Anyone who knows me knows everything about me. I’m not just an open book waiting to be read, I’m a public service announcement forcing itself to be heard. It’s usually in the context of humor, which is how I deal with almost anything, but it’s also in the context of coping. Throughout my life, I have felt like I was the only one going through each trial and tribulation. But as soon as I talked about it, one by one people chimed in or spoke up. If someone just needs to talk first so that everyone can feel absolved of the pain they are holding on to, I am more than willing to be that person. But when it was time for me to come out, something felt different.
When something upsets me, it gets stuck in my head. It plays over and over until I can’t sleep or breath or think without that horrible thing cropping up. The only way to get rid of a song in your head is to listen to it, and the only way to get these perseverations out of my head is to talk about it. I’ve talked openly and written on the internet about struggling with an eating disorder, sexual assault, chronic illnesses, and mental health, but the one card that I kept close to my chest was my sexuality.
It was hard for me to admit my first crush — the first time I consciously knew that I wanted a girl to want me just as badly as I wanted her. It was even harder to admit I was talking to girls on dating apps, and then admit that I was going on a date with a new girl.
“I’m worried I’m just an experiment,” she said to me after a few dates, “that you’re going to just use me, and I’m going to be left behind hurt again.” I got where she was coming from, but those words stung. I couldn’t help my lack of experience.
I held both of her hands and assured her I was serious. In a grand attempt to prove to her, and myself, that I wasn’t just fucking around, I told her I’d come out to my parents. I was going to eventually, but I thought that I would just expedite the process. I had been secretly talking to girls for a few months, and that’s the longest I’ve kept anything from my mom (except my nipple piercings, that I kept a secret for almost a year until she saw it through one of my shirts).
After I suggested I come out to my parents, she was visibly relieved. I felt like I could do it because she was there for me. If they didn’t accept me, which I was pretty sure they would, at least I’d have her support.
First, I called my aunt for a practice run and a pep talk. Once she gave me the extra courage I needed, I called my parents. My mom answered.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m dating a girl.”
“Hold on a second, let me put you on speaker so you can tell your father what you just told me.”
My dad got on the phone.
“Hi dad, I’m dating a girl.”
“Huh. Well ok.”
That was it.
The next morning, I woke up feeling like a new person. I wasn’t hiding anything from anyone close to me anymore. I felt like I had taken a mask off and my fresh skin could feel the sun again. Until I got a text that crushed my soul.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry. I’m just not ready to date again, and it’s not fair to you.”
I was dumbfounded. I had just spent the day before admitting a HUGE part of myself to my parents and then gushing about how cool she was. I didn’t come out for her, but realistically, I kind of did. Now, not only did I have to call my parents back literally hours later and tell them it was over (and to please not ask me about it), but I also had to explain who or what I was going to do next. An explanation that I did not have. I guess I was waiting to come out to my parents when I was dating someone so it had some sort of legitimacy to it, but that validation was pulled right out from under me.
Since our first phone conversation, my parents and I have had several conversations, and I even made them a PowerPoint explaining my thought process and a G-rated version of my self-discovery. I don’t regret coming out when I did, but part of me is resentful that I didn’t do it 100% for myself. Coming out isn’t something that is supposed to be used to validate your queerness and officially welcome you into the LGBTQ community. Being gay doesn’t “not count” if nobody knows about it. When I knew I liked girls, I felt a timer start in my head. I felt I needed to come out, because I thought that the longer I waited, the worse it would be. I’m the type of person that needs to get things off their chest, but this felt so different. For once, I wanted to keep something personal. After I came out, I realized it didn’t make me for more or less like a lesbian; it’s just that now people knew about it.
So that would be my advice. If you’re not out yet, come out when you’re ready, and only for you. Because the closet that you are in only fits one person, and it locks from the inside.