We’ve watched as celebrities have taken the plunge, willingly or not, and have come out to millions of people. Ellen Page, Raven Symone, Caitlyn Jenner, Sam Smith; there is no ‘one-story-fits-all’. Some face criticism, some receive love, respect and admiration, while for others it simply isn’t that big a deal. This month, Quench asked students to tell their stories.
Elliott, Biology, First Year
One of the things they don’t tell you about coming out is that it’s a continual process. It’s not a day of telling everyone you know, and then that’s that. In fact it’s the opposite, it’s a decision you have to make every time you meet someone new.
Well, not every time. I don’t mean that I announce to the cashier that ‘by the way, I’m bi’. Or that when I ask someone on the bus to move over I do it with a, ‘just so you know I’m transgender’. I mean that every time you make a new friend, or see a family member you have to figure out whether they’re worth revealing this piece of information to. With practice it can get better, but there is no way to make that first time any easier.
The first person I came out to was my mum. I was eleven and had just figured out that my feelings for one of the girls at my school weren’t strictly platonic, so I did what most eleven year old’s do when confused, and asked my mum. I planned it for days, the exact words to use, how she’d react. But when the moment finally came I just panicked and shouted “Mum, I think I’m a lesbian!” Her reply is still one of my favourite things she has ever said to me.
“Yes dear, probably, can you put the washing away?”
While overall I was lucky with my immediate family, not every coming out story has ended as happily. Like most LGBTQ people I have lost both friends and family after coming out. My favourite bad reaction was when I came out to my friend whilst we were in Costa; just as he picked up the tray I told him I was bi and he dropped it, drinks and all.
Despite the fact it can often be funny, coming out has to be one of the scariest things I have to do on a regular basis. Statistics like “in the last seven years 1700 transgender people have been murdered in Europe”, or that 55% of LGBTQ youth are bullied after coming out, or even just the horror stories shared by friends of bad coming out experiences make each time I have to do it a little scarier.
So whilst coming out can be liberating, exciting, and oftentimes necessary just for sanity’s sake, it’s also scary, daunting, and can get tiring very quickly.
Luke, Media and Communications, First Year
It sucks that life doesn’t come with a “How-To” manual; and even if it did, I still don’t think it’d come with a “Coming Out” section. My biggest worry when I was a teenager was how I would be seen in secondary school.
Am I being too camp? Should I really wear this? Do I need more male friends? Do I seem gay?
During a time where the word “gay” is thrown about freely as an insult, it was hard for me to separate my identity with the word that the majority of the boys in my school saw as a bad thing. Fraught with anxiety, school up until GCSEs was a minefield. One wrong step and I might be labelled as “the gay”. Thankfully, when I got to the age of sixteen I finally realised that none of the people in my life that I cared about would have an issue with me being gay, and I set about slowly becoming more me.
Calling back from the days of MSN and many late-night deep conversations, I recall how worried I was to actually tell the people that mattered, individually, about who I really was and how relieved I felt to unburden myself with something lumbered on me from birth. By the end of year 10 I was fairly sure everyone knew, even those outside of my friendship group even who I I didn’t officially “come out” to – but at that point I just didn’t care. The often falsely dramatic and uncomfortable coming out experience is not something any straight person has to consider. I’ve always felt I was happy being myself and that those who have known me well will probably suss things out for themselves. I acted how I wanted, and didn’t worry about being treated a certain way, mainly because I wasn’t being treated any differently before.
By year twelve I’d had one or two people come to me, and ask me for advice on ‘how to come out’. The best thing I could tell them was to just be themselves, because the most awful feeling in life is being unable to be your truest self.
Sarah, Cardiff – Bordeaux Politics Programme, First Year
I guess the first, and most important step towards coming out is self-acceptance. Probably because I grew up in a tolerant and broadly open-minded environment, I had always considered having homosexual experiences as a possibility. Therefore, although I had felt heterosexual so far, and had never even been attracted to a person of the same sex before, accepting I had this huge crush on a girl was in the end pretty easy. I have to say, however, that I am also very lucky this happened while I was far from all of my friends and family; past the initial surprise, I was able to explore this new aspect of myself, free from pressure or the fear of judgement your entourage can sometimes bring.
There was definitely more to it than exploration though; after a few weeks, I realized not only that I had actual feelings for this girl, but also that they were reciprocal. That’s when things became a bit more complicated. Although she never asked me to clearly define what I was, I felt the need to; both to feel more credible and to make sense of these unprecedented feelings. Looking back now, I am starting to understand that I won’t be able to say whether I am bisexual or lesbian before long. I don’t personally need to know precisely what I am, neither does my girlfriend – we’re in love and that’s far enough for us, as for a vast majority of our friends.
However, I can tell that to my parents, who had always known me with boys, this doesn’t feel completely “normal” – hence my mom’s 15 minute-long nervous laugh after I told her that no, I wasn’t kidding. They’re still in the process of digesting the news, which I understand, particularly as I am unable right now to tell them what I am exactly. Again, I am lucky that all they want is to see me happy, whomever I am with. They are afraid though, because they know, just as I do, that even in 2015, some people might reject me, simply for loving a girl. But I hope to turn the tables, and to help build a world in which one won’t have to define whathe/she/they are; in which there will be no need to “come out”; in which my relationship will be seen only as what it is – love.