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National Coming Out Day – My Coming Out Story

National Coming Out Day – My Coming Out Story

As well as being the day of the National Equality March, Sunday October 11th is also National Coming Out day in America, which gives lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people the opportunity to be open about their sexuality.

Coming out is a very personal process, but it often begins many months, perhaps even years, before the event itself, and even then it is often staggered as one begins to open up to an increasingly wider circle of people.

I first came out to a close friend a few weeks after my sixteenth birthday. We were stood outside the school gates waiting for her mom to come and pick her up, and I found myself telling her about feelings I had for a male classmate we both knew. She was understanding about it and let me talk. I can’t really describe how good it felt to finally tell someone.

But coming out started a long time before that, and carried on for quite a few years after.

I was six years old when I first became aware of… something. I was watching Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire with my mom. There is the famous scene where Brando stands and cries outside Stella’s apartment, calling out for her.

I should stress that I don’t remember being physically attracted to Brando, or anyone, at that age, but there was something about him that had me transfixed, and my mother remarked that I’d never been so quiet for so long before. It was a small moment, but when I look back now, that’s where I can point to as the first evidence of my emerging sexuality.

I can’t really tell you about coming out without also telling you about school, though. I loved school. There were so many things to do, to learn, to know and to experience. School was magic. School was brilliant…

But then a word swept the halls like a wildfire. That word was ‘Gay’.

“Don’t be gay.” That was the catchphrase, the absolute rule. Don’t. Be. Gay.  And that was one of the better words from a vocabulary I’d quickly become familiar with as I moved into high school.

“Are you gay?” That’s what the other kids asked me, following it up with a show of a limp wrist and a laugh. “Gay boy,” I was called. Inexplicably, they seemed to know more than I did because I’d not even begun to figure out that aspect of myself. I was, however, starting to suspect…

I denied it at the time, and to distance my self from it, anything I perceived as gay had to be got rid of. That purple shirt? Thrown out. Listening to pop music? I gave the CDs to charity. It even got to the point where I considered what the manly way was to tie my shoes.

It might sound funny, and even ludicrous, now, but it was exhausting – monitoring everything I said, everything I did, it was like mental torture. My grades, my health, my relationships with my friends and my family, they all suffered. 

To make matters worse, there was a guy at my school, and he’d been shaving since he was thirteen, and he was strong of build and prominent of jaw line, and I would have given anything to have him notice me. His name was Ross. He looked like a young Marlon Brando, all be it with a shaved head. And my prayers were answered, he did notice me– he and his four friends, they used to beat me up after school, or at any time, actually, when they could get me alone and we weren’t likely to be disturbed.

In a funny way though, as awful as it was – and sometimes it made me think of suicide – this frequent bullying helped me. Something snapped into place one night after a particularly nasty time of having my head hit repeatedly against the wall of the school bathroom, thus forcing me to walk home alone rather than catching the bus so that I did not run into my aggressors again; as I went along the three mile track that led close to where I lived, I started to think that I obviously wasn’t doing a very good job of hiding being gay because everyone, in spite of my efforts to the contrary, seemed to know that I was. I had a sore head that proved it, didn’t I? So it begged the question, why was I pretending?

It had fallen dark, and the night was still. Although I was alone and probably should have been afraid given what had just happened, I felt like I’d stumbled on something, although barely formed, that was quite powerful. A little grain of truth. I suddenly felt a wave of calm wash through me. I’d come out to myself,  and that was the biggest hurdle for me.

Not long after, I came out to that certain school friend I mentioned earlier. And the vice-like grip that had seemed to hold me in its jaws for so long loosened a little bit more. I felt like I was finally in control of who I was. I’m pleased to say the bullying dropped away, as did my affection for Ross, who, not long after, left school and was out of my life for good.

Gradually, over the course of the next two years, I came out to more and more of my friends. Telling my dad took longer. Telling my four brothers even longer still.

There’s never really the right time to say it, and there’s simply not a good way to drop it into the conversation. And you shouldn’t. Not unless you’re absolutely sure you are ready to announce it. This might sound like I’m going against accepted advice when people say, come out, come out now! It’s the best thing you can do!

