Kate Long, Fleming College
I never really realized that I was different. I saw some inconsistencies between my friends and I, but I never really put the pieces together. When I was first exposed to same sex couples, I found myself feeling embarrassed and flushed, but not knowing why. I spent the next few years pushing away those feelings at all cost. Many years later, when I was ready to process those feelings, I realized while scrolling through the Revel and Riot website, that what I had been experiencing was internalized homophobia. I couldn’t even let myself watch same sex couples kiss on TV because it made me feel ashamed. I realize now that all of those feelings were because I couldn’t let myself be me. If I hid all of those emotions, then they would go away. Right?
The summer after I graduated high school, I went to a Tegan and Sara concert. I wore a hoodie and sweat pants and I looked like I had just woken up from an 8 hour nap. I was at my lowest point and my outside appearance was a visual representation of my internal struggles. When Tegan and Sara went on stage, something inside me changed. I looked at the many same sex couples around me, embracing and kissing, and I didn’t shudder. I finally figured it out. But I ran back into the closet as quickly as I came out of it. I started thinking about how my life would change and what would happen if people found out. What if my friends don’t want to be friends with me anymore? What if they get nervous at sleepovers and in the pool that I’m going to try to hit on them or something? I was shook. I tried to stuff my feelings back down where I thought they belonged. But I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t un-feel what I was feeling. Now I knew, and I needed to TELL SOMEONE.
It took me a couple of years being painfully stuck in the closet before I was ready to come out, and finally, I found my voice as a student at Brock University. I had a drama teacher there who was the queer role model that I’d never had. They helped me sort through how I was feeling and eventually, because of their mentoring, I was finally ready to come out. I started by telling only a few close friends, but when they reacted positively, I realized I needed to come out in the most ‘me’ way possible. I wrote, directed and starred in a short play about LGBTQ+ issues and wrote in a monologue for myself shamelessly revealing my true identity. I showcased my play to my drama class and was greeted by a wave of love and support. This gave me the courage to come out to more and more people.
My story makes it seem like coming out wasn’t the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. It absolutely was. I wanted to run away every single second. I considered backing out at the last second or maybe telling everyone it was just a joke. I thought it would be so much easier if I just kept my secret as a secret. Then nothing would change. But the tiny voice in my head telling me I shouldn’t do it was squashed by my exhaustion from pretending all the time, and my burning desire to just be myself already. I had to tell people; I made that decision for myself, and looking back, I don’t regret it for one minute. I am lucky to be surrounded by accepting and loving people, but I also had to cut out some less supportive ones from my life. That was a huge loss. But I wasn’t willing to change myself for other people anymore.
I am human. I am assuming you are a human too (unless this article somehow survives long enough that there are sentient artificial intelligences identifying as LGBTQ+). As a human, I make mistakes, and I struggled with some serious issues, many of which I didn’t disclose in the story above. I also like to believe that I know everything, and that my advice is worth reading. You may not find that. I own my story; the following advice is a result of my own experiences. It probably won’t work in many contexts; maybe it doesn’t work for you. That’s okay. The point of this article isn’t to tell you how to come out or to tell you that you should. It’s to remind you that there are a million other students just like you. As one who is already on the other side, I just want you to know that you own your story and that I support you. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met; I support you and I love you for you, and I know you will find someone in your life who does too. I’m not saying I know everything, but if this article helps you or anyone else, even the tiniest bit, then it will be worth it.
Here are some things I found were important for me to remember when I was coming out:
1. Context is YOUR choice. How, when, where and to whom are all your choice. If you want to come out that’s up to you, and only you. When I first started telling people, some of them said things like “Have you told your parents yet because I really think you should.” It was nobody else’s call. If you want to tell your parents, or whoever, you get to decide when and how. And if you don’t, that’s okay too.
2. It’s okay if you can’t say the word right now.
3. You don’t have to have everything figured out right away. It might change and that’s okay. Life is a journey.
4. Sometimes you’ll have to come out a couple times. I found a huge sense of relief just telling my friends from university. But then I realized I didn’t want to hide anymore so I had to figure out how to come out to my family, and my high school friends, and then my work friends, and then whoever else. What you choose to do is 100% up to you. There are a million ways to do it, if you choose. I preferred telling people individually because I was able to word it differently. What I was not prepared for, however, was how emotionally draining it was to talk about it over and over.
5. If people can’t accept who you are, that’s their loss. And sometimes it’s a big one. In the LGBTQ+ community, many people talk about the idea of a second family. If your biological family accepts your identity, then that’s awesome! But sometimes, that isn’t the case and we seek acceptance in friends and peers. There is a whole world of people ready to support and love you for who you are; whether or not those people are related to you is irrelevant. It feels awful when our family can’t see our perspective, but I like to believe that even the most discriminative people can come around. It may take a while, but I believe it is possible.
6. You’ll always be YOU. You before you came out and you after, are still the same person. You don’t need to change your whole life to fit stereotypes; you can still be yourself. If you want to change aspects of your life, that’s totally up to you, but you don’t HAVE to dress or act a certain way now just because you’re out of the closet.
You never have to apologize for being yourself. You’re the only person in the whole world who gets to be you. Whether you choose to come out or not, just remember that there is always room for more in the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re looking for more information, check out http://www.revelandriot.com/resources/.