Thank You To Everyone Who Let Me Be Visible

9/15/2018

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For most of my life, I felt that I had to keep a big part of myself hidden. Looking back, it’s amazing to me how much time and energy I invested in making sure that my one big secret, which at the time I wasn’t sure I was ever going to reveal to anyone, never even had the potential of crossing the minds of others in my life. It was my main, never-ending goal: to stay hidden.

When I say my goal was to stay hidden, I don’t mean that I became a hermit that never left my house or socialized; but I feel like during this time I became somewhat of an expert at hiding in plain sight. I stayed guarded with my emotions, deflected questions about my personal life, and, on occasion, felt the need to lie about what I was doing and who I was doing it with. Rather than reveal myself completely, I hid behind the parts of my personality that I knew would be accepted. Yet underneath this partial representation of who I was, the full me was yearning to escape from the confines of the closet that I kept him sealed away in.

Eventually of course, it became too overwhelming to bear; the emotional, mental, and what often felt like physical burden of carrying the weight of this secret became too much to handle and I decided to finally come out to the world. The sheer terror of unleashing this secret, which I put so much time and energy into preventing from being exposed, finally seemed easier to face than the prospect of continuing to keep it locked away.

Looking back at that moment, almost four years ago, literally trembling as I hit enter and sent my coming out announcement to the world, I only have one regret: that I didn’t take this step so much sooner.

While I was focused on shielding part of myself from the world, through all those years of self-doubt, secrecy, and denial, I didn’t take the time to look around and recognize how incredibly lucky I actually was. This entire time, I had been surrounded by an amazing family, both immediate and extended, and an incredible, supportive group of friends. Despite my best efforts, they surely had to have some inkling of the secret I was hiding, but that never stopped them from wanting to be a part of my life or including me in theirs.

So, to celebrate Bi Pride Month, I want to say thank you to these people in my life who, for whatever reason, encourage me to be my full self. I want to thank those who allow me to be loud, proud, visible, and genuinely happy with my lot in life. It is because of your support that my life has ended up better than that scared, closeted person could have ever imagined all those years ago.

In the years since I came out, I have been told countless times that I seem happier and more open than I ever was before, which is absolutely true. The energy I put into hiding is so much better spent enjoying life with the people who make it so special. It’s as if I can finally take a deep breath and plunge into life with a zest and vigor that the old me never could have done. I look at the people in my life and know, without a doubt, that I would not be anywhere near where I am today if it wasn’t for them.

Where would I be without parents who have told me that their main goal in life is to make sure I am happy? What state would I be in without brothers and sisters who unwaveringly support me in every challenge I take on? What life would I be living if I didn’t have friends who, time and time again, have shown me that they are there to stay, no matter what the rest of the world might say?

Blaize Stewart and his family at Pride

These are questions that I hope I never have to answer. It is because of all these amazing people in my life that I am able to passionately defend and advocate for my community as well as for those who might be on this daunting journey called life without such a solid support system behind them. I am able to extend the support I receive to others out there who are in desperate need of some understanding and compassion.

It’s through these people that I get to do what I love and live a life that I could have never imagined possible; I can’t ever begin to express how grateful I am to all of you who have accepted and allowed me to live this visible, exciting, and authentic life.

Blaize Stewart
Blaize Stewart is a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a BA in broadcast journalism and a MA in journalism. He currently lives in Chicago, IL and works as an influencer relations associate for a full-service influencer marketing agency called Faam and as an adjunct instructor at Robert Morris University. Additionally, he runs the LGBTQ+ blog Out Loud, a space for members to share their experiences and thoughts on current events and more.