This essay comes from “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living,” a collection of original essays and testimonials written to teens from celebrities, political leaders, and everyday people. This one was written by Bashar Makhay, a community organizer for the Middle Eastern gay community. You can purchase a copy of the book, or donate one to a local school or library, through our STORE.

(Translated from the original transcript)When I first came out to myself, I realized why I wasn’t happy with my life; I was in the closet and I wasn’t living my life truly. When I first came out, I was really scared of what my friends and family would think and do. I was scared they would hurt me, abandon me, or just maybe love me for who I am. In the end, after a lot of time and a lot of discussion, more people in my life came to love me for who I am, but there are still many people in my life that have a difficult time understanding why I love someone of the same gender.

“I think the issue of our people is that we do not talk about sexuality. Before I came out of the closet, nobody I knew spoke about sexuality. I think that when our people think about sexuality, they don’t want anyone to ask about sexuality or tell anyone about their sexuality. This is an issue.

“In the end, when I came out, I told the whole world, I told everyone I know, the news, Internet, newspapers. For the first time in my life I started to see people talking about  sexuality, a lot of people. Today I am very happy with my life; I have a lot of friends and people in my family who are proud of me. All I can say is that it takes a lot of time and discussion but life gets better, life gets a lot better.”

Bashar Makhay proudly identifies himself as a Progressive Gay Chaldean Iraqi-American Christian man. He began his organizing work with ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), providing HIV/STD counseling, testing, and referral services to Arab and Chaldean gay men. Working at ACCESS, after struggling with his own coming-out process, Bashar realized that the Middle Eastern gay community needed and wanted to be organized. Bashar left ACCESS and then cofounded AL-GAMEA (The LGBT Association of Middle Eastern Americans), a first-of-its-kind organization, created to provide a forum for support, socialization, education, and awareness inside and outside of the Middle Eastern community in metropolitan Detroit. Bashar currently works as a program associate for the Arcus Foundation, a private foundation that works to achieve social justice based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and race.