Words by Gaby Caplan
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Riots, this year World Pride is being celebrated in New York (if you were unaware of this, the chances are you’re living under a rock).
We hope one day that coming out will not require bravery or courageousness, but until that blissful day we celebrate those who stand by their authentic self and live their truth in the face of bigotry and discrimination. Below are some inspiring and heroic coming out stories.
If you’re reading these stories and considering coming out, we want you to know that you are not alone. There have been millions of people who have come out before you and there will be millions who will come out after you. They will all tell you that coming out is never as catastrophic as you expect it to be. Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be.
We love you.
I came out when I was 15 years old, I had just lost my virginity to a girl two months prior. I worked at a pizza place and she cheated on me with my boss so I was like ‘OK well good’ because I pretty much knew at that point that I was not feeling the whole ‘girl thing’. After that I fell hard straight into depression. At that point I didn’t want to talk to my parents or be around my family and we are super close knit usually. I just hated everyone! I didn’t realise at the time that I was pushing them away because I didn’t want them to figure me out. My mum had gone through depression, so I understood that you could have feelings of sadness for no reason, so I thought ‘OK this is totally normal then’ and that it had nothing to do with my sexuality.
I started taking depression medicine, it was under control and I had asked my parents if I could take a trip back to New York for spring break because at that point I was living in Vegas. I got to New York and while hanging out with my old friends I felt like myself again. I threw all of my depression medicine down the toilet. When I got on the plane I started writing about how I wanted my relationship with my family to change and how I was going to stop secluding myself in my room.
When I landed my parents picked me up and I told them I flushed my medicine, I was feeling way better and that I didn’t have depression anymore. I thought ‘yay all I needed to do was see my old friends again’. I went to sleep and the next day I fell straight back into it and had this overwhelming feeling of anger, I felt so empty. That night my parents wanted to watch a movie and they asked me to join. I got angry and locked myself in my room and just sat there and sobbed.
Eventually I just stopped and said the only thing that came to my head at that moment which was ‘I’m gay’. It was the most random thing but there was nothing else, it was just that. I had come out to my mom a few times stating I was bisexual admitting ‘I just don’t like girls that much’ to which she had responded ‘well then wouldn’t you be gay’. I would get angry and jump straight back into the closet refusing the accusation.
I called my mom into the room, and I was crying but at that point I had already made up my mind and she embraced me and was just happy that I was coming to terms with who I am. We were so close so for her to see me so sad this entire time, I think she felt super helpless. Everyone, especially my mum, was wanting to get out on the front line and start rioting and shouting it from the rooftops. My dad was understanding and didn’t make it feel like I was going through a phase. When I said it for the first time out loud, the ground didn’t split open and swallow me whole like I thought and I stopped crying immediately. I felt such a sense of relief and I haven’t taken depression medicine since that day.
After some time out of the closet I started playing with my sexuality, wearing makeup etc. and I remember the first time coming to them with a full face of makeup on and they didn’t even blink – nothing. They were never phased, not even a little bit. I continued to push the boundaries in makeup and my fashion, I even came out as Trans to them a couple of times. It was during those moments that I am so proud to be part of my family. They never cared or second guessed anything, the entire time they just wanted me to be who I am, whoever that was going to be.
I had two coming out experiences and the second one is not really complete yet, I’m still in the process of it. Growing up I always felt like I didn’t quite fit the role that I thought I should. It was a mixture of not being interested in girly things and not being comfortable in my own body and skin. Everyone feels a little awkward at times but for me it felt a little deeper than what everyone else seemed to be going through. Language is very powerful and when you don’t have the language to express how you feel you just feel ‘weird’ and you don’t know why or how. I just didn’t have the vocabulary to understand myself yet.
I was an athlete my whole life, everyone knows the stereotype that if you’re a female basketball player you’re obviously gay which is great. However, most of my teammates were very homophobic. I grew up around that group of girls who used slurs and said things such as ‘ugh there’s so many dykes here’. I was trying to navigate being queer and discovering my queerness while being surrounded by these people who were so homophobic. It was toxic for me, but basketball was my life.
Fast forward a little – I started dating a girl in high school when I was 16. We were really good friends and we were having a sleepover one day and she leaned in and kissed my neck and I thought ‘oh my god is this happening?’ We had been flirting but I wasn’t sure if she really knew she was flirting. We had another sleepover and she straddled me and we began making out, so she was aware after-all. We dated for about two years in high school but I was completely in the closet the entire time. Now that I’ve realised my sexuality and I’m out, I understand how much being in the closet while loving someone for two years fucks with your head. At the time I thought I was still happy and living, but I never understood how damaging holding your breath for two years would be. Now, not hiding who I am, I just feel so much more present.
We broke up for college because we wanted to do our own things. In freshman year I eventually came out to my parents because whilst attending college I was able to be my true self but then I would visit home and have to hide this major thing about me. I just felt like two completely different people. I felt so fake when I was home like I was lying.
