And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was lying still
Said I gotta do something
About where we’re going
– U2, “Running to Stand Still“
One year ago today, I came out.
Much has occurred since that day. Let’s take a look at some of those happenings, shall we?
I broke up with some of my friends. That statement wasn’t the happiest way to begin my list, to be sure, but it is realistic. Some of my friends (“friends”?) ended up being horrible. I expected that from some people. Others surprised me because I thought they were better than that. Sometimes it got kind of ugly. Sometimes crying was involved.
I realized that if I was super-afraid of coming out to a friend, maybe our relationship wasn’t as great as I’d thought it was. Maybe I needed to find new friends. Shouldn’t we be able to trust our friends? Aren’t our friends supposed to accept us and love us just as we are? It seems so obvious now but it took me forever to realize that if I answered “yes” to the questions above (which I did) then… shouldn’t I find some new people who would treat me the way real friends do?
I think the reason I struggled with this for so long was that I still felt a sense of loyalty, however irrational, towards these people. One of my ex-friends said some things about me that I can’t even repeat here but it STILL took me a long time to move on. I’ve never had many friends so I tend to become really attached to the ones I do have, and I guess I just kept thinking about all the fun, happy things we’d done together in the past.
Eventually I realized that I needed to find new people. People who would do fun, happy things with me in the present and future and act like decent human beings. I’m not going to name any names, but you know who you are. Some of you have even told me that you read my blog, so I hope you see this.
I discovered what it physically feels like to come out. It’s like fire and ice and rage. It’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun. It’s ancient and forever. It burns at the center of time and can see the turn of the universe and… wait a minute, that’s not a description of coming out! That’s a description of the Tenth Doctor!
Sorry about that.
Coming out is different for everyone but for me personally, the physical feelings I experience are almost as bad as anything I may experience mentally. When I come out to someone, my heart pounds so hard that I think it’s going to burst out of my body and I feel like I might throw up. Sometimes I start crying. Sometimes I feel dizzy.
IT SUCKS, basically. But… what is the alternative? If I don’t tell anyone, they’ll assume I’m straight and that would be awkward. And a lie.
I spent a long time wondering if my feelings of both mental and physical anxiety about coming out would ever go away. Now I’m pretty sure that even if they never go away, they will almost certainly lessen! I have never not felt worried and slightly sick when coming out. However, I have noticed that as time goes on and I tell more and more people, it does get easier. It’s unrealistic to expect that someday, coming out won’t worry me at all – there are just too many nasty people in the world for that to be possible. Hopefully someday we’ll get rid of homophobia but I don’t think it will happen within my lifetime.
With that said, I do think it is getting better. Other people are getting better. And I’m getting better. I have more practice at coming out than I did a year ago, and I have far more people backing me up now. For example, coming out was TERRIFYING back when there weren’t any adults who knew and supported me.
It’s getting better now, slowly but surely. And that makes dealing with the icky physical feelings easier. Yeah, they suck. But they don’t suck as much as they used to.
I began to understand that coming out isn’t a one-time deal. It’s something that I must do over and over again, for my entire life. I vaguely knew this before coming out (that is, my first major coming out – telling my parents) but ever since last June, I’ve been much more aware of this.
A few months ago, I saw the following statement floating somewhere around the Internet: “‘I came out once and then never had to again,’ said no one ever.”
That’s very accurate. We talk about coming out as if it only happens once in a queer person’s lifetime but that’s just not true. I’ve told a number of people but there are still plenty who don’t know. I constantly try to decipher people, to figure out if it’s safe to come out to them, to learn whether I should go through that whole weird process once again. IT NEVER ENDS.
I felt much less stressed. That’s not to say that I never ever feel stressed now. Coming out can be scary, duh. But as I said above, it’s soooooo much easier when I have people who will support me.
And besides, now I don’t have to worry about pretending to be straight. That was EXHAUSTING and I HATED IT and eventually it got to the point where I just couldn’t handle it any longer.
Sure, I get stressed now. But I stress about college applications and the SAT instead of college applications and the SAT and pretending to be straight. I don’t think I would’ve dealt with all three together very well had I not come out. That’s a lot of pressure coming from a lot of different things.
I discovered how much I love being open about my identity, how much I love being able to read and write and talk about this stuff, and how much I love not hiding. HOW DID I MANAGE TO STAY IN THE CLOSET FOR SO LONG? I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA.
I love being able to finally be myself.
I love not having to censor myself. I used to lie and say that I thought certain boys were cute, so people would think I liked guys and not girls.
I love not having to pretend that I’m just an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. I hated doing that. That wasn’t me. I was concerned about LGBTQ+ issues because they affected me directly, not because I was just a supporter.
I love being able to blog about LGBTQ+ issues that matter to me, and to read books about adorable fictional queer girls (and plenty of other LGBTQ+ characters) without anyone going, “Why are you reading this? Are you gay or something?”
I love being able to stop conversations about my presumed heterosexuality in their tracks. I don’t come out to everyone (because some people worry me) but I am now able to tell more people if and when I need to – I feel really, really, really uncomfortable when people think I have a boyfriend, or that I wish I had one. Now I have more freedom to say, “Actually, I like girls.”
One year ago today, I came out. And one year later, I’m very happy that I did. I won’t pretend that there haven’t been icky moments but… overall, I feel much better. I spent the first sixteen-odd years of my life pretending to be someone else and then I just stopped. I’d had enough.
And that act created so many changes. I learned a lot and I thought a lot and in the end, I’m really glad that I made the decision to come out.