What I wish someone would have told me 2 years ago.
**** These are reflections of my own personal experiences and opinions. If you’re someone who is nervous to come out and looking for some guidance, I’m sharing my experiences to serve as an example. I know many of us just want the answers to all of our questions and want to be told what to do and how to do it. I wish I could give you all of the answers, but I simply don’t have them. I am blessed to say my personal coming out experience was relatively conflict-free and enjoyable. Please read and/or listen to other coming out experiences to gain further guidance.****
(1) Your “coming out” is YOURS, no one else’s.
HOW you come out isn’t that big of a deal.
In the age of social media, a lot of people these days will share some big, grand coming out post. Just because everyone else does, doesn’t mean you have to. I remember the underlying feeling that I needed to post about it for it to be real or true. As I reflect now, I’m glad I never acted on this feeling and never shared a coming out post. Instead, I told the people I wanted to tell how I wanted to tell them and figured everyone else will figure it out sooner or later. Even when I told my people, I didn’t plan how I would do it — it just came naturally.
WHO you come out to is your decision.
Tell who you want to tell, not who you feel obligated to tell. Personally, I directly told my closest friends and various members of my family. I’ve never directly told my co-workers, supervisors, or mere acquaintances. Frankly, it’s none of their business and I don’t feel the need to share personal details with these people. I don’t care if they find out, or if they know. I’m not hiding anything…just don’t feel an obligation to tell them.
WHEN you come out is completely up to you.
Tell your truth how you want…to whom you want…on your own terms and timeline. If you’re not ready, that’s totally fine. Personally, I hesitated to tell each person I told. Nerves are normal — when it’s time you’ll know. Sometimes you just need to some time to process so give yourself the time. Whenever and whatever you decide is your prerogative. Don’t let anyone try to tell you differently or pressure you. It’s your life, not theirs.
A bit of my story:
I feel blessed in being able to say I never felt pressured by other people to come out– which is evident considering I came out at 20 years old. The only pressure I felt was from my own damn self. When I came out to one of my best friends, Carly, she said “I knew you were gay the day I met you.” At that point, we had known each other for something like 10 years. Over those 10 years, not ONCE did she pressure me. That is a true friend. True friends won’t make you feel obligated when you aren’t ready.
IF you come out is your decision.
Straight people don’t come out as straight, so why should you come out as gay? Think about this. Frankly, you don’t have to do shit. You can still be homosexual without “coming out” — it isn’t a requirement in order to go and be gay. Just go be gay and people will catch on (lol). In all seriousness though, this obligatory feeling like you need to “come out” is a direct result of society’s heteronormative narrative. Heterosexuality is the norm so a homosexual feels this need to proclaim his/her/their sexuality. Come out if you want to, don’t come out if you don’t want to…it’s really that simple.
A bit of my story:
Personally, I did tell the people closest to me that “I’m gay” because it was liberating for me. I was finally accepting who I was and I was excited to share it with them. So if you’re like me and want to come out, go for it. But don’t feel like you have to.
(2) Be you — trying to be anyone else is exhausting.
Own your own style. Trust me, I spent 20 years wearing clothes that I knew weren’t right for me. I was scared of the homophobic assumptions people would make if I dressed any differently. I felt pressure to be someone I wasn’t to fit into society’s box of how a woman should dress. FUCK that.
Crush on who you want to crush on, not who society tells you to. Society –stuck in its heteronormative narrative — will try to tell you that boys are supposed to be attracted to girls and girls to boys. I fell for this trap. I tried to convince people that I liked boys for 20 years. And now that I’ve admitted to myself that I feel attraction to girls, the thought of forcing myself to like a boy gives me literal shivers down my spine — hard pass. Sounds exhausting. As our lesbian Jesus sings :
“girls like girls like boys do.”Hayley Kiyoko, from the song “Girls Like Girls”
Amen to that.
(3) Shopping in the men’s section and wearing men’s clothing is exhilarating.
