By Clyde Andrew Walter
June 2, 2022
My favorite coffee mug comes from Puyallup, WA. It’s my favorite mug because inscribed on it (and the coffee shop is obsessed with this phrase) is ‘Live out Loud.’ I bought the mug around 5 years ago when living out loud was something I was finally leaning into as a person.
I feel like I’ve had two coming out experiences in my life… the first, when I was 19, coming out as a gay man. The second, when I was 33 years old, coming out as someone who lives with Bipolar 2.
When I came out as gay at the age of 19, I was definitely anxious and felt shame. I had been wrestling for over three years by that point with the understanding that I was gay. It was the early 2000s and while LGBT identities (and those were the only letters socialized then) had mainstreamed in some ways through the first movies and primetime shows with gay characters, Pride parades, and the like, it was still a segregated image and a segregated experience. It seemed like there was gay life and then there was normal life. And that’s what it felt like too. And at that point in my life, I didn’t like the idea of having to choose between the two. While I eventually came out and that allowed me to live more fully as my true, whole self, it took me a long time to feel fully integrated as a person. Almost 15 years maybe.
In those 15 years we experienced some progress in society… from gay and lesbian to LGBT to LGBTQIA+… from domestic partnership to same sex marriage (hopefully still) … from Ellen getting her show canceled when she came out to most mainstream shows including gay and now some trans characters… and from a rainbow flag to a more intersectional flag. That’s not to say it’s easy or in any way the same for everyone. I’m a white man with a moderately well-resourced upbringing.
Trans siblings and queer folx of color continue to face many injustices on a daily basis. For me, a deeper sense of pride has also led to a deeper sadness and anger in the wake of things like the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 or the all too frequent murder of trans folx of color. We still have a way to go.
Since coming out when I was 19 I’ve worked to make individual progress too… with years of psychotherapy (on and off and on again) that has helped me along the way to be a more integrated person. It turns out that integration of identity is pretty pivotal to mental health and wellness. Being integrated and proud of my queer identity is important to my wellness, wholeness, and fullest functioning. It’s taken time, but I’ve learned to love and more fully integrate that part of myself with who I am and how I show up in any given space.
When I was diagnosed three years ago with Bipolar 2, which made better sense of the varying experiences of highs, lows, and anxiety that were apparent, I didn’t feel shame or anxiety… I felt clarity and pride. I felt like I better understood myself. I was proud about the ways I’ve navigated various challenges and excited to have better understanding of ways to navigate forward. I almost feel like coming out about living with Bipolar 2, and the sense of strength and pride I seek in that, has also deepened my sense of pride in my queer identity. We are who we are. We are what we’re born with. We are our lived experiences. We are all of the identities that we bear. And showing up with all of that is not only critical to true wellbeing, but also incredibly enriching for the spaces we show up. That’s what I seek to celebrate this month, and always.
Live out Loud. #LoveWins