Free book sample Fear. It’s that ever-present ache or tingling in your stomach; the blood rushing to your face and the adrenaline burst that floods your body every time someone asks you a seemingly normal, non-threatening question you know you cannot answer honestly. Fear is the voice in your head that tells you, “They say they’re my friends, but that’s because they don’t know. My family says they love me no matter what, but … what if my secret is the exception?” Fear causes us to keep our mouths shut when a homophobic joke, comment, or slur is said right to our faces, pushing our anger and hurt down where no one can see, while we die a little inside. Fear can sometimes even turn us into one of those people, bullying others verbally or physically in order to avoid letting others discover who we truly are. This is the fear I felt the night I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. Sitting alone in my college apartment, I struggled to say the words “I’m a lesbian” out loud. I’m not sure whether it was the crippling anxiety or continuous sobbing that prevented me, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t force those words out of my mouth. I had been denying and suppressing my true sexual identity since fifth grade, and the floodgates had finally burst wide open. Although I had many friends and supportive family members in my life at the time, this was the one problem I knew I couldn’t ask them to help me with. I needed them more than I ever had, and they were the very people to whom I was most afraid to reveal my sexuality. The fear of losing them was just too great. So I went in search of a book to help me learn how to come out. How do you find other gay people? How do I come out to my family? Are all of the emotions I’m feeling normal? Are there any other gay people like me? I found several books about LGBT history, famous gay people, and how to have gay sex. I also learned where the rainbow flag and the upside-down-triangle symbol came from, but none of these books addressed the fears I had or gave me any practical action steps for coming out. They certainly didn’t talk about all of the great things about being gay or how to overcome the negative ideas and beliefs that society had ingrained in my head about what it means to be gay. Most of what I have learned about coming out came from trial and error, but I had a wonderful therapy group to support me through it. The fuel that kept me going was the simple, insatiable desire to one day feel comfortable in my own skin and not only to be able to be myself without fear or shame, but to love being exactly who I was born to be. Living in fear is dark, lonely, and soul-crushing, and can make it very hard to see any light in the future, but there comes a time when this prison of fear becomes too hard to stand any longer. We all came into this world as perfect, whole, and beautiful beings, whose only purpose in life is to love ourselves and others and spend our time doing what excites our souls and brings joy to our hearts. This book is a guide to remembering how to do that, and its intention is to be like spiritual fertilizer for your soul, to help it blossom and burst out of its dark prison of fear into the sunlight. It is about love and forgiveness—for others, but most importantly for ourselves. Coming out is about setting our souls free with self-love and learning to become independent of the opinions of other people. Being gay is one of the best things that could have happened to me, because it has allowed me to grow as a human being in ways that few other experiences ever could. One day, you may be so fortunate as to have the opportunity to support friends who began their coming-out journeys after you did, and having lived it, you will be able to help coach them through it. There are few things as inspiring as watching people grow in love for themselves and stop basing their self-worth on what other people think of them. This guide is entitled “A Journey toward Unconditional Self-Love” because that is exactly what the act of coming out is all about. By making the decision to come out, you are telling yourself and everyone else that you are perfect just the way you are, and it is such a great thing that you just have to share it with the rest of the world. (Or maybe just the important people. It’s up to you!) I hope this book can help lift you up, give you hope, empower you to keep going through the hard times, and get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (No pun intended.) Once you get through the most challenging parts of coming out to yourself, to family, and to close friends, it just gets easier and easier. Some people reading this right now might think that no one in the world could really love you for exactly who you are, but you are loved, whether you want to believe it or not. I love you with all of my heart, and that is the reason I have written this book.