For so long, I was scared to wear the clothes I really liked. I fell into society’s narrative that women have to shop in the women’s section and men are secluded to the men’s section. I was scared of what people would say if they saw a girl shopping for “boy’s” clothes. But frankly, who gives a FUCK what people say or think when you’re comfortable in your own skin and lookin’ fly. Today, I shop almost exclusively in the men’s section of stores and I’ve never felt more confident in my own skin. Looking back, I spent so much money on clothes I didn’t even really like and never wanted to wear. Please don’t be young me. If you’re like me and want to wear men’s clothes but are scared– fuck what they think and do it anyway.
(4) Dressing a certain way doesn’t make you gay, who you’re attracted to does.
I kid you not: when I was growing up, I never wore snapbacks, Vans, or chains because I thought wearing them meant you were gay. Read that again…how fucking ridiculous does that sound. In fear of people thinking I was gay (LOL), I avoided dressing a certain way even though that’s how I wanted to dress. In reality, dressing that way wouldn’t have made me gay, the fact that I like girls makes me gay. Now I’m a flaming gay who happens to like wearing snapbacks, Vans, and chains. But these two facts are dependent of each other — I don’t need these to be gay and wearing them doesn’t make gay. Plus, there are plenty of straights who wear snapbacks, Vans, and chains. Style’s fluid, just like sexuality is. If you like something, flaunt it.
(5) You may meet your fair share of homophobes, but you’ll also meet some incredible allies.
I feel blessed that I have yet to face any aggressive, outright homophobia. No one’s heckled me on the streets, or left nasty comments on my social media, or tried to tell me that my sexuality is wrong.
A bit of my story:
Though people haven’t been aggressively homophobic towards me, some have been rude in more subtle ways. For example, I’ve had co-workers express their anti-gay political views regarding gay marriage rights not even realizing they’re referring to my rights. Though their words weren’t necessarily directed at me (I was not “out” to them), it obviously still gets under my skin.
I may not have personally faced much direct, outright homophobia, but I still see and hear it on a daily basis — the gay slurs, the mean comments on social media, the anti-gay rhetoric on the news, the banishment stories of young gays following their coming-outs. Despite the share of positive societal changes happening for the LGBTQ+ community, society is still filled with so much homophobic hate.
BUT… for every homophobe, there’s an ally. With every slur I see on social media, there’s also an ally in the comments protecting the vulnerable. Straights and gays alike protecting each other from the homophobes and trolls. If a young gay is disowned by or banished from their family, allies step in to help — whether it’s starting a GoFundMe page, providing moral support, or just bringing further attention to the ongoing homophobia in society.
Just know your fellow gays and your straight allies have your back.
(6) You’re not alone, there are gays everywhere.
Growing up, I felt like an outkast. I never really knew why but I never quite ‘fit in.’ It always felt like no one on Earth was like me, like no one could ever relate.
A bit of my story:
As I have mentioned, I didn’t come out until I was 20 years old. I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in because I didn’t even know who I was. And it definitely didn’t help that I didn’t know of a single out-lesbian in my metropolitan area until I was 16.
But, even after I came out at 20, I still felt pretty alone. At this point, I knew 6 out gays (pictured below: Bailey, Sam, and Jess). Only SIX — and out of the 6, only two lesbians. Considering there were around 14,000 students attending my university, 6 gays was hardly enough to comfort me since only 2 of them went to my university (pictured below: Bailey and Sam).
Today, just a mere 2 years after my coming out: I know too many gays to even count on my hands. From northern Wisconsin to southern Wisconsin, I have met gays in every area across my state. When I traveled to Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, California…you guessed it…more gays! I’ve never been out of the country, but I assure you, there’s a shit ton there too. The bottom line:
I was never alone.
Some of the gays I’ve met along the way are still my closest friends:
When I was in college, I found my gays and ultimately…my comfort zone. Though I do still feel like an odd-ball sometimes, it’s not because I’m gay (phew). It’s because I’m just an odd-ball sometimes and I’m totally cool with that (besides ‘fitting in’ is boring anyways). Nevertheless, I feel comforted knowing there are millions of humans who can relate to me and all of my queerness. Let me emphasize: MILLIONS…WE’RE EVERYWHERE…WORLDWIDE.
(7) The LGBTQ+ community is rad, you’ll be just fine.
Pride…Pride…Pride!!!!!!!! — Pride events prove just how rad this community truly is.
I am forever grateful for Pride events.
