What I Learned When I Came Out

Lesson One: Timing is everything.

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Regardless of whether or not you are surrounded by people with accepting beliefs, coming out is still a difficult thing to do. You first have to be comfortable with yourself before you can begin discussing your sexuality with others. There is no correct timeline. You should do what feels best for you and take as long as you need to feel okay sharing your identity.

“Growing up in the musical theater scene, my gay to straight friend ratio is a solid 5 to 1, and my parents were accepting. However, coming out as bisexual was still a confusing experience. When I was 15, I started falling for one of my friends. I genuinely believed it was a one-time thing, but then I came to college and realized that wasn’t the case.

During my junior year of college, my parents basically forced me to come out. My mom claimed to have always known. At the time, I was not at all ready to talk about it. I was livid that they had told my extended family. Regardless of how open-minded my parents were, I just wasn’t comfortable with the topic yet.

A month later, while talking with my dad, he casually said, "one day your husband or wife..." and it didn't bother me at all. I realized I wasn't comfortable sharing this part of me with my parents because that made it extremely real. I was happy to finally figure this out and be proud of who I am. The best part was my parents already told everyone so I didn't have to, even if it took some time for me to approach the subject!”

-Liel Lavie, Senior

Lesson Two: People may surprise you, in the best way.

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It can difficult to predict how someone will react when you come out. However, I can’t tell you how many friends of mine have gathered the courage to tell their religious parents or best friends who constantly use the hurtful phrase “that’s so gay” and have received nothing but love and support. Sometimes, people don’t consider LGBT rights because they have never met anyone in the community, but a personal experience can change everything. Although we don’t live in a perfect world, it is my hope that the people who love you will see you as valid.

“I came out in 2012 when I was 16 years old, but since then, the process of has only continued with every new person that I've met. I remember wanting so desperately to tell my parents, but I knew my trembling voice would have difficulty finding all the right words in one moment.  Instead, I wrote a letter that addressed them both and awaited their approval or disbelief.  After waiting up all night, I had still heard no response. Unfortunately, that letter lies with my father, unopened and unread, as he passed unexpectedly that day. 

Months after grieving the loss of my father, and cursing myself for waiting too long to say the words that had been lost inside me for so long, I said, "Mom, I’m lesbian, I like girls."  After crying while smiling, her voice cracked as she happily sang "baby, you were born this way.’”

-Brielle Ross, Masters

Lesson Three: Coming out doesn’t have to be a planned, dramatic declaration if you don’t want it to be.

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While many people anticipate and plan for this significant moment, others may just go with the flow. Not every coming out experience has to involve a serious discussion or a declarative social media post. Sometimes, these moments are natural and unexpected. Just do what feels right for you.

“In high school, I didn’t know that I was gay. Maybe I was oblivious, or just repressed it. However, once I started college it all started unraveling. I was in the typical coming out phase, downloading dating apps, and making my way. One time, my friend was visiting and a group of us pre-gammed and went out. After partying, we all went back home. Everyone went into their rooms to sleep, and I hung out with one of my friends who was still awake. We were talking, and I made a move. (I’d had a crush on him for a while). It got weird immediately. Then, my brother came out of his room because he heard us talking loudly. I went ahead and took the opportunity to officially come out. Immediately, my friend's demeanor changed and he said that he loved and respected me for who I am. I felt so relieved. Everyone seemed shocked because I ‘acted straight’ and didn’t fit the gay stereotypes. The next day, everything was normal. We acted no differently, and life went on!”

-Steve Lizano, Senior

Lesson Four: Sometimes, you have to give people the time and space to process. Be strong and stay true to yourself, because you’re worth it!

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If someone doesn’t respond well when you come out, the reason isn’t always that they are homophobic or disapproving. For instance, in my personal coming out experience, my mom had many gay friends and was accepting of them, but she did need some time to mourn the life she thought I was going to have and understand me. She was worried about my safety and my quality of life. She never felt that my sexuality was invalid. Sometimes, it’s just shock and unfamiliarity that causes a person to get caught off guard. Just as you needed time to process your identity, they may need time to grow and learn how to be a good ally.

I officially came out to my best friends as bisexual at the time in 9th grade and they all accepted me wholeheartedly. I decided that I didn’t really need to tell my family until I started dating someone. When I was sixteen, I started dating my current girlfriend. My parents had their suspicions, and one day my mom walked in on us kissing. Since my brother, girlfriend’s parents, and close friends already knew, my parents were hurt that they were the last to know.

My mom put me on house arrest and forbade me from seeing my girlfriend. She eventually cooled down after realizing that our relationship would only continue to suffer if she didn’t start accepting me. My parents invited my girlfriend over to sit down and talk about everything.

Now my parents are extremely accepting. My girlfriend and I were each other’s dates to both of our proms, and we danced together in front of our entire high school when I won homecoming queen my senior year. We no longer feel any shame. It was a long journey, but when I walk down the street smiling and holding my girlfriend’s hand, it makes it all worth it.” 

-Brooke Seiden, Freshman

Shelby Curran is a senior at Florida State University majoring in English with a concentration in Editing, Writing, and Media and minoring in Communications.

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