I always find the “how or when did you come out?” question a bit difficult to answer. For starters, it implies that coming out is a one and done thing, which I can assure you it isn’t. I did not come out to my family the way that I came out to my friends, nor did I even come out to all my family members in the same exact way. I came out to my sister before I came out to my mom and I never came out to aunts, uncles, cousins or anyone like that. I simply waited until someone else told them or I spoke candidly about my sexual orientation without ever saying “GUESS WHAT?! I’M GAY!” It was easier that way. I mean my homosexuality was really no surprise to anybody, so I didn’t treat it as one. Nor was it something worthy of hiding from others.
The issue with coming out is that the whole affair often unfairly matters more to the friend or family member than it does the person who is actually disclosing the information. That’s why so many people make a big deal about not being told sooner or how their son being gay will affect them rather than focus on how it, you know, actually affects the person it relates to. It’s why gay teens get nervous about coming out to their family members. We get so wrapped up in how our truth is going to affect others that we’re willing to sacrifice our own mental stability to avoid inconveniencing others.
The first person I came out to was my senior year English teacher. She was an insufferable woman who spent our entire class period either telling us how we didn’t deserve to be in AP English or raving nonstop about her German shepherds. I got to give her some credit though, my hatred for her class did inspire me to switch majors and not pursue an English degree and for that I am thankful. I came out to her in an essay because I knew I’d get a good grade as a result. I didn’t come out to her because I liked her or wanted her support. I knew being gay was trendy and that my teacher was egotistical enough that she’d reward me with a good grade for allowing her to be the first person I came out to. Narcissistic people love being able to say that they were the first person someone came out to. So my coming out was a power move and because I used it to get ahead, it never truly felt like a real coming out.
My first genuine coming out experience happened when I was on vacation with my friends in Cape Cod. It was about three weeks before my freshman year of college started and I felt like I need to start being honest with myself and my friends. I was afraid that if I couldn’t come out to the people I trusted the most that I wouldn’t be able to have the strength to come out to the people at college. And knowing how lonely the closet can be and how sexually frustrated I was, coming out was something I needed to do.
While most of my friends slept in one bedroom, my friends Molly and Ashley were the only ones in the other room with me. I knew Molly and Ashley wouldn’t have an issue with my sexuality. Molly was the biggest fag hag on the North Shore and Ashley was half asleep/drunk so it’s not as if she’d even remember what I was saying. But for some reason, I was shaking before I said it. I struggled to find the words to say what I needed to say. In fact, it took me about 5 minutes to articulate “Molly, I have something to tell you.” I knew that the moment I came out to her that everything would change. I would no longer be the sassy/questionably asexual kid. I wouldn’t be able to pretend to be straight to fit in when convenient. I would be gay and that would be it.
“Molly” I said. “There’s like a 75% chance I’m gay.” Two minutes later that 75% climbed up to 90% and a minute after that I announced “I’m just gay.” After I came out to Molly and Ashley I swung open the other door and proclaimed to my friends that I had sex with a man. They were confused. I then told them that I was kidding and was actually just gay. The joke was not well executed. Afterwards my other friend came out and we all sat in one bed and hugged and cried. It was a pretty gay affair. In fact, it was SO GAY that we went to Provincetown the next day.
Coming out to my friends made being out at school so much easier. While saying “I’m gay” didn’t feel like the most comfortable thing yet, I didn’t hide who I was from other people. I didn’t go around proclaiming my homosexuality but I participated in conversations about hot men. It was nice that I could just be out without having to say anything. Things weren’t completely easy though. A lot of the kids I met had little to no experience with gay people, so when they met me they latched onto my gay identity. They touted me around as their GBF and because I was newly out I didn’t understand how fucked up this truly was. I went from being a sexually frustrated closet case to a newly out, neutered gay purse for women to come to for advice and gay entertainment. Thankfully I’ve made true friends who know how unimportant my being gay truly is. In fact, they often like to make fun of how big a deal I make out of being gay.
I came out to my mom on the way home from the train. It was October of my freshman year and I had already come out to the majority of my friends so I felt guilty about not having said anything to her yet. I was afraid that she’d hear the news from my little sister or a neighbor and I didn’t want her to find out from anyone else but me. I started the conversation by saying, “Mom, there’s something I need to tell you. So I’m going to tell you, but I don’t want to have a conversation or anything about it after.” And then I told her I was gay, and that was it.
A few weeks later we finally talked about it. She told me she had cried after I told her, not because she was ashamed of whom I was, but because she was afraid of how I would be discriminated against for the rest of my life. I told my mom that I’d be okay and reminded her that things would probably be worse for me as an effeminate straight man than a gay one. And now my mom is more proud of me being gay than I am. I mean sure she doesn’t want to know anything about my sex life, which I would never tell her anyway, but she loves posting stupid gay articles on her Facebook.
I’ve been out for over three years now. I almost forget what it was like to even be in the closet. I’ve done a lot of gay things since coming out- I’ve dated, done drag shows (RIP AMBER ALLURE), served as the Vice President for an LGBTQ+ club on campus. And it’s been nice. It’s nice to be a part of a community and to feel fully comfortable in your own skin. Sometimes I think about how much easier life would be if I was straight, but then I remember I wouldn’t be remotely as interesting if I was. And when I say that, I’m not saying that gay people are inherently more interesting than straight people. What I’m saying is that the experiences I’ve had because of my sexuality have shaped my in significant ways.
Dealing with the coming out process taught me to not apologize for who I am or create excuses for people who don’t treat me the way I should be treated. Being out helped me better identify what characteristics make a good friend and how to be part of a community. Living life honestly has taught me that there will always be someone who has an issue with who you are, regardless of whether or not it’s warranted. So why not do what you want to do. If people are going to hate you for no reason, you might as well give them a reason. Make them resent you for being so comfortable in yourself that you can express yourself in whatever way you want, make them hate you for embracing the unconventional and for sticking up for what you believe in. And if all else fails, just glitter bomb them.