But, my opinion is that the best thing you can do is come out– when it’s right for you. And only you can know that. Make it as relaxed as possible. Don’t heap pressure on yourself. Keep it short, keep it light.

If you don’t think your parents/guardians/friends are going to be accepting of it, wait until the situation changes and you aren’t dependent on them. This is crucial. It’s your sexuality. You are in control. Don’t feel bullied or pressured by an idea that this is what you have to do.

But I can honestly say that coming out improved my relationship with my dad 100%. He finally understood me in a way he never could before. But give your parents time to adapt to the information too. This is the only other piece of advice that I think translates well to almost every coming out situation: your parents’ initial reaction might not be their true feelings. 

Telling them you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a big thing for them to process because its talking about a fundamental aspect of who you are. I’d wager that most parents already knew, at least on some level, but even so it may provoke strong emotions from them.

Some will be happy that you’ve told them. Others might get angry. At first. But given time, that could pass, they’d adjust and come to accept you for all that you are. That’s not everyone’s experience, unfortunately, but I think it would be fair to say that it is an experience shared by a growing majority of LGBTs.

Below are some links to help you find out more about coming out, and even a step by step guide that I thought gave some helpful advice.

Resources:

FAQ on Coming Out.
Personal Stories of Coming Out.
How To Come Out – A Step by Step Guide.
Coming Out as Lesbian or Bisexual – Stories from Across the World.

Have Your Say:
Above was my story, told here to hopefully allow other people to share theirs.  Have you come out? Has a member of your family? What was it like? Was your experience completely different from mine? Or, for whatever reason, do you think that coming out is overrated or not necessary? Let me know your thoughts.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Marlit.

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20 comments

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12:54PM PDT on Apr 29, 2010

CONGRATS Steve for "coming out" , for your article and for including us in your life. I am straight woman, who defends gay rights, why not ? you are human, right ? your story it's amazing and I truly love you for that. Gays, lesbians etc. were here long , long before our time, some were great artist , some were musicians, some were common people but at the end, humans with feelings and desires, just like the rest of us. My son lived in San Francisco for a year and I got the chance to visited "The rainbow place", loooved it ... colorful and fun, it's funny to say that you can feel the love every where..... I thought my son not to judge others about their tendencies and to be respecful about the subject. Thanks Steve, you are loved by = The Big Big Boss = take care.

6:11AM PDT on Apr 26, 2010

My family seemed to know I was gay years before I did and tried to "fix" the situation by sending me to live with relatives in other states when I was 9. After one relative wanted to put me into therapy at 11 Mom brought me back home (I think she feared what I might tell about her). I was told not to walk, talk or laugh the way I did. I drew clothes designs and was very passionate about it, my parents were frustrated and Mom threw out 5 years work as soon as I went off to college. I sought counseling at college and finally was able to come out and live my own life.

3:53PM PDT on Oct 15, 2009

Thanks Steve for the wonderful article we should celebrate EQUALITY descrimination NO

2:09PM PDT on Oct 15, 2009

Jessica J- I'm bisexual, even though I'm in the closet, so I understand your pain of not belonging to either group. Being in the closet, I feel so much pressure to act and be straight. This article was an amazing insight to what coming out is like.

8:57AM PDT on Oct 14, 2009

LOL By the way? Keep writing for Care 2 but do get some sun!!! Helps ward of the flu!!!

8:54AM PDT on Oct 14, 2009

""Are you gay?" That's what the other kids asked me, following it up with a show of a limp wrist and a laugh. "Gay boy," I was called. Inexplicably, they seemed to know more than I did because I'd not even begun to figure out that aspect of myself. I was, however, starting to suspect..."

No they didn't know more than you did. Boys feel the biggest insult you can say to another is that they are gay. Why? I don't know. LOL But they do. I think that you should be congratulated for handling things as well as you did. The "crush" feelings you had for another boy and the rejection or lack of interest is a very normal thing for ALL kids in school. While some may see it as abnormal or what ever it is a perfectly normal way for things to go when young & in school. The only difference is your preference of crush. ? I am not sure if that is worded right as I do not consider being gay a preference, as being just a natural way for some people to be. The only real difference is the harsh way that other's deal with it. And it is sad that more people cannot be raised with compassion for other's that are not exactly the same little clone as them. Am I gay? No. But I have seen many go through some rough times because they are. Including an incident that happened a few years ago to my Aunt, who was assaulted outside a pub, because she is gay and living in a small town where everyone knows your business.

