By Tess Clothier
My plan for coming out to my family was, for a long time, to tell my parents via email on National Coming Out Day (NCOD), just after I moved away to university–but that wasn’t what actually happened.
I had had the letter saved on my computer for months– three drafts of it, in fact. So when I woke up one morning last July, I was already, to some extent, prepared. I’m not sure why I chose that day months before NCOD, but it just felt right to me. Marriage equality had passed one week prior in the United States, there were still good vibes everywhere from Pride Month, and I was going away with friends for a week the following day, so I had an “out” if I needed one. It was perfect.
I did some quick editing on one of my coming-out letters. I am much better at expressing myself through the written word, and I knew that writing an email was, for me, the best way to get out everything I needed to say without breaking down, forgetting something, or being interrupted. I then sent copies to friends to proofread. That was super useful–having people who knew what I was about to do and who could support me as I did it, and as I waited for a response.
Then I sent the email and waited. I should add that when I sent it, my mother and I were both at home. It took my mum about 15 minutes to receive and read the email, but then she came into my room crying, and I cried too. She told me she loved me, and then made a joke that I’m sure many parents make, upon learning that their daughter isn’t attracted to men: “At least I won’t have to worry about you accidentally getting pregnant!” We laughed through our tears, and all was good.
My dad wasn’t in when I sent the email, so when he returned, he immediately came to see me and told me everything was fine–it was my life, after all. I was so, so thankful.
I told my sister, who was 14 at the time, a few weeks later. That was also unplanned. I had chosen to wait because I just wasn’t ready, and I wasn’t sure what she’d think of me once she knew. When I did eventually come out to her, I wasn’t really sure why. The timing just felt right, and I knew I wanted to do it before I moved away. So I went up to see her after she’d gone to bed one night and told her. She was definitely surprised, but she took it well, and now she is learning all about the queer community.
Later that year, I did get my NCOD moment. I had moved away from home to go to university, and I decided I was going to come out on Facebook–again, unplanned. The good vibes on social media from NCOD won me over, and I posted a Human Rights Campaign image declaring that I was a lesbian. I don’t think I had ever been as nervous as I was that night, and I immediately went downstairs to see my housemate just because I didn’t feel like I could be by myself while I waited for the response. This single post would inform people from my secondary school, everyone at university who didn’t know yet, and, most terrifyingly, my entire extended family, most of whom are Catholic. But I was so incredibly relieved when congratulations and good words came in from everyone I knew, from people from school I wasn’t even close to, and, most importantly, from my Catholic extended family. I know that I am lucky to have such supportive family and friends, and I am so thankful.
When I was closeted, I was so scared. I was scared of the reactions from the people I loved. But now, looking back, I can see that I had nothing to be afraid of. I have yet to receive a negative response from anyone, friend or stranger. And I’m now about as openly queer as you can get–I’m VP of my university’s LGBT+ society, and I get to translate for My Kid Is Gay!
I guess the moral of my story is probably that not everything has to be planned, and not everything will go according to the “worst-case scenario” you’ve come up with in your head. Sometimes, the best thing is to just go with your gut–if it feels right, it feels right. And that’s okay.
Tess Clothier studies French and Spanish at the University of Surrey, UK, where she is currently Vice President of the student-run LGBT+ society. She can often be found where music is playing, reading books and articles that are completely irrelevant to her degree. She also likes playing guitar and getting far too emotionally invested in TV shows (currently Buffy and The X Files). Follow her on Twitter @tess_clothier.