In college I started dating my current girlfriend, during which I cut off all my hair, this was a little over a year ago. I started wearing all of my ‘male’ clothing in public. I had button ups hidden in my closet but I never wore them near my parents because I thought this would be an obvious giveaway of my queerness. Plus, I always thought that it was because of my sexuality thinking I was just a butch female. But, when I started openly exploring my identity and gender expression, I realised there was other stuff going on here besides just being a butch woman.
So the reason I say I have two coming outs is because I am still trying to figure out what my gender identity is. I have a lot of trans friends in the community. Now that I am around people who I can relate to and have a vocabulary with which to explore these concepts and express myself. So I realised there’s this whole other side to myself that I am ‘allowed’ to look into and not feel insecure about. In a very quick roundabout way, that is my coming out story(ies), they’re still happening and evolving and I’m comfortable with just being ‘there’ for now.
While growing up I never saw myself as different despite being aware of my sexuality but I’ve noticed since being out that my whole way of ‘being’ has changed, because being gay isn’t just your sexuality but its also the way you live and act, it’s about what you see and how you see it. I think if I was allowed to have been this version of myself growing up I would have been, but I was forced to act ‘straight’ or hide behind my comical nature. Like most kids all I wanted to do at school was fit in so my sexuality took a backseat. I just genuinely didn’t feel the need to say it yet.
In the months leading up to my coming out I had begun to come to terms with myself and my sexuality and had prepared myself by stating the fact out loud. I would sit in the bath and I would repeatedly say it to myself – ‘I’m gay I’m gay, I’m gay…’ It wasn’t a revelation to me, but being able to say it and speak it out loud was a big step for me. On the night of the 13th of July my mom and I were sitting in my lounge watching T.V. We were watching a documentary about gay couples adopting kids and I always felt really uncomfortable watching gay people on TV because at the time they terrified me. They were like a mirror which revealed by true self, and I thought if everyone was watching these gay people on T.V. then maybe they’re thinking about me and my sexuality. I guess I was scared of the gaydar. We finished the documentary and went to bed but I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning and it progressed into a full blown panic attack. I felt like I needed to tell my mum right at that moment because it was so sickening and frightening, I just never wanted to feel that way again.
I went into my mum’s bedroom and I woke her up. She was so shocked by my crying and shaking self (she later told me she thought I had murdered someone). I told her but I didn’t look at her in the eye and she was unexpectedly surprised. My mum was actually the only person I came out to who was genuinely surprised. Nicole Scherzinger had saved me there because I actually thought she was gorgeous growing up so whenever she came on TV I would outwardly say ‘oh my god she’s gorgeous’. I wasn’t lying because I do find her stunning but it was a way for me to throw my mom off the scent. I wasn’t ready to come out any earlier than I did because in the environment I was living in it would have been seen as weird. I also for some reason believed that coming out was attention seeking, which probably comes from my Britishness.
I asked my mum to relay the message to my dad for me as we don’t really connect on an emotional level in the same way. He came to me the next day with loads of ‘straight man questions’, like ‘on a scale of 1-10 how gay are you?.’ I think he was just hoping I was still exploring or unsure, when I answered ‘11’ it cleared things up a little for him. We’ve never spoken about it since. I’m sure he believes that if he just ignores it for long enough it will disappear with time. Obviously in an ideal world I would love there to be open communication about the topic and it does frustrate me that there’s not. After telling my family I didn’t tell friends for another 3 years. I began experimenting with boys on my year abroad because it was much easier to tell strangers that I was gay as the friendship was a blank slate. The first few experiences I had with guys I felt really guilty afterwards and I wasn’t sure why, I felt really gross; that slowly faded with time. As I was telling my new friends in Geneva I realised that I hadn’t told my friends back in London. As I got older and matured I stopped needing the world’s acceptance and focused on those who truly love me, so I told them when I got back.
I never felt like there was anything to be proud of per say because I just knew it was a part of who I am and I didn’t choose it, I was just ‘born that way’. But I am proud of coming out and choosing to live as my authentic self. New York really helped me in that sense. Being there for 2 months was the first time in my life I actually found I was proud to be gay. I’m not sure why, there was no rally, protest or parade happening. An element of it was that I was fully independent and with a completely fresh group of people so it felt very exciting and freeing. But also, consciously or not, I’ve found people let me know that it’s ‘OK’ with them that I’m gay in discreet ways. In New York people just take you for face value and New Yorkers generally have that attitude of ‘take it or leave it.’ I felt 100% accepted in New York and it was OK to shout my gayness from the rooftops. There’s a big difference between feeling like you have ‘permission’ to be a certain way (i.e. you’re ‘allowed’ to do something), and people saying you SHOULD be doing it. For me, London tells you it’s OK to be who you want, but New York says ‘you better fucking be you, because we see straight through the fakeness and we don’t have time for the bullshit.’
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