Coming out is a lifetime process. You don’t get to do it just once.
The first time I came out I was 21. I lovingly call these my “baby queer” years.
My friend introduced me to her gay friend, and she showed me around the queer community. She was an inspiration. She was already out to her family, she volunteered and did a bunch of cool shit, and her mom was very supportive. My mom died the year before, so I was going through somewhat of a crisis.
They took me to PFLAG meetings with them. At the meetings I was able to hear so many coming out stories, and hear a wide variety of acceptance (or lack thereof). It was so nice to be around my new friends supportive mom. It was healing in a way I didn’t know I needed.
It must have been the end of September that I learned of National Coming Out Day on October 11th. Since I was wanting to come out, I figured that would be a perfect day to do it. I was so scared. My family is pretty conservative. I didn’t know anyone who was gay until I met my new friend, and never got to see the way my family would act around a gay person.
The year before my mom died, she found me watching the L word a few times. Then she saw Shane was the background of my desktop. One day she came in, looked at the picture of Shane, then looked back at me and said “Do you have something to tell me?”. I froze. Then shyly responded, “No! Why?”. She told me before that she would always love me, no matter what, even if I was gay. But I wasn’t ready to admit my truth to anyone yet, so I didn’t. But right before I was ready to come out, I missed my mom so terribly. The one person I knew would be on my side without question was no longer there.
I love my family, and I knew they loved me. I couldn’t imagine them disowning me or anything, but I thought they might not accept it. It’s a scary and lonely feeling.
I was too scared to do it in person. This was in the Myspace days, before Facebook. I decided to do it via email. I don’t even remember what my email to my nana said. I wish I saved it.
My nana is like a second mom to me. So she was the first one I wanted to tell, and it was absolutely terrifying to me. What if she decided she didn’t want to talk to me anymore? I couldn’t handle the thought of losing another mom in my life. But I was already out on my own in the world, and figured it was worth the risk to be able to be my true self to her.
I sent her the email first. Then, I waited.
Her response was fairly quick, if my memory serves me well. She said she loved me since the moment I was born and would always love me. She had some concerns if this was going to change me, the granddaughter she knew and loved. I said that it wouldn’t. I am still me.
Phew… one done.
Then I sent an email to my dad. This was slightly less scary because he and I haven’t ever been very close. I love him, but his disapproval wouldn’t rock me to my core the way Nana’s would have. I don’t remember what his response was. But it wasn’t negative. I’m sure he prayed for me. They all probably did! Shit, I even prayed for myself for years before trying to make this go away. That’s how much self loathing I had for a while. I am sad for myself in those days, wishing to not be myself. It’s a feeling I know many of us go through. It’s not an easy place to be.
After that, I knew I could count on nana to tell some of my other family members. I felt that if she was on my side, it would be ok no matter what the others thought. Then, I told people on my mom’s side of the family. They were not as conservative and I figured they would be fine with it, which they all were. The more I came out, the more confidence I got to keep going.
This is not to say you can’t live in your truth WITHOUT being out. It’s a personal and sacred choice to make. Some people can’t come out for safety, or maybe, unlike me, they KNOW exactly how much their family won’t accept them. Maybe they can’t afford to take that risk. All of it is acceptable and valid. Your queerness is valid if you’re out or not.
“Your queerness is valid if you’re out or not.”
Then, it was time to come out to my mom. I had to do it, for myself. I went to the grocery store before going to her grave and they happened to have a little balloon with a rainbow on it. I wrote with a sharpie, “I’m gay!”. I went to her gravestone and told her. Then I set the balloon on top of it in her flower holder. It was a very sweet, special moment. I knew I had her acceptance and love inside of me, but I needed the physical act of going down there and “telling” her.
So, that’s my coming out story. Like I said at first, I’ve had to come out several other times. Even last week to a new employer. What was your coming out experience like? I’d love to hear about it. You can comment or send me an email!
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