Coming Out as Brave

Alayna Session-Goins, Assistant Dean of Campus Life, Pitzer College

June 25, 2018

"Over time, I have come to believe that 'brave' does not mean what we think it does. It does not mean 'being afraid and doing it anyway.' Nope. Brave means listening to the still small voice inside and doing as it says. Regardless of what the rest of the world is saying."

-Glennon Doyle

Bravery has not always come easily to me. I think I have been adventurous at times, likely bold, and probably even strong. But being brave has been more difficult for me because being brave requires trusting the voice in my head, in my gut, in my heart. That has always been harder for me. I have always been a people pleaser; wanting to do the right thing according to my parents, my siblings, my teachers, my friends, or my supervisors. 

The first truly brave thing that I believe I ever did was come out as gay. Having grown up in a conservative, Christian community, that seemed like the worst possible thing I could do, and something that I never imagined being a part of my story. 

At 27 years old though, I finally listened to that still small voice that had been there for years and decided that I needed to live out my truth, honestly and authentically. As a student affairs professional, that is what I had always encouraged my students to do. I supported students as they worked through their passions and interests, and grappled with their identities, values, and priorities. What I hadn’t done at that point in my life was do that for myself in the area of my sexuality, because I knew I would have to reconcile the truth about my sexuality with the religion I had built up around me.

I came to find out that once I tasted bravery for the first time, after a lifetime of being a people pleaser, it became a bit addicting for me. The coming out process for me was always a scary prospect, but once I was able to say it out loud for the first time, it got easier every single time afterward. The response I got from friends and family after coming out began to matter a little bit less to me every time because I knew that living my truth was what I was meant to do.

Since I began my coming process in 2010, I feel like I have chosen to listen to that still small voice inside me more, which has allowed me to choose bravery in my life more consistently, and boy does it feel good! When we make decisions based on our conscience/convictions/the voice inside of us, there is less room for fear and concern about what others may think.

As I celebrate PRIDE month this year and reflect on my journey of coming out, I am thankful that my coming out process introduced me personally to bravery. Learning to trust myself has opened up so many doors in my life the past 8 years that I would likely not have been given without choosing to be brave. The four areas of my life that I have seen growth because of choosing bravery are:

  • Marriage – I married a strong, hardworking, smart, funny, intentional and beautiful woman who is a better partner for life than I could have ever imagined. My wife is my favorite person in the world and I feel so honored that we get to figure out this crazy world together.
  • Family – We chose to adopt two siblings through foster care. Although navigating our community’s Children and Family Services system was scary, we are grateful for the opportunity to give our kids love, support and safety. Our kids have taught me about what is really important in my life: family, showing up to do the hard work every day and investment in my community.
  • Profession - While daily showing up and doing the best work I can contribute, I have advocated for myself by speaking up about what I bring to the team and what I believe I am worth for my work. Thankfully I work at an institution that has responded to me with three promotions over the past seven years, most recently to the Assistant Dean of Campus Life.
  • Community – Although a job is important, the people that I work with and among are more important. While working in student affairs I have always felt pressure to move up the organizational chart and towards a terminal degree to find happiness. I have chosen for now to prioritize staying in my current community and job, because the people I work with, many of whom are now like family, are supportive of my queer, interracial, adoptive family and similarly advocate for our students with historically marginalized identities. 

As a recovering people pleaser, I am thankful to now feel more confident in the decisions I make for myself and my family, including ensuring that my children are raised by parents and in a community who will support all their identities. I highly suggest forgetting about what “the world” thinks you should do, and just doing what you know you should do. The world may look like your family, church, coworkers, the media or “experts”, but just know that no one else truly knows what the best thing for you is; only you can hear that still small voice inside.  

Alayna Session-Goins is the Assistant Dean of Campus Life at Pitzer College. Outside of work, she is an avid women’s soccer fan, enjoys baking from scratch, and loves exploring new beaches in southern California with her wife and kids. You can find her at AlaynaSeGo on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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