Two years ago, I woke up on a morning in June to read the horrific headlines about the Pulse shooting. I was upset and saddened to read about another shooting and the senseless loss of life. As the morning progressed and the news began reporting about the victim’s sexual orientation, I felt a sinking feeling I had never felt before.

My partner got up shortly after I did that morning and I shifted into the role of comforting spouse. I hugged him, held back my tears as he cried, and then we acknowledged we had to go to work. Mass shootings have unfortunately become a far more regular event in our country. We offered each other supportive texts and the chance to call each other, but knew communication might be hard while we were at work.

That sinking feeling persisted during my commute and when I arrived at the office I was simply overwhelmed with anger. I was angry at my coworkers who were having casual conversations around the office. As far as I knew, I was the only gay man at my office of 70 or so employees. I didn’t understand my anger and found myself stepping away to cry in unused offices. I spent the day reflecting on where this anger towards all of my straight-identifying coworkers was coming from in between trying to console my partner who was having a similar experience throughout the day.

It took time to find the root of my feelings and acknowledge that this went beyond the events of that tragic day; I was mourning the future I had imagined for myself as a gay child and teen. This nation has progressed in leaps and bounds since my coming-of-age, but there is still a feeling of injustice because that equality may never be fully achieved. I thought of my partner and all that I wished for him and I could feel the rage swelling up inside.

It cannot be denied that times are changing, but time alone does not resolve the many messages we internalized growing up. Time does not resolve the fear of holding hands in public or wondering if the person across from me assumes I’m straight or gay, and thinking about what consequence might come from that.

We all have moments in our lives where we lose sight of the “gray” in the world. For me, I felt with intensity that the straight-world was bad and the gay-world was the only place to find safety. I sought out gay bars more frequently, lamented how hard it can be depending on your neighborhood and profession to meet other gay people, and feeling isolating.

For many, this experience of dichotomizing the world can be a cycle we get stuck in. We often unconsciously hold our resentments about what the world cannot offer us and struggle to find a meaningful and realistic vision of the future. It took a lot of support and risks (including the feared negative outcomes) to embrace and live the identity I have in a way that truly reflects me. I chose to write this brief expression of a transformation I experienced because I believe it is something many in our community can relate to.

There are many paths to self-growth and realization, and I invite you to try to find yours. Therapy from someone within the community can be powerful and allow you to meet with therapists who have relatable knowledge. We are all different in our needs and expression of self, and I hope you reach out to our practice should you need help creating the destination you want for your life.