June is Pride month, a chance to celebrate self respect, love and the assertion that, as a gay man or woman, you have the right to exist as you are without justifying your happiness to anyone else. It’s a month, a weekend, a parade of freedom and celebration. These coming-out stories offer a glimpse at what it can mean to come out of the closet as an African American, before the nation elected its first black president, when Oval Office support for marriage equality was a mirage on the horizon. Here is 29-year-old Candice Jackson’s story.
I had on a T-shirt that said “Taste the rainbow.” I was hanging out at the Jersey Shore, and someone from my high school saw me and contacted my brother and said, “I didn’t know your sister was gay.” And my brother didn’t know, either.
He sat there and told my whole family, “Yeah, Candy gay.”
The next day, I had 15 missed calls from my mother. I knew when I had so many missed calls, something wasn’t right. I called her back, she sounded like she was crying and frantic, and she screamed at me, “Are you gay,” and then it felt like it went quiet after that.
I was open, exposed, overwhelmed, especially coming from a very religious family. I admitted it on the spot. It was overwhelming, but when it was finally out, I felt free because I didn’t have to sneak anymore, whether they liked it or not. It was like a weight off of me. . . . I’m glad that it happened, because I don’t know that I would have had the nerve to come out and tell them. . . . It took [my father] three years after [I came] out to come visit my apartment, to come to my world. . . . I know that was difficult for him, and I really appreciated it. . . . I think things are better now.
When your parents don’t want to believe something, they’re gonna do everything in their power not to see it. It was right in their face, but they looked the other way.
I actually pray that one day they understand and accept me for who I am entirely. If they just respect me and my decision, that would mean something. They wonder if it’s a phase, that one day, they’re going to wake up, and I’m going to say, “Oh, that’s just something I was going through,” and I need them to understand that’s not the case.