“And then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…” – John 8:32

Around this particular time last year, I took a (in some respects “ill-advised”) leap of faith and came out to the world as a gay man. After boldly proclaiming this fact to the world of Facebook, I waited for the knee-jerk rejections, a wave of disownment from family and friends, and a rash of homophobic remarks from both factions in my life. Miraculously none of that negative fanfare manifested (at least not immediately), but I still didn’t feel whole or complete. I didn’t feel any different and I didn’t feel any better stepping out from the moth ball tainted closet into the fresh, mentally healthy air of the world.

Luckily that detached feeling lasted as long as an unwanted fart, dissipating into the carefree atmosphere of Mardi Gras on a celebratory New Orleans night. It was then where I truly felt free and my life took a turn for the better. Certain aspects of the world became clearer in my eyes; like an invisible path, after years of neglect and indifference, finally revealing itself for me to take on its promising trajectory into greatness. I became more in love with myself than ever before. I didn’t have to wear a mask with friends to disguise my unhappiness. I didn’t have to lie about being somewhere or with someone. I could finally live. It was the greatest gift I had ever received.

I just had to be me.

Along the way, I learned to let those who weren’t down for the cause go. And even if they continued to try and tear me down, I decided to just simply walk away and let them deal with their issues on their own. I’m still standing and getting stronger by the minute. I’ve met new friends, almost daily, who support me every step of the way. I’ve also became closer with those who have stuck by me, making it crystal clear that their loyalty will never waver and the feeling is forever mutual from my side of things.

Coming out also gave me a new sense of “truth” with my writing. As if I had unlocked a treasure trove of materials and possibilities with where my writing could go. My love for the craft only grew threefold and there are plenty of projects in the work. Hopefully, I will self-publish my own book of short stories and experimental pieces later in the year. Luckily, some of those new friends I met are also writers who have taught me a lot in this past year. I thank God daily for guiding us into a collision course of epic proportions that resulted in some damn good writing. We’re truly a coven/clique/those bois you don’t want to mess with when it comes to our writing.

I’ve also joined Male Media Mind, aka “M3,” which is an honor of itself, because I would be lying if the group didn’t take part in me becoming comfortable in my own skin, leading the way to the inevitable. I even talked about my coming out experience with Malcolm Travers, co-founder of Male Media Mind, on the group’s podcast: Male Media Mind Bearcast, which can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, and Podomatic. All the episodes are very informative and highly entertaining pieces, and I’m happy to be a part of something empowering and positive in the black gay bear community. And the gay community as a whole.

Finally, I’m happy. No seriously, I’m finally happy. Despite the normal dregs of everyday life, I can finally smile through it all, because I know that at the end of the day, I’m still going to be M.E. Mark O. Estes. Son of Mark and Regina. Brother of Darrion and Trenica. Uncle to Kayla, Jamie, and Star. I’m also a loyal best friend, a hard-working individual, and a bright intellectual who loves pop culture, the simple joys of a night of solitude, and a passionate writer with his aim set firmly for the stars.

And let’s face it, you gotta love M.E. I sure as hell do.

Happy Anniversary to ME!