Changing so much, I barely noticed

Change is constant. As people we are always changing, as is the world around us. Sometimes change comes crashing in like a bull. And other times change is almost imperceptible.

Just over a year ago, change came crashing in, by my own doing. I threw myself into the world as a publicly queer person, and an advocate for LGBTQ+ folks in the Boy Scouts of America.

In the few weeks right after that, the change was palpable. I felt like a weight had been lifted, as people often do after coming out. I felt loved and supported.

But then it faded back into normalcy. This was my new status quo. I was done changing for now, or so I thought.

This summer, about 10 months later, I found myself at a national Boy Scout conference – the first major Scouting event I attended as an openly queer man. I spent much of my time there catching up with old friends from around the country – people I care for deeply, but see infrequently, as huge distances keep us separated.

And so one morning I grabbed a coffee with Devang, a relatively new friend who I hadn’t seen in at least a year. Once we got past the pleasantries, he pushed – let’s get personal, he said. How are you doing, really?

I told Devang about my (first ever) boyfriend, and he brought up the story I had written, my public coming out. And then he launched into what I can only describe as one of the most empowering conversations I’ve ever had.

He told me how much of a difference he saw in me since coming out. How I was more confident, more at ease. Happier than I had ever been. That others had noticed too, and they were all so happy for me.

I don’t remember everything else he said, because I was overwhelmed with how I felt. But I do remember he kept repeating, “Just be you!” He kept saying how I had so many people in my corner.

This was when I realized: I had changed, in a way that was so imperceptible to me but so obvious to the people around me. I was becoming the best version of myself.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to come out in such a public way was that I wanted to open up myself to more authentic relationships in the Scouting community. I wanted to give my full, beautiful self to the world. And in doing that, the results have been so unbelievably rewarding.

My conversation with Devang was the perfect example. I teared up when I re-read my journal entry about it before writing this. And I think back to it all the time, when I need a jolt of confidence or a reminder of how much love I have in my life.

Just this weekend I had another one of these moments.

I was at a wedding, sitting at my table and I started a conversation with my cousin’s boyfriend. We’ve only met on a few occasions, but I always enjoy our time together.

I’m not even sure how we got on the topic, but he said the same thing Devang did: I’ve really noticed a change in you. You’re less quiet, you seem happier and more confident. Was there a turning point for you recently?

Oh, he only knew the half of it.

Our conversation was brief (weddings have a way of pulling you back out on the dance floor), but it still stayed with me. People from all different parts of my life were noticing a change that I hardly noticed in myself.

All that I truly want for myself and the entire queer community is to feel totally confident, beautiful and safe in our identities. To feel loved and respected for who we are. I’m still not totally there yet, but every day I’m getting closer.

And it gives me a deep satisfaction that my own confidence is bringing all sorts of beautiful people into my life. I should have known all along that the best way to do that was, well, to just by myself.

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