This month’s issue of Out & About Nashville is ALL about politics, so what better way to celebrate National Coming Out Day than to have your favorite openly LGBT politicians spill the tea on how they came out? Get comfy and pour a cup, sis. In this episode, we chat with candidate for State House District 50 Torrey Harris about his “coming out” story.
Tell us your “coming out” story
“Oh gosh! In my family, relationships haven't really worked out. Marriages end, people go their separate ways, the dating cycle just keeps revolving. I told myself years ago that once I am in a relationship with someone for 4 years, I would tell my family so that even though they may not agree with my choice, they can at least say ‘well Torrey was in a much longer relationship than we have ever been in so maybe it works better and maybe he is in love’.
“I've always just been who I am I think. I came up during the era of ‘I'm not walking around asking someone if they are straight, so I don't know why you would walk up and ask me if I'm gay.’ I am bisexual and I love being a part of this diverse community. My thought on how I was going to tell my story didn't actually go as planned. I remember when I turned 25, my brother who is in band was on a travel trip and they had to come through Memphis to get to their game.
“They stopped to eat at Central BBQ, so we took a picture and sent it to my mom. My mom texted back and said ‘Who is that beside you?’ I responded thinking she was joking, ‘That's your son! [My brother]’ She then went on to say ‘Oh, why does he have all that color in his hair like the gay people?’ Without thinking I just responded, ‘I am standing here with a suit on and my brother is standing beside me with athletic wear and color in his hair and he is straight, but you don't see that I'm gay... what you see on tv or see as your image of a gay person is not always the reality.’
“Yea, I quickly panicked after I sent that text. You know, there is not a unsend button I really panicked. It's funny now looking back because she panicked too because she thought she offended me and that I was not going to talk to her anymore and I thought that she was going to disown me and known of that happening, so I really felt like sometimes we just have to live in our truth and say something, because I had been living on pins and needles for so long not knowing it really isn't that bad to just say it and be who you are.
“She learned valuable lessons about predetermined judgments. Because we are from the country, she never knew the right thing to say or do, and it is our responsibility to teach people who we are.”
What advice do you have for people who are coming out?
“Child, just do it, but on your own time and how you feel necessary. Write your own story. Our parents, loved ones and co-workers should not be the author of our memoir. Nobody is truly going to like everything about who you are, but you should like everything about who you are. The District I look to serve and represent has been so welcoming and open to who I am, from religious leaders, to community members, because they know that who I am enhances my reason to serve each and every person, without judgement.
“When you come out, be sure you come out to yourself first. Normalize the idea that people out here can love who they want and still be the best dentist, the most affluent politician, the state’s best bartender, the loving and caring parent to a child, and even the police officer who brings people together. Teach people that loving people does not mean you have to agree all the time.
“I think as people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender, we just want to feel accepted, right? Don't wait to live your life. Coming out doesn't have to be this big event anymore like it used to be.”
What is your go-to “out and proud” song that really makes you feel empowered?
“Somebody Loves You Baby” by Patti LaBelle
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