By Scott Collen
From his childhood as a scared kid who suppressed his identity to being a happily-married gay man decades later, SFA board member Scott Collen openly and honestly shares his story as an encouraging message to other LGBTQ+ people: it will get better!
“Wow, you have an interesting path, don’t you?” That’s a statement I often hear when I first meet
someone and explain the past 40+ years of my life. My mom had a saying that is rather appropriate: “They could publish my life story and call it fiction”. The reality is, every LGBTQ+ person has a unique life journey. As I look back today, I honestly don’t know how I’m able to sit here at this keyboard and type the words you are about to read. But here is the GOOD NEWS – life does get better!
A little back story: I was raised by conservative parents in suburban San Antonio, Texas during the 70’s and early 80’s. I didn’t know any gay people. All I really knew was the stigma associated with being gay. “Fag,” “sissy,” and “homo” were all terms used to describe people who were “weird” and not “normal”. As a result, as my gay psychiatrist brother told me when I came out at age 40, I suppressed who I really was deep inside of me. So far deep down that I wasn’t even aware I was gay….I just knew I was different.
When I left home and headed off to college in Lubbock, an ultra-conservative town in west Texas (Go Red Raiders!), I found myself dating a few young women. I swam for Texas Tech and was a decent looking guy back then, so there were a few young women who were interested in me. I also knew I liked guys in those speedo’s, but I knew those thoughts and likes were “wrong.” So, I continued to push those thoughts further and further down deep inside me. By my senior year, I had met the perfect person: beautiful, caring, professionally focused and from a good family. She went to grad school in Tennessee, and I started my first job in Texas. Two years later in 1991, we were married.
Today, we often hear that “things are so much better… people coming out have it easier…everyone is so much more accepting”. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s still extremely difficult. Until you have been inside the body of someone who is struggling with who they are, you don’t know anything about the challenges a person goes through to come out as gay, bi, trans, binary, etc. Just the other day I was talking with a gay father and his husband who have two children in their 20’s. One just came out as trans about a year ago after having tried to live a “normal life” as a male. The child was scared to come out to their fathers. Their gay fathers!
So for about 10 years, I had a normal married life. We traveled as newlyweds to fun places, we went to church together, we met other couples and eventually had two beautiful daughters. Then it started…I began to realize I wasn’t being my authentic self.
Like many people, I told no one. I lived my life alone. I didn’t seek professional help. I didn’t even talk with my gay brother! I guess I had decided I had to do it “my way”. Well, let me tell you, my way wasn’t easy. It’s never easy.
Fifteen years later, I am here to tell you that it DOES get better. If you are struggling to come out, you will survive. It will be hard. If you feel comfortable, go talk to someone. Find a close friend you trust or go seek a counselor. Don’t go it alone like I did. Strong Family Alliance has a lot of resources to help you.
If you are a parent, go hug your child! Call and talk to your child. Visit them. You may be the only
person that cares, especially at the beginning. When I told my mom, the best thing that happened was that she came right up to me, held my hands, and said “Scott, there is nothing that you can ever do to make me stop loving you”. Wow, talk about acceptance. But I can vividly remember when I left her house and returned to that lonely hotel room I had moved into. I sat there alone many nights, just crying. Just wishing someone, anyone would call me to check in. I thought surely maybe some of my family who knew would call to check on me.
Today, as the saying goes, “life is good!” I have a loving husband who cares for me like I never dreamed someone would. I have two amazing daughters who are both out in the world making their mark on our society. And when we officially got married a few years back, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room!
I have a job I love and work with people who respect me for who I am and the value I bring to our company and clients. I volunteer and financially support organizations who fight for all LGBTQ+ people. Why do I say “fight”? Trust me, that’s what it is. I’m fighting so that maybe one day other people won’t have to face all the challenges that are still out there today!
We share stories like Scott’s on our website so LGBTQ+ people can gain wisdom and insight from those who have gone before. For more resources, check out the Coming Out to Your Parents guide on our website.
These coming out stories also help parents gain a better understanding of the challenges their LGBTQ+ child faces on a daily basis. Our website is a treasure trove of resources for families, click here for more resources.