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 Metro Nashville Councilmember Brett Withers about his coming out “non-event”!
Tell us your “coming out” story
“I would say that mine was kind of a non-event. I was one of those kids who was the last to know somewhat. I was raised by my dad’s mother, who was a Jehovah’s Witness, so I grew up in that. I would say that the benefit of that group is that you grow up okay with being different. Despite not being an affirming denomination, in its own way it was a source of strength. I grew up knowing there was something different about me, that I had different beliefs from other people, and I was proud of who I was for my religious beliefs, so in an ironic way it strengthened me.
“Being different in a crowd, not saying the pledge of allegiance, celebrating Christmas or birthdays, I grew up believing it was okay to be different. Not everyone has that, so I view it as a real gift. My grandmother who raised me died when I was in the Eighth Grade, and I don’t know if I would have come out to myself had she lived longer. That was very difficult for me to cope with.
“I got involved in drugs in middle school and early high school because I was just trying to hide it. I had feelings that I just couldn’t pray away. I was very fortunate in that I had school counselors who got me into programs and had a supportive family to help me through that. I count myself to be very, very lucky. I have relatives who aren’t crazy about it, but through some odd paths I had a support network.”
What’s your advice for people coming out?
“You’ve got to be true to yourself, and you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else. That really is even hard for people who already are out. Sometimes we don’t love ourselves, but if you’re living in the closet, you’re hiding, and it’s really difficult. You can still love people dearly, and I know people who are closeted, who have very complicated relationships and they are very devoted, but you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else and be loved in return.”
What’s your go-to “out and proud” song that really makes you feel empowered?
“Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera