Talk to any queer individual and they can tell you the exact moment they knew they were gay or had started to question their sexuality. I don’t consider my coming out story dramatic or exciting in any way. There is no comedy or flare to it. It wasn’t something I planned or stressed over. It happened naturally as a result of a series of events that unfolded in my life as I tried to find myself, and more importantly a little self-acceptance. For me there were four main phases and challenges that I encountered on my personal journey to coming out.
Sharing your story is instrumental and empowering for everyone, especially yourself. So in honor of #NationalComingOutDay, here is my story.
1. The first realizations and how that impacted my friendships.
I was around 12 or 13. Like any other middle school girl, I gossiped with my friends about which boys were the cutest, and we’d laugh together as we created code names for each of them so we could talk about them openly. Unlike most girls my age, I was faking it. I had no interest in these boys. I didn’t think they were cute, and I definitely didn’t want to kiss them. Instead, I was fascinated by the rumors of a girl in our grade who claimed to be bisexual. I wanted to know more. I wanted to talk to her and be her friend. I wanted to ask her all the questions that were running through my mind. But instead, I sat quietly as my group of friends, and the rest of our classmates, made fun of her behind her back.
The same time I realized I was gay, I also decided that I was never going to come out of the closet.
For me, this was an act of self-preservation. I was already struggling with the bullying I was enduring on a near daily basis. Why would I want to add more fuel to the fire?
I’ve never been the type of person to have a large group of friends. I have always preferred having 2-3 very close friends. Shortly after my first realization is when I started to create these intense bonds to some of my closest friends. I would pour my heart and soul into these relationships, and in turn would be crushed when my actions weren’t reciprocated. There are two that stand out to me clearly now. They were my first crushes. And being completely closeted and falling for straight girls definitely gives a new meaning to the term unrequited love. These friendships didn’t last. How could they when all sense of honesty was missing?
The first was the hardest. It drove me to really question a lot about myself. Throughout the course of that “friendship” I began to hear this voice. The one in my head that would tell me over and over that maybe if I was prettier she would like me. And that maybe if I could be less like myself she would realize that she I and shared the same feelings for each other. This voice that started as a whisper over time grew to a very loud scream. This relationship was the start of the trend with these intense friendships… the ones that would end seemingly without reason and without any communication after.
The second taught me a lot about myself and about the issues that I had developed over the years. Again, I found myself falling for a girl who was never going to be interested. We met as freshman in college and bonded quickly. She was my first friend I made at school. We were inseparable, staying up late doing homework, going on midnight food runs and having movie marathons. But we started to grow apart as friends…to the point where I was grasping at a relationship that wasn’t really there. Like the first, this friendship ended in such a way that made talking to this girl for the next four years extremely difficult.
2. Trying, and failing, to be straight
From the moment I decided to stay in the closet forever, I was making a commitment to be straight. I ‘dated’ boys. I use that term loosely because apart from two of them, I wouldn’t really consider those relationships dating. They were more so my attempts to make myself appear as a normal, straight girl. And I failed miserably. I remember my first kiss with a boy and thinking: Soooo what is supposed to be so special about this? I hated holding hands with them and the way they smelled. I hated the prickly feeling of facial hair and the way they dressed. Guys made me uncomfortable. I could never really be myself around any of them because I was too busy trying to hide that fact that I would much rather be making out or hooking up with a girl.
My inability to be in a relationship with a man is in no way any fault of the guys I dated. For the most part they were all very sweet and very kind guys. Most of them were friends who I convinced myself that I could be more than friends with. To them I would say this: I’m sure that some of you feel like I may have wasted your time, but let me assure you, you did not waste mine. Each of you were a crucial stepping stone for me on my road to self-acceptance and for that, I will forever be thankful.
3. Eating, not eating, and some other things.
For most of my adolescence, there was a small voice in my head that would tell me things like:
“If you were prettier things would be easier.”
“You’d have more friends if you weren’t so fat.”
“If you were better at this, you would be happier.”
I had always been able to keep those thoughts in check..for the most part. Sometimes it would pop up from time to time in my mind, but more often than not I would be able to tell it to STFU and move on with life. After my falling out with girl #2 (from above) things got to be too hard. I wasn’t able to be stronger than that voice. I was cracking under the pressure of being an overachiever and the secret of being a closeted lesbian. So, I tried to control these feelings in a way I knew how… with food.
I went to the hospital three times for treatment for an eating disorder. Once in my sophomore year of college, once in the summer between my sophomore and junior year, and once more in the spring of my junior year. I was unleashing years of pent up self-loathing on myself all at once without giving myself any credit for getting where I had gotten to. I was doing well in school, maintaining a high GPA and still being involved on campus.
To everyone else, it looked like I had my shit together, when in reality I was spiraling out of control.
In the time between treatment #2 and treatment #3, I began to experiment with girls under the promise of secrecy. I wasn’t out and neither were these girls. It was during this time period that I had my first kiss with a girl. And that was when I finally understood what people meant when they said they got butterflies when they kissed someone. In that moment, everything stood completely still and everything was good. We shared a few more firsts together, but given how fragile my mental state was at the time and how very closeted I was — and how very straight she definitely was– I knew this, like the other relationships, wouldn’t last. And like the relationships before, this one ended in a sudden cutoff of communication and the addition of a mental breakdown. So it was back to treatment for me.
With each round of intensive outpatient treatment I learned more and more about myself and who I was. I began to realize that I actually was a very strong an independent person, but along the way I had lost confidence in myself. I began to understand that in order to heal completely, I would need to be truly honest with myself about who I was and where I was headed. I mended the relationships with friends that had been broken along the way and more importantly, I mended the relationship with myself.
4. Coming out…finally.
I don’t really like to tell my coming out story, not the full length one anyways. It’s not a fond trip down memory lane. Instead it’s confronting feelings I’ve worked really hard to come to terms with, and accept and move on from. So I usually tell my shortened version when asked about it, and yes, I do get asked quite a bit:
“I knew I was gay when I was 13. Being a teenage girl was already hard enough and I didn’t want to make it any harder so I just kind of went on being “straight” until I was like fuck this noise, I’m hella gay in October of my senior year of college. Fast forward to today. I’m a happy out and proud lady.”
There is a lot of truth to this story, and it makes for a good condensed version. But the real driving force behind my coming out was that I had reached a point where I just got tired of hiding who I was. It was 2013, and nobody I knew cared if you were black, white, gay, straight, Asian, Latino, asexual, trans, etc. Why was I still hiding from who I really was? So I told someone. The first person I officially came out to was my roommate. And it literally was me just being like “Hey, I like girls and maybe I like boys too (which was a lie… but come on, I get credit for half-coming out right?) And she was just like “Cool… are there any girls that you like?”
It was that easy. And you know what happened next? The weight on my shoulders got a little lighter.
After that, I came out to my sisters before that Thanksgiving. They both were extremely supportive, and not at all surprised. One had actually thought I had come out already. And that weight got a little bit lighter. Next I told my parents, and again I was met with love and support. With each person I told that weight got lighter and lighter until it was suddenly gone and there was nothing holding me back. I was, for the first time in a really long time, truly happy. I felt like my true authentic self and I loved myself completely. It wasn’t an easy journey and it isn’t for most people. But it led me to become who I am today, myself.
“The bravest thing you can do is be yourself.”