of those Ugg boot-wearing, sweat pant-sporting, removed, "I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks" Millennials.
I'm sensitive AF, and I wear lipstick.
In fact, I don't know how to not take things personally (just ask anyone I've ever dated). I was bullied in middle school, and it made me so deeply depressed that I was terrified to ever set myself up for bullying again.
I also knew I was going to lose some friends along the way, and I did. I knew politicians would say some hurtful things and that it was going to be an uphill political climb just to have the same basic, fundamental rights as my straight cohorts.
But I also knew I couldn't keep living a lie.
I'm one of those girls who is honest to my own detriment. I overshare by nature. Even if it embarrasses me, I just feel better when I tell someone — the internet, my mother, my friends — about every bizarre pimple and mental breakdown. Yet, I was harboring such a secret, such a massive side of myself that I knew I would feel better once I came out.
I had to feel better.
And I did feel better. I just wasn't prepared for how much better.
Here are 10 unexpected ways my life improved when I came out:
1. I found my personal style.
"Zara, why are you circling this back to FASHION?" I can hear you think through the computer screen. Well, babes, lez me tell you: Never undermine fashion. Personal style is a direct reflection of how we feel inside. Like Rachel Zoe says, "Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak."
Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.
While I loved fashion before I came out, I didn't find my true style until I started truly owning who I was. I didn't realize how much of my creative expression I was stifling by living a life built on lies.
Suddenly, I just knew how to piece garments together in a way that felt so empowering and so right and so me.
In hindsight, I realized I had subconsciously been dressing a certain way to make myself seem more straight: prim dresses with zero lipstick. Fuck, I don't even think I started rocking my signature wild lipstick until I came out.
But once I came out and got over that hurdle, I started fearlessly expressing myself in many ways. ~Style~ was the first noticeable difference.
2. I began to speak my glorious mind.
I've always been a bullheaded girl with strong opinions, but I didn't express them when I was closeted like I do now. Coming out was like opening up Pandora's Box. Suddenly, all of these intense feelings and ideas and words came pouring out of me.
Confronting my biggest fear (my sexuality) empowered me in this really profound way. I began to think, "Shit, if I can be open about my sexuality, I can certainly speak up about anything!"
Coming out was like opening up Pandora's Box. Suddenly, all of these ideas came pouring out of me.
So, I became the annoying, wildly outspoken girl I am now. I am the girl who will call someone out for bullying another person. I am the girl who will insert my opinion when I hear the red-faced boys club spewing a message I find hateful.
While sometimes I might annoy my friends or embarrass the person I'm dating, I would so much rather be this way. Because this is my nature; this is who I am.
I just never realized it until I came out.
3. I stopped being so paranoid all of the time.
But for years I had this underlying anxiety that totally consumed me. It was like I was constantly on a bad dose of dirty speed. No matter what I did, the anxiety followed me around like that relentless ex you're desperately trying to cut out of your life.
Like I said, the anxiety is still there, babes. Only now, the anxiety is there for specific reasons I can point out.
What am I doing with my life? Am I barren and unable to have children? Do I have some strange misdiagnosed STD that will develop into something life threatening?
You know, typical shit. But, the anxiety that just stayed inside of me for no logical reason (not that the fears I mentioned above are logical, but you get the point) truly alleviated.
I was high off this new, free feeling.
4. I didn't feel the need to self-medicate (as much).
I'm going to throw this out there, even though I might regret it later: I have no idea how I'm still alive considering the amount of blackouts I endured in my early, closeted 20s.
Looking back, I see I was such a tortured human being. I had this secret stewing inside of me, and each day, it became bigger and harder to ignore. It was like this monster that grew the more I tried to silence it. Each day, it became harder and harder to live a lie.
Being closeted was a secret stewing inside of me, and each day, it became bigger and harder to ignore.
The only relief I ever felt was when I was blackout drunk.
At first, I just wanted to be buzzed all of the time. The sweet liquor buzz lifted the stifling anxiety, and I could leave my sexuality at the bottom of a glass. But being buzzed worked, until it didn't.
Next I had to be totally wasted to forget. And pretty soon, being wasted stopped working. The more wasted I got, the more upset I got. I had mascara tears and all the rest of that cliched, embarrassing, hot mess shit.
