Coming out isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s usually not – I grew up in a religious household.
My family is all Christian, and though we don’t go to church every Sunday, we do pray before every meal. My parents are fairly open-minded, but the thought of telling them I liked girls seemed utterly terrifying to 12-year-old me. Actually, I didn’t even know if I liked girls. No one I knew in middle school was gay or even bisexual, so I didn’t know that was an option until Emily Fields came out on Pretty Little Liars. That show changed a lot, so even if you think it was cliche, or it went on too long (because it definitely did), it was the representation I needed.
Starting in sixth grade, I developed a crush on my best friend that slowly grew more serious until I was forced to admit it in eighth grade. I first told my brother, who outed me to my mom.
He blurted out that I had a crush on my best friend, which then prompted a long, unwanted discussion about my sexuality. Even though the mom was accepting, that situation wasn’t really ideal for any of us. Shortly thereafter, I told one of my friends. She wasn’t necessarily a close friend, but she was there, and I needed to get it off my chest. She ended up shunning me for about a month after, thus starting a very rocky relationship between us (that’s just now starting to improve).
Neither experience was very pleasant, but it did prepare me for reality. Not everyone is going to welcome your sexuality with open arms, but those who truly love and care about you will come around eventually — even if it’s not right away. Don’t lose hope. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have to entail waving giant PRIDE flags, donning rainbow paraphernalia, or understanding every identity under the umbrella. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s just important to embrace who you are, even if you don’t figure that out for a while.
I’ve had a lot of really awesome experiences with coming out, most of which were just my friends giving me a huge smile and saying, “Okay. Cool.” If there’s not a designated safe space at your school, make one. Find a favorite teacher and hang out in their classroom or office, or just chill with your friends in the library. Accept others who are unsure of themselves because, trust me, we all are.
I even won the Religion Award for the entire 11th grade last year, despite my being an openly lesbian student in a Catholic school. I led a peaceful student walkout, one sponsored by the school administration. I receive good grades, and I work hard in theatre rehearsals every day. I’m a normal kid, and I’m gay.
Coming out isn’t easy, but it normally leads to a breath of fresh air. Relief. Because you just told yourself, “Yes, I accept you.” I want other people to know who you truly are. So embrace it. You’ll have to come out many times, but you only live once. So try to love the person you’re living with, because that’s all you have. You got this.
Eliza, 17, attends Marist High School.