12:47PM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

Thank you to all who have read this article so far. I'm immensely grateful, and if it can help even one person, then I think everything would be worth it. I just wanted to say a few things:

I"ve added a link to Bisexual and Lesbian coming out stories from around the world. I'm looking for a specific resource for transexual and transgender people who want to come out. Please check back if that is something that you'd like to read.

To Jessica J. - I think what you've said is so true. Unfortunately there is a prejudice in the gay community against bisexual people that they somehow don't have a legitimacy to feel alienated, when there's perhaps even more animosity given out to them - both the straight and gay community. Hopefully as the movement grows it will learn tolerance within its own ranks too. Thank you for sharing a bit about your story with us.

To Elvira: I am so sorry that you've had to suffer such pain, but you are a shining example of strength in the face of such prejudice, so I want to say thank you to you for sharing a little about your story. You are not alone because you've touched us here today.

To Heather O. Thank you for bringing a story about a transgender person (your brother) to this post because I can't begin to imagine what it must be like coming to terms with that, but for also mentioning the impact that not coming out can have on family members who do know that secret. Really interesting and insightful. Thank you :)

3:13AM PDT on Oct 13, 2009

Thanks for sharing your story Steve! I know exactly what you meant about being 6 years old and knowing something is different but not what! Here we get those toy doctor kits when we are kids and I always enjoyed playing doctor with my male friends better than my female friends. One does know something at quite an early age.

Sandy, I think most of us have kicked that around before but I don't personally believe that to be the case because it's not that we didn't have friends or fit in, it's just that there were some who like to call kids without a "normal" voice or walk, Names. What I have found is this is kind of a monkey see monkey do syndrome. In other words, one of the name calling kids had at least one adult in his/her life that stereotyped actions and named them. For instance carrying your books in a certain way here was supposed to mean the difference between being a guy and being girlish? We are talking grade school. It's pretty stupid when you look back.

I tried to be what my family and friends wanted me to be, or at least what I thought they wanted me to be. I didn't come out till I was 24. I honestly thought I was the only gay person in town! I wish I had met someone in late grade school or high school that was like me. I met my 1st openly gay person when I was working at a grocery store. He knew somehow and eventually made friends with me. It was so natural to come out and such a relief. I don't think many people were surprised as far as family & friends.

9:48PM PDT on Oct 12, 2009

Thank you so much, Steve, for sharing your own coming out story; it is always brave and so loving to share about doing do so, for all of us LGBTs. And as always thank you so much for your clarity. As a little girl I was artistically and musically talented, and I was equally attracted to both the male & female nude statues at the town museum. I would wait 'til the guards were well away and nobody else was in the room, and I would just touch the statues' ankles or the like - nothing more. I was a "tomboy" and wasn't into the whole dolls thing; I preferred to spend my time up climbing trees and running as fast as the wind. I was even ambidextrous as a kid, before they forced that out of me in school. So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised nearly a half century later when I finally realized that I was bisexual. Bless the lovely lesbian who asked me out on my first date with a woman; we dated for awhile - the chemistry was definitely there from the beginning - but she took the risk of asking out a "straight" woman [her gaydar was better than mine, obviously!]. Our first date was to a New Year's Eve dance at a local lesbian hangout; wow - what an epiphany to be there on a date - even though my family had many close lesbian and gay friends and I'd had many such friends myself in my life. It's different when one looks in one's own mirror at the truth, finally. I came out to a few friends, then my grown kids, then to my lovely Mom; Dad had died too soon to tell, but he knows..

11:23AM PDT on Oct 12, 2009

(THREE REPLIES? I MUST BE INSANE) I wish he would come out.

But I respect his decision not to...okay respect is a little strong...I accept it but his life would be a whole lot easier if he did come out. If it were otherwise I wouldn't even suggest it.

*sighs*

And there ends my Coming Out Day tirade...yeesh!!

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