Coming Out — A Spectrum of Stories
Originally Published: October 8, 2015
Revised: October 8, 2015
Half a century ago, it would have been unheard of for an LGBT person to be out and proud about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now, the majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, we have an entire month dedicated to LGBT history and National Coming Out Day is celebrated every October 11th.
From the Stonewall Riots of 1969 all the way up to Massachusetts becoming the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, the LGBT community has come a long way in gaining acceptance and equality. Since National Coming Out Day is just around the corner, now is a good time to reflect on the fact that even though coming out might be easier than it has ever been for some people, that doesn’t mean every LGBTQ person will have an amazing closet escape.
There are always those who don’t take the news so well, those who frankly couldn’t care less, and those who love you more because of it.
Not Wholly Positive or Negative
Personally, my experiences of coming out as a lesbian to family, friends and peers have been easy, and I am very grateful for that. My step-mother even said that she was proud of the fact I was being the real me! But I have also heard my friends’ tales of making their exit from the closet, and they aren’t as positive as mine. And just as sexual orientation and gender exist on spectrums, coming out stories are spectrums too; most aren’t wholly positive or wholly negative. Though we are a part of one community, we all have different backgrounds.
Below are quotes from teens who have bravely shared with me a bit about their coming-out stories. Not all of them are examples of complete acceptance, but hopefully in the future positivity is the only thing that results from coming out and showing our true colors:
“None of my peers really knew what gay was until I came out in seventh grade. Being one of the first people in my area to even come out I feel like I faced a more extreme amount of criticism than some of my other peers but in the end I think that coming out early was the best decision that I could have made. I know exactly who I am when so many people are still finding themselves.”
—Jacob Miranda, 18, Bridgeton, NJ
“It was the seventh grade and people tried to beat me up about it, I remember that. My dad said that it made him want to kill himself and my mom honestly believes that me and my girlfriend at age 12 were ‘just friends’.”
—Amanda C., 19, Brooklyn, NY
“I came out as pansexual officially when I was 13. I lived in a small, conservative town, so naturally I was met with a lot of resistance. One time I even had food thrown at me. However, when I got to high school I joined [the gay-straight alliance] and eventually became president of this great organization. I was able to actually do something in my fight for equal rights and equal treatment, and I was suddenly connected to a huge network of people who felt the same way as I do. Becoming involved in the community is what made me not afraid to have pride.”
—Jennifer Mosch, 17, San Jose, CA
“I knew that my immediate family would be supportive so one day I just said I was gay. I’m not out to my extended family though because I know they’re homophobic.”
—Lillian M., 16, Brick, NJ
“Coming out for me was fairly positive. I wasn’t met with much opposition. I told my family I was really into girls, and they nodded with acknowledgement [and] proceeded to say, “Well, OK. We kinda always knew. So anyways, what do you want for dinner?’”
—Ela Plutowski, 19, Daytona Beach, FL
“I came out to a Christian family , my grandfather [is] a retired pastor. The experience was not something I want to re-live, but it was a time where I found support in my friends, teachers and peers.”
—Jenni Brown, 17, Bridgeton, NJ
“Coming out has never come easy to me. There are always those who don’t take the news so well, those who frankly couldn’t care less, and those who love you more because of it.”
–Atlas Beckett*, 17, Tega Cay, SC
“When I first came out to my friends, I was still questioning. I labelled myself as bisexual; later I realized I was actually pansexual. Once people understood what pansexual meant, everyone was really supportive and understanding. That inspired me to come out to my parents; both of them supported me fully.”
–Ellie Hegarty, 14, UK
*Atlas Beckett is a pseudonym for a teen who lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina.
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