So what did I do? I blacked out.
The sad truth is, I don't know if I cried or got upset when I was blackout because I don't remember anything at all. But I do know that I woke up so many mornings feeling like death was curled up next to me. I didn't hurt just physically, but also spiritually.
My hangovers haunted me like a ghost, taunting me, spooking me and reminding me of the terrifying reality I was avoiding and the sad tragedy my life was quickly becoming. The only thing left to do was to drink the hangover away and let the cycle repeat itself.
In fact, I think one of the pivotal things that made me decide to come out was realizing I couldn't live that life anymore. I couldn't handle another morning not knowing where I was or what I had said or what kind of danger I had put myself in the night before. (And trust me when I say I put myself in such danger in those days, I'm still dealing with the aftermath.)
I knew in my heart I was attempting to numb my sexuality, and it wasn't working anymore. If I wanted to live, I had to face the truth.
So, I came out. And while it wasn't a cakewalk to stop drinking to the point of blacking out, little by little, I lost the desire to get so messed up all the time.
I don't think my drinking was an alcohol addiction per say, but a dark, highly addictive coping mechanism that could've killed me. And when I came clean about who I was, I became so much happier in my reality. I had confronted the demon and realized it wasn't a demon, but some sort of chic angel.
And I wanted to see that chic angel with clarity.
5. I got the gay glow.
Have you ever been to the gay bar on a Saturday night? It's full of baby gays, and I swear to God, as annoying as they can be, they're gorgeous, and we were them not so long ago.
They have this incredible glow to their skin. And no, you sweet cynic, it's not just "because they're only 21."
It's because they're at the gay club and they're coming into their sexuality for the first time. They're feeling unstoppable, and they're feeling like a whole new world has opened up. That newfound joy is seeping out of their pores.
When I was closeted, I had cystic acne. I struggled with acne most of my life. And I'm not saying "coming out is a cure for acne" for everyone, but in my case, it sort of was.
Maybe it's because I stopped drinking so much, or maybe it's because I was hugely relieved of stress. It's probably a bit of both. When this epic stress is finally lifted off your shoulders, you become much, much more beautiful.
When epic stress is finally lifted off your shoulders, you become much, much more beautiful.
Your smile is suddenly authentic. Your face isn't constantly scrunched up because you're trying not to feel. And your sex drive is kicked into gear, baby. And a high sex drive is palpable. You suddenly become sexy.
6. I understood the power of sex.
I've been fooling around with girls since the seventh grade. In fact, the first time I ever went down on a girl, I was drunk and 12. Not so glam, but I'm just living my truth, kids.
But closeted sex was different for me. It came with self-doubt. I wasn't present in my body because I was too afraid to let go and realize my deepest fear: that I liked it a lot.
When I came out and was finally able to relax into sex, something huge inside of me clicked. I finally understood sex is powerful. It drives people to do insane things, like cheat on their husbands, move to different countries or basically revolve their entire personal styles around getting laid.
I understood why sex dictates our whole culture (for better or for worse).
7. I understood the power of love.
I loved my boyfriends. I really did. I dated really nice guys, some of whom I'm still friends with.
But it was a friendship-cozy kind of love. It wasn't romance. It wasn't electrifying. It didn't move any fucking mountains.
And since I had never experienced same-sex love, I didn't understand what the big deal was.
Then, I came out and really fell in love with a girl and had an actual relationship with her. Suddenly, this crazy array of feelings began to stir within me. I didn't know it was possible to feel the way I was feeling.
It was probably what most people go through in adolescence. I had a delayed adolescence because my dating life didn't really authentically begin until my early 20s.
I understood love is really the most important thing in the world. I understood what it meant to be truly seen by another person. I understood intimacy. I understood the ability a person has to hurt another person. I understood vulnerability.
And thank God I did. I don't care if I'm single or in love; I'll always feel like love is the most profound feeling in the world. While it doesn't define our existence, it cuts into our souls in such a deep, raw, honest way.
It holds a mirror up and allows you to look at yourself through another set of eyes. Because love doesn't just give you an intimate relationship with another person — it also gives you a more intimate relationship with yourself.
I can't imagine who I would be if I hadn't experienced that.