Coming out is a process. I hate to tell you this, but it never ends. Even now as I’m writing this on the train, I wonder if the person sitting next to me can see what I’m writing, for I fear the silent judgment that lies behind his solemn eyes. Even still, I think back to the earlier years in my life, that journal entry where I wondered if life was even worth living as a gay person, and those nights I’d stay up crying over my all-consuming, ever-confusing, never-changing sexuality.
For me, coming out started with my mom. The moment I first believed I was gay came in sixth grade, after I took a class with a beautiful English teacher named Ms. L. She was gorgeous—I wanted to wear her clothes, have her friends, and most of all: be hers. But I was in denial, as I still am some days, and told myself it was just a phase. I was just a normal teenage girl with a woman crush hero, nothing more than that.
As the years went on, I shut out my sexuality to everyone including myself. It was not a possibility. I could never be gay. As the years went on, I realized that was becoming a lot harder. I was growing up, and I couldn’t just ignore the feelings I had inside of me. Trying to date a guy was not the answer. That just confirmed everything I had feared the most. I was not and would never be, straight.
When I started high school, I decided the only thing I could do at that point was come out as an ally. I was not ready to tell my family, my friends, or myself about my deep dark secret. Instead, I told my friends about my support for gay marriage, and even had the courage to participate in the Day of Silence one year. I talked about how great it was that Sara Bareilles was such an advocate for gay marriage. I watched Glee every Tuesday night and made sure my friends knew how much I loved Klaine.
After many months of therapy and some long conversations with my mom, I decided it was time to tell my dad. After a particularly intense Paily scene on Pretty Little Liars that discussed the implications of hiding in the closet, I told him. I couldn’t look him in the eyes though. I wasn’t ready for that kind of confrontation. So with a pillow in my face, I said to him, “Dad, I think I’m gay.”
Luckily for me, he was absolutely fine with it. And so were my sister, my grandparents, my aunt, and the few close friends I came out to over the course of that year. The hardest thing for me was being so vulnerable; having to sit someone down and tell them your deepest feelings was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do.
A couple of years later, I can’t say that my life is perfect. I still worry about the person peeking over my shoulder on the train reading my innermost thoughts. But I can say that the process of coming out has become something different for me as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable with my sexuality. Instead of having to sit people down and say the two scariest words of “I’m gay” to people, I’ve learned how to tell people I’m gay without explicitly stating it. I mention to my friends how awesome the latest Everyone Is Gay webcast was; I tell people I need to be excused from the dinner table at college because my girlfriend awaits me on Skype. I’m at a point where I can just be me without having to explain my sexuality.
Don’t get me wrong, things are still a struggle. There are still those family members you can never imagine coming out to, those moments when you freak about having a wife instead of a husband, and panicking over what’s going to happen with two brides at a wedding. But I’ve realized that no one, gay or straight or anything in between, can picture the future.
Looking back, the hardest part about this journey was never what my friends and family thought about me. Deep down inside, I knew that they would be supportive of my sexuality, and I am very lucky for that. The most difficult part for me was coming out to myself, admitting to myself that yes, I like girls, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Having the support of my friends and family did not immediately solve my problem, but it sure as hell made it easier to be comfortable in my own skin.
Coming out is a process. It doesn’t end, but I promise you with time, it will get easier. So please, be a supportive parent and an ally for the community, because it will only make it easier for your child on their journey towards self-acceptance.
Nicole is a rising Junior at Smith College, where she is a double major in the Study of Women and Gender and Music and is an active member of the Student Events Committee. In her spare time, you can find her playing the ukulele, dissecting her favorite television shows, battling heteronormativity, and fangirling over her favorite musicians. This summer, she’ll be interning for GLAAD and Logo TV, and hopes to continue working to ensure positive representations of the queer community in the media.
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