I was out in my town of Portland, Maine since moving there in 2017 as well as out to some of the people in my writing communities. I came out on social media publicly in October 2018. The third person to call me about it was my stepmother. It was difficult listening to her different questions about where and how I was, but I was still glad she asked them.
I have been open about my mental health longer than the amount of time I was open about being a queer nonbinary woman, so the question I appreciated the most from my stepmother was her question about whether or not the fear of coming out has impacted my suicidal ideation. At the time, I immediately told her that it didn’t.
Sexuality and gender are fluid in their own distinct way. I didn’t know right away that I was closeting my feelings about myself in regards to queerness until I was in graduate school. And as far as being open about it, I’m still a “baby queer” in that regard. I didn’t want to kill myself because I was queer; there were plenty of other reasons outside of that. When I was struggling with suicidal ideation, I didn’t believe my queerness didn’t have to be in that discussion.
However, looking back on it, I no longer deem that as true.
I have struggled with suicidal ideation on and off since I was thirteen, and attempted suicide at age fifteen. LGBTQ+ rates of suicide, especially amongst youth, are disproportionately higher than cisgender heterosexual individuals (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019). Because of how we as a community are more susceptible to that difficult vulnerability, we need to acknowledge the various factors that may influence those numbers.
I didn’t want to come out in fear of losing my Christian community, the risk of my family members making me feel worse by saying “we knew,” and I didn’t want to take up space from my queer and trans siblings who have been out much longer. In my work with my therapist, we have discovered that great portions of my triggers are due to trauma related reasons to need to please others. I didn’t want to come out because I didn’t want to inconvenience others’ thoughts about me.
To not talk about my queerness in regards to my suicidal ideation is an act of erasure. In fact, to erase any identity that I hold when talking about this (e.g. being a Black mixed race woman of color) is doing an injustice to the larger scope of addressing suicide prevention and suicide awareness. I have been trying my best in changing that.
If you are struggling with suicide, the Trevor Project is an amazing resource for young people. Another resource I admire is Peerly Human in regards to talking openly about suicidal ideation. Please know all the parts of your humanity are valid, living your truth is valid, and I am very happy that you’re here.
About the Author:
Maya Williams (she/they) is a Black Mixed Race queer suicide survivor currently residing in Portland, ME. She has a Masters in Social Work with a Certificate in Applied Arts and Social Justice and published essays in venues such as The Tempest, Rooted in Rights, O.School, Black Youth Project, and more. They also work as a spoken word poet and actor/consent educator with a non-profit in Maine. Follow Maya @emmdubb16 on Twitter and Instagram. Maya also has a website: https://www.mayawilliamspoet.com/published-works