With the release of our second book now behind us, it’s time to get focused back on building content for this website to support the many still closeted gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender police, fire, and EMS professionals out there working hard every day in communities throughout the world. This post begins a series we hope will add to the advice we give in both books about the coming out process and specifically about how to come out in law enforcement, the fire service, or as an EMS professional.
While each of these professions has its own unique culture, the coming out journey really begins the same way no matter which badge or uniform you wear. The place to begin in in front of a mirror and by taking an honest and serious look at yourself. There is no perfect age to do this. For many young people these days, this look comes at 12 or 13 years old, but if you have been working as a police officer, firefighter, or EMS professional, for ten or twenty years, you may have avoided this mirror until now. Just know that it is never too late to begin the journey of coming out.
You need to be honest with yourself first a foremost. More than likely, deep down inside, you know if you have had a same sex attraction in your life. Realize that its not a matter of being only straight or gay, there are many variations in between. As Alfred Kinsey and others have proven through their extensive studies, sexuality is a continuum. How you identify depends on the label you decide best fits your sexual attractions. Be cautious though about becoming lost in denial. It’s easy to rationalize away those feelings, fantasies, and longings in order to fit in with what your friends, family, and professional colleagues expect. The image of yourself that you create can easily be shaped by the expectations of others, but ultimately, when you take a close look at yourself in that mirror, you need to look honestly and without shame at the truth you see. You can try to deny all those attractions and feelings all you want, but they won’t go away.
The image we create of ourselves is shaped by many outside influences. It begins with the approval of our parents, our siblings, friends at school, and what we see and learn about through the media and rest of society. Non-heterosexuality is probably not part of that image others have created for you. But, the reality is that your sexuality is not a matter of choice. You cannot consciously decided to “follow in your father’s or mother’s footsteps” like many of you did when you got into law enforcement, the fire service, or emergency medicine. Yes, it is true that you can cover it up and decide to live a heterosexual life, but living that life does not change your sexuality or make you straight – no matter how hard you try. And ultimately, you will be the one who loses the most in this lie.
Look in the mirror and don’t be afraid of what you see. Even if you have denied seeing yourself and your true sexuality before, it is never too late to see your true self with 20/20 vision. It’s never too late to start reversing the lie you have been living, but you must begin that journey by being truthful with yourself first. You cannot expect anyone else to accept the true you if you are not ready to accept yourself first. Now it may not be easy and you may be unsure, but you must begin your journey here, in front of the mirror, by coming out to yourself first. You cannot expect others to even consider accepting who you are if you are not able to accept yourself. I know so many people in my life who are struggling with just this very stage and I want to badly to say, it’s ok, you can come out and be who you were created to be.
How do you come out to yourself you ask? You step up in front of that mirror and say those words out loud. “I’m gay,” or, “I’m bi-sexual.” Say the words out loud and give yourself the credit of being honest with yourself for perhaps the first time in your life. Verbalizing your identity is the first step toward accepting this aspect of who you are. It is also the first step in ridding yourself of the shame and fear that has accumulated throughout your life. This is where the coming out journey begins.