AHP Staff Reflect on Coming Out: Part 2
Four more staff stories on coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) in honor of National Coming Out Day.
Francis Salmeri, MFT, Volunteer and Clinical Coordinator, HIV Counseling & Testing
In my junior year of high school I gave a speech on gay liberation in speech class. I thought I would pass out from anxiety and carefully made my way back to my seat. My friends applauded. I collapsed into my desk while hiding my tears. That was in 1971 in a small working class NJ town that now houses the NY Giants Stadium.
Michelle Lapitan, Administrative Intern, Psychiatry, Assessment, Crisis and Triage Services
Coming out was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But at the same time, it was definitely one of the most empowering and liberating things that I did for myself.
I was not too worried about coming out to my friends; the only person I was worried about telling was my mother. I was about to leave San Jose to go back to school in Los Angeles, but before leaving I brought her to my room and sat her down. I stalled for what felt like forever, but eventually found the words to let her know who I was. I felt so much relief talking to her and I am very thankful that I had so much support from both my friends and family.
I naively thought that by coming out once, I would not have to do it again in the future. I have learned that even though I am out to my family and friends, there are certain situations when I have to decide to either “come out again” or to not share that part of myself with someone. What has helped me the most was identifying people in my life who I knew would love and support me and be there for me when and if I feel rejected or upset because of my sexuality.
Jonathan Roberts, Administrative Intern, Psychosocial Support and Prevention Services
Coming out was very scary. I had been planning it for years and kept putting it off. I was 19 when I finally did it. I told my mom and then left the house. The next day, I was scared of how my dad was going to react. He came into my room and said, “Your mom told me what’s going on and I just want you to know that I love you no matter what. Come give me a hug.” It was such a huge relief. I am now trying to make my way into the mental health field serving the queer community, as I feel a strong compassion and empathy for people whose lives have been forever changed by family rejection and social stigmas.
Jose Portillo, Special Events Coordinator
Shortly after graduating high school, I came out to my stepmother. She was so great about it. She put me in contact with a support group, and searched for a gay doctor in case I had questions she couldn’t answer.
I told my father next and he didn’t take it very well. He stopped me mid-sentence and told me he didn’t want to hear me say it and that I should start looking for another place to live. He also threatened to call my biological mother, so I went to her office and told her myself. She was very supportive and she told my stepfather that night. Up until that point my stepfather and I were very close, but from then on we grew apart. I was relieved to tell my immediate family, but it forced me to find a new place to live.
One of my friends worked at the Stop AIDS Project and asked me to be in one of their Latino Men’s Program ads. A few months later those ads were all over the Mission, just blocks away from my family’s home. By that time I had forgotten about the ads, but that’s how the rest of my family found out I was gay. Some family members supported me, but most of them kept their distance.
Eventually my friends became my family—and I was still very close to my stepmother and mom. Looking back, I feel lucky that I was able to come out in my late teens. It really helped me to identify who I was and what kind of community I wanted to be a part of.