A bit of my story:
I attended my first major Pride event, Pridefest Milwaukee, in 2018 at 21 years old. It was a spur of the moment type of deal. I had unknowingly visited my hometown outside of Milwaukee the same weekend as Milwaukee Pride. One of my best friends told me the night before that she wanted to go. Naturally, we almost immediately went to Zumiez to buy some Pride attire, went on an alcohol run, and gathered a group of 6 women (some gay, some bisexual, some straight). And the next night, we took the shuttle to Pride.
Seeing the long lines at Pride filled with people of all sexual identities, ages, races, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, all dressed head-to-toe in rainbow-assorted clothing was extremely heart-warming for me. To see thousands of members of my community all gathered to joyously celebrate our queerness was a reality check. Not only did I stop feeling completely alone, but I started feeling liberated. Seeing the thousands of people confidently waving their Pride flags instilled confidence in me.
Pridefest Milwaukee was one of the first times in my life when I truly felt like I belonged, like I was right where I was supposed to be.
A bit of my story:
Fast forward another year… I’m now 22 visiting my big sister in California. I purposely planned for the dates of my trip to align with the dates for San Diego Pride, which is one of the largest Pride events in the US. For those that don’t know, San Diego Pride festival occurs at Balboa Park, but the parade and various Pride celebrations at bars and clubs occur in Hillcrest, San Diego. Hillcrest is an infamous LGBTQ-friendly, gender-diverse suburban neighborhood just northwest of Balboa Park. At the intersection of Normal St. and University Ave, you’ll find a rainbow crosswalk and a massive Pride flag flying year-round. During Pride week, Pride flags and rainbow lights flood the streets. There was even a massive blow-up unicorn sitting on top of one of the most popular gay clubs in Hillcrest for the whole weekend I was there.
The overwhelming gender-diverse demographics of the neighborhood alone make me proud to be gay. When I actually attended the festival, the parade, and the numerous bar and club events all over Hillcrest, an overwhelming sense of Pride was pulsing through my veins. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly how I felt.
Pride is an opportunity to meet so many incredible people -both members and allies- from our incredible LGBTQ+ community. Pride events attract people from all backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, ages, and even parts of world. Members of this community will take off work and hop on a plane in order to attend different Pride events…we’re very dedicated and extremely proud. Take me for example: I’m from Wisconsin and attended a Pride in California. If I wouldn’t have taken off work and hopped on a plane, I wouldn’t have met so many incredible people…it was beyond worth it. Ultimately, Pride has this undeniable power to bring people together for a common purpose: to celebrate LGTBQ+ achievements, legal rights, and social and self acceptance. And by golly gosh…does this incredible group of people know how to celebrate. Some unforgettable highlights from my Pride experiences :
– I met a young mother and ally who gathered as many LGBTQ-inspired accessories as she could carry to take to her 13-year old daughter, who had just come out to her the night before.
– I poured absurd amounts of glitter on 2 lovely gay men while dancing for hours in some random bar at 3 pm on a Saturday.
– I shared vibrant (and probably awfully-sounding) vocal duets with so many loving, former strangers over the course of those 3 days and 2 nights that I had lost count.
At San Diego Pride, every bar and club across Hillcrest seemed to be filled to the max with infectiously proud and incredibly joyous people. I will never forget the lovely people I met and the love I felt that Pride weekend in Hillcrest, San Diego. It was by far the most liberating and re-assuring week of my entire life.
Quick Pride Disclaimer:
For those of you who are new to Pride events, be aware that some Pride events aren’t as welcomed in certain cities as others. Belligerent homophobes are everywhere, unfortunately, and sometimes they may try to harass Pride goers in their cities. Bring people you trust and look out for each other. Just to give you more peace of mind, Pride-goers are also protective of each other and there is a large security presence at big events like Pride. I personally did not experience anything like this at Pridefest Milwaukee or San Diego Pride, and no one I know has either. So don’t let the fact that there may be opposers discourage you from attending, but please still be aware of it.
I HOPE EVERY LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL,TRANSGENDER, QUEER, AND EVERY OTHER PERSON IN BETWEEN GETS TO EXPERIENCE A PRIDE EVENT AT LEAST ONCE IN HIS/HER/THEIR LIFE
…BECAUSE PRIDE TRULY CHANGED MINE FOREVER.