Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not.
I wasn’t always this comfortable talking about my sexual orientation. It took years for me to get where I am, but now, I can finally say I am out, proud and happy.
However, as we celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11th, it’s important to remember not everyone feels safe coming out. Some LGBTQ people may get bullied in school, fired from their job or rejected by their family. National Coming Out Day may seem like it’s only for people who can proudly wave rainbow flags and lead the pride parade, but what if you aren’t ready to come out yet? This is a day to help improve that—a chance to increase visibility for LGBTQ people and hear their stories. Whether you’re still unsure of your identity or you feel unsafe because of it, know you are still loved, valid and no less brave and amazing for being who you are.
When you’re ready to come out, you’ll know; but before you do, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Nobody Is Entitled to Know Your Identity
The first person I came out to was not my mom. It wasn’t my therapist. It wasn’t my best friend, or my second best friend or my third. It was some girl I met in the park when I was 12. She said she was gay, and I said, “No way! I’m gay too!” and that was the first time I had ever said it out loud.
I never saw her again.
In fact, the people closest to me tended to be the very last to know. It was easier to come out to other kids online because if they judged me, I could just walk away without any repercussions. Meanwhile, I thought if my parents reacted badly, there would be no way to escape the consequences.
Thankfully my parents were supportive when I came out, even if they were displeased with the fact they were dead last to know. I had come out to my camp counselor, my rabbi, even my congressman before I told my mother and father.
But it wasn’t indicative of how much I care about my parents. It wasn’t me trying to “pull a fast one.” It was just who I was comfortable with, when I was comfortable with it.
Coming out is YOUR journey. It is YOUR identity. You can come out to whoever you want, whenever you want, and deciding not to tell someone doesn’t make you deceitful or manipulative. This is about you. No one is entitled to know about something so deeply personal if you don’t want to share it.
No One Can Define Your Identity but You
Do you identify as a lesbian even though you like boys sometimes? That’s fine.
Are you bisexual but you’ve only ever dated girls? No problem.
Are you pansexual, asexual, demisexual, genderqueer, nonbinary or something else altogether? That’s all right!
Just because you may not be learning about sexual orientation and gender identity at school doesn’t mean your identity isn’t valid. After all, things like gender and sexual orientation are strict categories made up to classify and organize a part of the human experience that, in actuality, includes grey areas.
The only person who truly knows your sexual orientation or gender identity is you. Don’t let anyone force you into a label that doesn’t feel like the right fit. Some people never pick a label at all!
Give It Time
Coming out is not a “one and done” endeavor.
Coming out is a process. Most people are assumed to be heterosexual and cisgender, so you’ll probably come out to lots of people over time.
The idea of coming out as this perpetual journey can be daunting, even exhausting. But it will get easier. Your family might be taking it harshly, your friend might be acting awkward. But if they genuinely love and care for you, they will hopefully overcome that.
And though you may lose some people, there will always be others who love and accept you as you are.
Just keep searching. You’ll find each other.