Yes, October 11 is the day we celebrate being able to come out of the closet, whether as gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual, pansexual, or any number of things. (Or some combination thereof.) While the number of people who identify themselves as being part of the LGBT community is rising, there are still plenty of us who are in the closet. And that's okay. If, when, and how to come out is a personal choice. There are literally hundreds of ways to go about it, so in celebration of the day, I thought I'd share five coming out stories. These are all 100% true, gathered from people in my life.
As you read along, see if you can guess which one is mine.
A 13-year-old girl, thanks to recent exposure to Liz Gillies in Victorious, has realized she's into girls as well as guys.
She knows her parents will be fine with it. Some of her friends, she's not so sure, but her parents, she's certain about. She debates how to go about telling them -- or if she even wants to tell them. It's not like anything will change, and frankly, sitting them down and starting a personal discussion sounds like a real drag. Not to mention like it'd be a lot of work. So, what's a girl to do?
She changes her "interested in" on Facebook and figures, if they notice, they notice.
What Friends Are For
For the past six months, a girl has been lying to her best friend. Which she feels really shitty about, but whatever. She's been confiding in her friend about advice for romancing a boy she's interested in, and the friend, like any true pal, has been guiding her as best she can.
One fateful day at lunch, the girl decides she's done lying, and decides to just go for it.
"There's something important I need to tell you. It's kind of a big deal. The boy I like..."
"Wait, did he kiss you? Oh my God, did you kiss him?!"
"What? No! I wish. It's just... I've been saying I like a guy, but it's really a girl."
"...OHHHHHH. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Man, I wish I'd known that. No wonder my advice hasn't been working. Girls are totally different."
The girls then go back to eating their lunch as if nothing happened.
Strangers Behind a Screen
An extremely nerdy "straight" teenage girl joins a small, Harry Potter-based roleplay group online. Although her writing is atrocious, she has a great time, playing Astoria Greengrass. She decides to play Astoria as a bisexual girl who doesn't yet realize she's bisexual. Astoria quickly gains the nickname Oblivious Gay Astoria within the group.
Now, here's a fun fact: not even a month after the group folds, the "straight" girl realizes she's the Oblivious Gay.
Some months later, before this girl has discussed it with anyone in person, she bumps into another member of the group elsewhere online. The two discuss the group and their characters, and eventually get to discussing the inside jokes the group had -- including, of course, the legendary Oblivious Gay Astoria. The girl now fully recognizes and appreciates the irony. And she decides to go for it.
"To be honest," she says, "I think I may have been projecting a bit. Like two weeks after we closed, I realized I'm bi."
"Oh!" the other person responds. "That's great! I'm happy for you."
They then continue chatting, and the girl feels more at ease than she has in weeks. Every now and then, people on the internet can actually not be shitty.
Random Acts of Kindness
A panicking high school freshman outs herself to a complete stranger in the school bathroom, when said stranger notices her freaking out. The discussion goes as follows:
"Whoa, are you okay?"
"My skin is breaking out!"
"Oh, I feel that. Hopefully it'll clear up soon."
"I'm seeing a girl I really like tonight! I can't show up looking like this." And then, internally: Shit.
"...I have some concealer in my bag. Want me to fix th--"
A college student sits in a psychology class that she is only taking because she needs more credit hours to graduate. They're on the chapter about human gender and sexuality, which she was already guessing would be a shitshow. And she was so right.
"I could never date a bisexual guy," a girl in the next row says. "I don't need the competition, or the worrying about cheating."
The student decides to chime in with, "That sounds more like a you problem. It's not like straight men don't cheat all the time."
The discussion continues, and a third student brings up their own bisexuality -- again, trying to debunk some ugly stereotypes. Emboldened, the first student speaks up once again.
"Whoever said bi people have twice as many options are full of it," she says. "Straight people think we're gay, gay people think we're straight. There's so much biphobia on both sides--we basically have to date each other, or die alone."
Much to her relief, this garners no reaction whatsoever, except for one guy mouthing "oh, shiiiiiit" to his friend, but she pretends not to notice that.
So... which story do you think is mine?
Have you decided?
Is that your final answer?
No matter which you picked, you're right... and you're wrong. Because one of those stories isn't mine.
All of them are.
Coming out isn't a one-time thing. It's a constant process for queer people, and it's never over. (At least, not until everyone stops assuming straight and cis is the default. But while I'm wishing, I may as well ask for an impeachment, too.) I've come out approximately... let's see, I want to get the number right here... a billion times. Sometimes more than once to the same people, when those people couldn't get a very simple concept through their heads. None of my experiences were particularity traumatic, and I laugh about them now, but you have to understand, all of those situations were terrifying, even if only for a split-second. And it's not over.
On TV and in movies, the coming out is always done in one, big dramatic speech, and then it's over. The character is just "out."
But that's not how it works in reality. For a lot of my life, I've been out to some people but not to others. (I've recently hit "fuck it," but it's a very recent development.) Straight, cis people reading this, I want you to know, you absolutely know someone who's queer, even if they haven't told you. If they decide to tell you, I am begging you to make it a painless experience. The world needs more pain-free coming out stories.
If you come out today, I'm proud of you. If you stay closeted for whatever reason, I'm still proud of you. Don't let anyone tell you when or how to come out; that's one choice that should be 100% yours.
Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone.
Thank you so much for reading this essay. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.
I'd love to read your thoughts on this essay, coming out, or being queer in general in the comments below. Unless, of course, your thoughts are bigoted, in which case you can kindly fuck off.