Earlier this month, I celebrated my 5 year Coming Out-iversary. I remember that first day very clearly, because it took 3 years to get to that point. I was 24, and had never had a significant relationship. I’d never kissed a girl! I didn’t have any close gay friends. I’d watched pretty much all the lesbian TV shows and movies I could find – and that was challenging, before Netflix! The L Word was my world.
I really really wanted my life to start.
Finally, I gave myself an ultimatum: I couldn’t leave the country until I came out. Not surprisingly, that worked! I set up a meeting with a Peer Mentor through a university Pride Centre, and told my biggest secret for the first time ever.
Turns out, coming out is as weird as it is wonderful. I thought so much about the day when I would finally have the guts to say the words that I didn’t really think about what would happen next. I didn’t consider all the ways that I would change.
Looking back on 5 years of becoming supergay, these are some things that surprised me:
Words are Hard
“I have something to tell you…”
“Cool. What is it?”
“Um. … Guess?”
That is actually how some of my coming outs happened. A few people asked if I was pregnant. Serves me right for making them guess!
My first time was pretty smooth. My Peer Buddy (who has become a great friend) and I emailed before meeting and had a good chat. That gave me the confidence to come out to my sister make my sister guess that I was gay later that same day!
Things snowballed from there. I told friends in person, over Skype, and over email. My brother and I had a drunken heart-to-heart over a bottle of wine. It was awkward every time, because I was coming out as “not straight”. I didn’t identify as gay yet (at least not out loud). I’d never dated a girl, and I didn’t feel like part of the community. At the few gayvents I’d attended, I felt like a confused outsider.
By the time I came out to my parents, I figured I would have the right words. Ha! When the time came, I was standing in their kitchen, behind a peninsula countertop. They were on the other side, sitting at the table, unsuspecting. As I hummed and hawed, smiling dorkily and struggling to get any words out, I popped up and down behind the counter. Like a gay prairie dog coming out of the burrow. I eventually got a jumble of words out, but it was not eloquent!
I wish I could say that words come more easily over time. Maybe they do, if you’re articulate! But even now, even though I identify as gay/a lesbian/queer, even when in my mind I’m saying “ohhh yeah, I’m supergay ”, even though I looove to talk about it afterwards, I have trouble getting those initial words out. If that’s you, embrace it! Once you come out, no one really dwells on how you did it.
Surges of confidence
I had a fairly positive initial coming out experience, and I got high on peoples’ supportive reactions and my own feelings of honesty and relief. I felt sooo confident! In the spring and summer that followed, I aced a handful of job interviews. I started dating my first girlfriend, and even initiated the first message to her! Look at me go, I thought!
But I quickly learned that telling people how gay you are doesn’t actually make you invincible. I know, it’s hard to believe.
It’s not a good time to make big decisions and major life changes
Coming out was empowering, but I think all that confidence made me temporarily delusional.
After acing those interviews, I accepted a job I wasn’t ready for. After messaging that girl, I began a relationship that I wasn’t ready for either. I had never really learned to communicate, I was just starting to navigate this new gay universe, I didn’t really know myself, and I hadn’t re-lived my adolescence yet. But I was seeing the world through rainbow-coloured glasses, and I was excited!
Things didn’t go well, after all that impulsive decision-making. My relationship wasn’t healthy, and it eventually ended. The stress of the job affected me in a major way, and I was doing it poorly.
Coming out creates huge, (hopefully) wonderful changes in your life! So it’s important to keep other stressors to a minimum when you first open up. If you’re already in a loving same-sex relationship and choosing to be honest about it, that’s wonderful. Otherwise, a good starting point would be to attend events and get to know folks in your local queer community before jumping into anything.
Ride that confidence high in your daily interactions! But, ya know, you’re not indestructible. Give yourself time.
Honestly, the best part of coming out (other than GIRLS!) has been the journey to feeling like the most whole, empowered version of myself. The word “journey” sounds kind of bullshit-y, but it’s appropriate. It’s a gradual process, and it involves a lot of personal growth.
I didn’t realize how little of my identity I actually presented to the world until I came out. I didn’t know I had the capacity to be a truer version of myself. I was very, very shy and inhibited B.C.O. (Before Coming Out). The people closest to me knew my silly and more outgoing side, but I sort of assumed that would always be reserved for them.
When I came out, I began to incorporate gayness into my identity. I pressed pause on the side of myself that everyone knew and went out to events and bars, met queer people. I talked to folks I barely knew about something which had recently seemed so taboo and personal. I learned how to share and communicate. I became less reserved.
After a couple of years my new, supergay-self began to merge with my “old” self. There was more to my identity than what I’d let on B.C.O., but there was also much more to it than being a lesbian.
Now, five years after coming out, I feel like myself. I’ve evolved and changed a lot, though not all of it has to do with coming out. Travel, work, friendships and relationships have all contributed. But if my identity and sense of self was somewhat fractured before, coming out filled in the gaps. Over time, the self-confidence I gained has transformed into increased self-awareness, assertiveness, and self-esteem. It helps me make decisions. Obviously, I’ll continue to evolve. But from now on, I’ll feel whole.
Coming out is a weird process that never ends. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.