Adult-ish: The Coming Out Process
Coming out to people is continual, taxing, but hopeful
Audrey Bowers is a senior creative writing major and writes "Adult-ish" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a queer woman, I have to come out over and over again. This process can be exhausting, especially as I’ve come to realize straight people never have to come out.
When straight people “come out,” they are rarely serious. When straight people “come out,” they are often belittling the courage it takes for a queer individual to come out in the first place.
Coming out becomes easier as time goes on. The process is like riding a bike; it takes practice and faith in yourself. As I’ve realized the sky won’t fall after I reveal my true self to people, I have become more comfortable with disclosing my sexuality. Other people may come out of the closet too because I helped them realize that it was a possibility.
When I come out, I either do so with caution or reckless abandon depending on who I am talking to. Since it can be a daunting process, I rarely come out to people in person. Instead, I do so in subliminal ways.
I come out online in Facebook statuses and tweets. I carry a phone with a rainbow colored case, hoping someone will get the point. I also rave about queer music and literature, once again hoping that someone figures it out. Instead of outwardly saying that I’m queer, I do my best to present as such. Which is difficult to say the least, as no two queer people are the same.
The individuals who are accepting when I come out to them are usually part of the LGBTQ community themselves or identify as allies. Some do not necessarily throw hate in my direction, but are clearly uncomfortable when considering my queerness. Others are clearly not accepting of my sexuality, whether they tell me to go to hell or say that they love me and hate my sin.
I remember coming out as “questioning” to my mom in my senior year of high school. I say “questioning” because I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to label myself, but I had a gut feeling that I wasn’t straight. In the middle of the mall, I told my mom that “I might be gay” with tears streaming down my face. In the middle of Macy’s she hugged me.
I thought I was safe and sound in that moment.
After we got in the car she screamed at me, telling me that I was going to hell. She also mentioned that becoming involved with a woman romantically or sexually was me “settling,” and that I should wait for the right man and birth her grandchildren.
This was the first I realized that coming out was a courageous act.
I remember coming out as bisexual to my RA during the winter of my sophomore year of college. After years of denying my interest in women, I realized that I couldn’t hide from my truth any longer. They were understanding and helped me process my feelings, more than I could say in regards my mom.
After a year or so of reflecting after this, I began to identify myself as lesbian rather than bisexual. After that I felt all the more empowered, as I wasn’t attempting to please other people around me by mixing some straightness into my identity.
I remember coming out as lesbian on Facebook recently. After three years of not dating men and a few months of being romantically interested in women, I realized that I had no real intention of dating men. When I think about where I want to end up someday, I see myself with a beautiful wife rather than a handsome husband.
In a sense I knew my queerness all along, but didn’t explore this aspect of my identity due to a combination of small-town Indiana bigotry and internalized homophobia. I wanted to tell the whole world, but froze up every time I thought about telling someone either in person or over email. I didn’t want people to see me differently or to think of me as less of a person, writer or teacher.
More than anything though, I remember the times in which I didn’t mention my sexuality due to fear of how others would react. I know I am not alone in that feeling.
Someday, I hope to live in a world where no one is assumed to be straight.
The act of assuming that someone is straight contributes to the heteronormative ideologies that we all have, whether conscious or not. The heteronormative society we live in is harmful to my community, because it leaves little room for individuals to figure their identity out for themselves.
I hope to live in a world where no one has to come out because all expressions of love are accepted, so no one has to feel shameful because of who they are.
Coming out isn’t an entirely uncomfortable experience. As time goes by, I become more and more comfortable with the process of saying that I like girls instead of guys. By coming out again and again, I am refusing to be complicit in a heteronormative society.
Regardless of the reaction I get when I come out, I feel brave and proud of myself when I do. I’d rather face opposition than live a dishonest life.