Today is National Coming Out Day, a day in which closeted gays and lesbians are encouraged to come out and in which lesbians and gays who are already out celebrate our visibility and self-actualization. It’s also a day to reflect on the fact that coming out is a constantly repeated activity for us gays and lesbians — we come out in all kinds of ways on a daily basis.

I was 23 when I started to came out to my friends and family. Here’s a picture of me that was taken at the same time that I was coming out:

Me at 23

Before I get to the coming out part, let’s stop and say a couple of things about this picture. First, I can’t believe I was so skinny — no wonder everyone thought I was still in high school! At the time, looking like I was 15 was really irritating; I was in my second year of graduate school when this was taken. Second, this picture makes me realize that, while I’m no longer a skinny little twink, I haven’t really lost that much hair since then (yippee!). Apparently, I’ve always had a receded hairline and “baby fine hair,” as my hairstylist calls it. This realization feels me with relief!

Back to the gay part. The guy in this picture was, as we’ve already partly established, a graduate student at Texas A&M University who was earning a Master’s Degree in English literature. He had just bought his first car, a cherry red 1993 Hyundai Excel. He was taking two seminars: one on Milton and one on non-dramatic Renaissance literature. He probably would have described himself as a devout Christian; he definitely attended church weekly.

And he was in the throes of his first serious crush on another man, another graduate student, Sam, a queer Ph.D. student in the English Department. I had had a class with Sam the previous Spring Quarter. The class was boring as hell, so I entertained myself by surreptitiously starring at Sam, who would beautifully (and somewhat dramatically) remove his glasses during class and gesture with them as he talked. But I’m pretty sure I never talked to him that term. I definitely wasn’t ready to come out then.