Coming out was a big deal for me. Granted, there are still some people in my life that don’t know, but there’s something about the first time you admit who you are to yourself, and to other people, out loud. It is a milestone in accepting yourself. It definitely changed something within me. I felt instantly more comfortable with myself, and the people I chose to confide in.
My official coming out story is actually pretty funny to me now. I was a freshman in my second semester. It was a Saturday night, probably. I remember it being too cold to go downtown, so we stayed in the dorms. I remember getting sick that night, and being alone in one of the communal stalls. Some girls from my hall came in and found me in there spilling up my guts and crying, got my friends and were just making sure I was good, holding my hair back (when I still had a lot of it) and such. I just remember them constantly asking me “Are you okay?” and at one point I just said, “No, I’m not okay, but I am gay.” And because, back then, I thought I was wrong for it, so I said it with the ultimate annoyance. The girls just laughed and reassured me for a pretty long time that everything was fine; they still liked me and didn’t care about it. I’m really glad this was the way it came out, because it was a very light-hearted and sweet interaction.
When I decided to tell my friends from high school and back home, I just told them over text in my group chat. They were just like “yeah, we know.” “I could have told you that,” “girl, stop playing & what’s the real tea?” It astounded me that the people closest to me could tell, and if they knew for so long why hadn’t they said anything? Or asked me about it? But I guess they were just waiting for me to be ready. And that’s a really good thing they did. Because the important thing about coming out is YOU have to be ready to.
For a while after my initial coming out, I wasn’t denying who I was, but I also wasn’t going out of my way to express it. People assumed I was straight and I didn’t correct them. I would use gender-neutral terms to refer to my romantic interests because I didn’t want to come out again. It seemed like a hassle. I worked for my current job for a whole year before I officially came out in that environment. I didn’t feel the need to. It’s not that I was hiding my identity, it’s that I didn’t want to make it a point to announce myself.
I always felt a little anxious about not being completely open with who I was in every environment, like work, classes or even clubs/organizations. It’s hard to really excel when you feel like you’re not being honest about who you are. And there’s like this added pressure about how your classmates, peers or co-workers will see you. How will they react? Will they see you differently? Will it affect what I came here to do? These are always some of the things in the back of my head every time I walk into a new situation where it is not common knowledge that I like girls.
I have stopped “coming out” to people. I don’t make it a point to announce myself anymore; I just kind of speak freely, work it into the conversation somehow, and watch for the slightly surprised look on people’s faces when it registers. I definitely think it’s important to highlight this feature that makes me different. It’s important to be transparent, to make my stance for tolerance, and to represent those who have not found their voice yet. However, I don’t think we, as LGBTQ+ owe it to anyone to explain ourselves or announce it everywhere we go. I think its slowly becoming more normalized which helps, but we live in a society where it’s expected of us to emphasize our differences.
Coming out is one of those essential things. Even if you don’t want to come out to other people, at least come out to yourself. It was my first step in loving myself, and embracing who I am. I don’t know if I’d be this far, not only in embracing myself, but in life if I hadn’t had that first coming out experience in that bathroom my freshman year.