My coming out story is a little different than most. What was once a fear of mine ended up as a happy accident, I realize looking back. I didn’t really come out of the closet, I was pushed.

I wouldn’t change it. It didn’t hurt me. In fact, it nudged me to come out and say, “This is who I am. This is the lifestyle I’m going to lead, and either you get on board, or you get left behind.”

As a teenager, I sneaked into gay bars and hoped I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. It worked for a bit, but one night, I saw an acquaintance, and she saw me. I thought she might keep my secret, but she didn’t. Word traveled fast.

The next morning my phone was flooded with calls wondering if it was true — was I gay?

I told them the truth, and luckily my friends and family were OK with it. At the time, I didn’t completely understand it myself. I was raised by two gay mothers, but I hadn’t heard of an athletic, masculine man who is gay. I didn’t have that representation, and I didn’t know how others would perceive me.

Today, the advice I give is to first be comfortable with yourself before coming out. There are going to be a lot of people who have opinions about you as a person, or about what you do or how you should act. If you’re comfortable with who you are, none of that should really matter to you. It didn’t matter to me.

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I’ve always possessed an inner confidence, but coming out amplified that feeling. I knew I was gay, but it wasn’t something I acknowledged or talked about because I didn’t want to deal with that part of my life. Being gay was a part of me, but I felt like there was so much more I could bring to the table, so why focus on that part of my identity?

Today, I sing a different tune. Almost everything I do is to uplift the LGBTQIA+ community. The organizations I represent, the places I feel most comfortable, the businesses I support all are to make my community better. I’m the Seattle Pride board’s vice president, I play in a gay softball league, I conduct research studies — I’m more engaged, and it’s because I came out way back when.

Everyone’s coming out story is different — that’s just mine. Whether our stories are funny or painful, boring or exciting, it’s important for those of us who have come out to share our experiences with others because representation matters.

National Coming Out Day is on Monday, Oct. 11. I encourage others to record their stories online at C895.org/Pride, as holding the door open for our fellow LGBTQIA+ community members to create a safer space of acceptance for us all. It also reminds those like my 18-year-old self that they have a community in Seattle and beyond that supports them.