Queer Women on Coming Out and What That Means to Them

Coming out is a unique experience, but there’s things anyone who’s done it can relate to. In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, I interviewed queer women about their experiences, curious as to how the same questions could result in radically different stories.

What was the most impactful moment of your coming out process?

Rebecca*, 19: The social media influence. I was actually pretty closeted before I came out on social media because I think it’s harder to say it in person, face-to-face, but I think it’s more revered and it’s easier to get the message out to more people when you do it online.

 

Jane*, 18: Coming out to my therapist. She was one of the last people I came out to before I like, officially came out on social media. I remember saying “I have to tell you. I have to tell you something.” And she asked me what’s wrong and I was pacing and trying to find the words and I sat down in an armchair and in one breath I said “I did something…something something because I was gay” and I’ve never cried as much about being gay as I did in that office.

 

Katie*, 20: In high school, my best friend at the time told me she was a lesbian and I went “holy shit that’s what I am.” I think that’s the most important thing I learned in AP Chem.

 

Lilly, 18: So, I came out to my parents and then on a wide scale through social media the week following the Pulse tragedy, because I, at sixteen, was so shattered by the event that I felt the need to like, explain and validate my feelings and speak out about it openly. In retrospect, though, I think the timing of my coming out was also linked to a need for support from the people around me. [One] of the most impactful moments for me was seeing just the outpour of love from the community online during that week. [It] was like, just absolutely filled with messages of love and support and “you’re not alone” type messages and seeing that love from this community I was now a part of was just the most warm, comforting, welcome I could have asked for, even in the face of everything that had happened that week.

 

Did anyone have a particularly strong impact on you when you were coming out? Who were they, and how did they affect you?

Rebecca: Uhhhhhh YouTube lesbians?

 

Katie: My parents were super religious growing up, and they belong to the United Methodist Church. At the middle school summer camp, when I was going into 8th grade, one of the counselors struck me as really cool. We were allowed to be friends on Facebook, and a couple of years later she came out and recently married her wife. To have the courage to be who you are is one thing. To be a role model is another thing. And as we fight for equality, it is vital to thank those who came before us and took us thus far on the journey, so we can take it even further. I thank her every day, even though I haven’t spoken to her in years because she taught me that it’s okay to be who I am, whoever that is, and religion can fit into that as well.

 

Lilly: Almost a full year before I came out to my parents and on my social media accounts, I came out loud for the first time to a group of friends at a theatre summer camp. Our cabin counselor had asked us all how we identified, and we went around the room and about half the people in my cabin identified as LGBT in some way, so I just took a deep breath and answered the question like I’d said it a hundred times before. No one batted an eye, like it was obviously no big deal. And all of a sudden, I felt this weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying lift off my chest. I didn’t tell them until the last night of the camp that that was the first time I’d said the words out loud, and when I did the response I got was so much sweeter than I could have imagined…I felt like, if I was loved that much by those ten girls at camp then at least I knew, no matter what anyone else said, I always had them to turn to, and it made me a lot less afraid.

What advice would you give to people who have just come out, are in the process of it, or haven’t yet?

Rebecca: Don’t be so stuck on trying to find a label. It’s a lot easier to identify with an umbrella term if you need to if you’re still trying to figure out your own identity. When you first figure out you are some type of gay it’s easy to want to scream it to the world, so it’s easy to mislabel or misidentify yourself in that process.

 

Jane: It’s not gonna be perfect, and you’re not going to stop coming out for a hot second, it’s not a one and done thing. Don’t wait for the right moment.

 

Katie: It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to identify as seven things one day and nothing the next day. It’s okay to completely change what you want to identify as years after you’ve decided to identify. No one can tell you different. It’s okay to try different things - whatever that means to you. You can worry about labels later or not worry about them at all. Every moment you decide to be yourself is a beautiful moment, and when you step forward to be yourself the world strengthens. You also don’t have to tell anyone. Personally, I haven’t told anyone I’m gay. I just casually slip things into conversations and walk away. It’s not really their business.

 

Lilly: Reach out to other people in the LGBT community! Even if you have to do it online. Finding people you can connect with and talk to that get what you’re going through is so healing.

 

And lastly, how do you identify?

 

Rebecca: Bisexual

 

Jane: Lesbian

 

Lilly: Lesbian!

 

Katie: I’m a lover of intelligent and beautiful women (aka all women)

*Names have been changed for privacy

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