Coming out as LGBTQ isn’t just one moment- it’s many

For National Coming Out Day, readers share their own stories

By Julia Carpenter

It can feel like “coming out” is everywhere — people talk about coming as every letter of the LGBTQ acronym, coming out with mental illness. The New York Times has noted that the Orlando massacre earlier this year inspired more people to come out as gay.

But coming out usually isn’t a singular pronouncement — an Ellen DeGeneres moment or a “Glee” moment. Instead, it’s a series of moments.

In June, we collected stories from our followers on Tumblr, asking them to leave us a voicemail explaining what coming out means to them — when they’ve done it, how and what it felt like. Some talked about the first conversation; some discussed a single moment; others described an ongoing process. One caller, Gary Gates, summed it up pretty neatly: “I’ve never come out, and I’m always coming out.”

Today, for National Coming Out Day, we’re featuring some of the most powerful answers here on Medium. You can read the stories below, or listen to them here on Tumblr.


Shane Litton’s story

Shane Litton

I told my parents about three years ago that I was a man. As a female-to-male, on the route to transition. I thought they were confused, and then I was like — my thought was “they’re probably going to figure it out,” or like ask me questions about it, or do anything really but then I said that I would try to talk to them. It was especially my mom who was just not really wanting to get it.

And then time sped up, after two boyfriends wanting me to be female, they’re telling me I need to adult it out, and I need to act like an adult, and giving me little support, financially or otherwise, for being myself. So I really — so I haven’t had a pleasant coming out story, but all I really have is my current partner who accepts me fully, and his friend who became one who became one of my only friends, along with my partner, but they’re both my best friends and are supportive. That’s all I have right now, but I’m OK with it.

Isa’s story

Isa

I’m 25. And I’m originally from Pakistan. I don’t know if I can say I’ve officially ever come out to someone. Well, and that’s not entirely true, I have come out to friends, and that’s always been an interesting conversation to have. I remember in college I came out to one of my best friends, and I had to text it to her because I couldn’t say it to her, and it just felt weird, to say something like that. And her reaction was straight-up just, “Oh, I know. I knew that.” So I guess it’s — it’s not something that is a secret of any sort. I just I think people always have a hunch and they just need confirmation from you.

But just on the idea of coming out, I think it’s interesting, depending on where you’re from in the world and what your culture dictates, and what protocol works there, that this idea of coming out comes from, I think in having gone to college in America and heard a bunch of coming out stories, I don’t think I have one that I can relate to that experience. I don’t — I have not come out to my parents. I have never had a serious conversation about my sexuality with my parents, or my siblings for that matter, but it’s somewhat of an accepted truth that it is what it is. But I think that’s also because I come from a culture that it generally very sexually repressed and doesn’t want to talk about — because it’s not about who I love, it’s about who I’m sleeping with, and we don’t talk about that part of our lives ever.

And I think that makes — that just excludes the idea of coming out from South Asian culture in general. And a lot of other Asian cultures as well. And part of it is religious, but most of it is just cultural and the way we communicate with each other, and especially our elders and our parents. That’s a part of your life that you don’t necessarily introduce them to, ever. Yeah, but it’s always interesting to me, between the two identities that I have to straddle, the one that I have at home and the one that I have living here in Washington DC. Yeah, I think coming out means different things in different parts of the world. So that’s my perspective on it. Great. Thank you.

Connor Murphy’s story

Connor Murphy

I’m 22 years old, about to turn 23 on Thursday, and I’m from Madison, Wisconsin. I came out to my mother. She’s the first person I told. I was 14 years old. I grew up in a upper-middle-class, white, well-educated family. I really had never a doubt my mind that if I came out my mother would accept me. And so one night, middle of January, 2008, I walked up to her study and knocked on her door. And I said, “I need I talk to you about something.” I sat down on the floor in front of her desk, because I didn’t know where else to sit at the time. I was so nervous.

I told her that I didn’t feel like everyone else, but that I knew that I was OK. That I was loved. And she was confused, you know. Why was I saying I didn’t feel like everyone else? I had to explain to her: “I like guys.” I’m not someone who is at a loss for words or is short on words, but at that time that was all I could say. And I cried a bit, and she came around the desk and picked me up and wrapped me in her arms. And she said that my life is going to be difficult. It’s going to be harder than hers was.

If people look at me, and they will treat me differently, they will know — “if they know that you’re gay, they will judge you for things that are not true.” She started crying, and I was crying, and she was like, “I love you so much because you trusted me to tell me this, because you knew that I would love and accept you.” She cared. She’s joked that she wanted to get a peace sign bumper sticker immediately even though I had not told a single other person in the world except her. She was the first person that I came out to. I love her a lot, and I don’t think I’d be the same person — a successful college graduate, out and proud six years later. More than that — eight years later. I wouldn’t be the same without her.

Casey Holter’s story

Casey Holter

When I came out it was — well, I’m a bisexual girl. And when I came out to my mom, it was because I’m a writer and one of my ex-girlfriends, who’s also a writer, kind of. She and I worked together on a story for a publication. And for part of that story, we had an intro paragraph that sort of explained how we knew each other and why we decided to write this story together. So I was involved with doing a lot of the interviews and she was involved in writing that intro. And in the intro she types, you know, about how we dated and that’s how we met.

It was one of my big writing breaks. And I was really excited to share it, but realized that you know, I’d never told any of my family members that I was bi. There is a ton of stigma associated with it. A lot of people, you know saying it’s a phase or anything, so I just kind of kept that part of my life from them for a good five years of my adult life.

Anyway, so they decide to publish the story and so I give my mom a call right after I know that it’s gone live. And I just blurted out over the phone, “Oh, by the way, Mom, just wanted to let you know, before you read the article, that it talks about the fact that I’m bisexual, and you’re going to read about that.

And her only response was just this long pause. Like 30 seconds and she goes “OK.” And I immediately hung up the phone and essentially started crying to my then-boyfriend at the time, freaking out about, you know, the fact that I just, you know, had come out to my mom in a sort of a state of panic and her reaction was just extraordinary confusion. Yeah, I mean, you know, now everything’s good. I’m more and more open about it every day, but yeah, that original reaction was pretty much everyone’s — not everyone’s worst fear — there’s way worse things that could happen, but it was definitely one of my worst fears.


These stories originally appeared on The Washington Post and Washington Post Tumblr.

Julia Carpenter is an embedded social media editor at The Washington Post.