When I was 17, I came out to my family…as straight. My mom approached me as I was trying to teach myself how to use mascara with my mouth closed, leaning toward the bathroom mirror that my reflection had grown up in. Shyness had made me a late bloomer in just about every aspect of social life, and this had apparently become a point of concern for my parents. “So, any boys at school?” my mom asked casually, and I’m sure I rolled my eyes. She continued after an awkward moment of silence, “You know, Jessica, you can tell us if…you know…” I dropped the tube of mascara into the sink and turned on my heels to look at her, indignant. I’m pretty sure I said something horrifically dramatic like “Just because nobody likes me doesn’t mean I’mgay.” Looking back, I learned a lot in that moment. I learned that I came from a family that would be supportive—though startled, with my mother unable to even say the word gay—if I or one of my siblings came out. I also learned, for the very first time, what it felt like to have someone make an assumption about my sexuality that wasn’t true.
At 22, I watched my friend Darcy sit nervously on a suitcase in my room, unsure of whether or not she’d ever be able to go back home. She worried a necklace between her fingers that I had given her when she moved away—on it were stamped the coordinates for the house where she grew up. The same coordinates that marked the kitchen where her father was about to find the envelope that revealed her girlfriend of several years. She bit her nails, then ran them along the coordinates that once, quite easily, meant home. I’ve known Darcy since we were in first grade and we both wanted to use the same crayon to color our Thanksgiving turkeys (Magic Mint, obviously). I’ve watched her set up her life in several different states, find herself, come out to our closest friends, and fall in love. I thought about the journey she’d taken and how she would finally know whether or not Point A could ever be a place to return. She would know whether her family would be willing to walk beside her.
At one point, I left Darcy for a moment so I could get her a glass of water. When I walked in to the kitchen, I found my mom rubbing her cheeks, misty-eyed. My mom had watched Darcy grow up alongside me, and to see a parent and child negotiate such tender territory had clearly upset her. I held the glass of water steady in one hand and wrapped the other one around her in a quick hug. “I know it’s not the same,” she said, “but tell her she is always welcome here.” My mom hugged me again, more tightly, before releasing me to dash back upstairs.
Darcy lifted her suitcase from my floor as I walked back into my room. Her breathing was quicker as she handed me her phone. A text message from her parents said three things: We love you. Come home. Let’s talk.
We spend our lives moving from the home that we’re born into toward a home we build ourselves—sometimes we find that with the love of a woman, or a man, or a place, or just ourselves and who we’ve become. Darcy lifted her suitcase with less effort than she had earlier. As I watched her gather her things, I thought about how she now had both her mother and father walking beside her as she kept on her journey toward that eventual home. She and I both know that not all stories end like this. But what she also knew now was that there would always be people—the ones who showed up in that achingly long hour of waiting—who would be there to walk beside her. You’ll find people who will be willing to walk alongside you, too. For the days when it might not feel that way, know that our team’s always on your side. And so I’ll give you the same three words:
We love you. Come home. Let’s talk.