Today marks National Coming Out Day. It is an annual celebration of the bravery of LGBTQ+ people who decide to come out and publicly disclose their identity. More recently, some queer people have begun developing the concept of coming out. LGBTQ+ celebrities, such as Queer Eye actor and activist Karamo Brown describe the process as letting someone in rather than coming out to someone. By sharing your identity you are letting the person into your journey.
‘I believe that the term ‘coming out’ is a bit antiquated and outdated in the sense [that] it gives the power to someone else to accept or deny you when, in actuality, what the process is, is that we’re letting people into our lives’, Brown explained.
More generally, the idea that queer and trans people have to publicly state their identity also reinforces the notion that being cisgender and straight is the default. Living in a cis-heteronormative society means any identity outside of that default is othered and expected to be declared. As LGBTQ+ people it can be frustrating and difficult to continuously come out. For most of us, it is a life-long process. However, coming out can also be liberating.
Sharing the experiences of our LGBTQ+ members
Each year, we want to share the experiences of our incredible team members with the wider community. Coming to terms with your identity and sharing it with others can be an overwhelming process. We hope that by reading some of our LGBTQ+ members’ stories, you may gain insight into new experiences or share common feelings and reactions.
Remember that coming out can have serious consequences, especially if you are a queer or trans child living in an unsupportive environment. While being loud and proud is liberating, always prioritise your safety and well-being.
We interviewed two lovely team members: Megan, our Queries Team Lead and Luke, our Social Media Manager. They were both open to sharing their coming out stories and how they navigate life as LGBTQ+ people.
Megan’s coming out story
Megan: The first time I came out was when I was 14 with a friend. I felt very safe with them. But I didn’t know how to name things. I didn’t have anyone to talk to because I grew up in a religious household. While for my friend it was so nonchalant, for me, it was a big deal. After that, it became easier to admit it to myself.
I only felt comfortable coming out to my family after my sister did. My mother knows more about my queer identity than she does about my non-binary identity. When I came out to my partner, it was easy because he is trans. I could be honest in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. However, I still get into situations where even after I say that I am non-binary and that I use they/them pronouns, I get misgendered. It takes a lot out of you.
For a long time, I was using she/they pronouns because I was trying to appease a norm rather than think about myself. A big part of my recent coming out journey has also been about me and how I feel I need to come out to myself. I used to standardize myself in a sort of androgynous way for my gender identity to be believed and that felt like a step back. Now, I would just rather be myself whatever that looks like.
How was your experience coming out as queer compared to coming out as non-binary?
Megan: When I came out as queer, I didn’t have to justify my identity as much. But when I am talking to people about being non-binary, they want to know if I’m going to be on hormones and if I am going to have surgery.
Megan’s experience is all too common for trans and non-binary people. These questions are incredibly intrusive and extremely personal. Coming out as trans comes with additional, invasive questioning by people who feel as though they have the right to know about your personal journey. More often than not, trans and non-binary people will also experience misgendering and deadnaming after coming out.
Megan: I have been adapting to having fewer family members. When it comes to the holidays, I need to focus more on my own chosen family rather than putting myself in a situation where I know I will be intentionally hurt. You never want to say no to your family, but I would rather be safe than subject myself to this. It’s been hard to wrap my head around it but honestly, I am way happier now. My chosen family is important to me. It’s been very nice to meet people who you know you’re going to have this lovely connection with. They will just be there for you, like a family.
Coming out to yourself
Megan: I think my queer coming out to myself came a lot faster. I was about 13 and I realised I wouldn’t mind who I was with so long as I was happy. That sort of developed more into finding out about my asexuality, finding a queer identity while also being demisexual. I was in my 20s when I started gaining knowledge – even though it was very limited – about non-binary, genderqueer and genderfluid identities. Coming out to myself has been more about what it looks like for me.
When Megan stopped conforming to ideas of femininity and shifted to more comfortable clothing, they started feeling more like themselves. ‘It opened up something for me. It took me a long time to get here’, they explained.
Megan: For the longest time I thought I was pansexual and that was it. But then I realised that I wasn’t comfortable with certain things that were seen as normal in relationships. I used to think that I was strange for not feeling okay with the way people talked about sex and romance. I didn’t understand how that felt. I remember people saying, ‘There must be something wrong with you’.
After a long time of not understanding how they felt, due to the serious lack of education on ace identities, Megan was able to find solace in sharing similar experiences with their current partner who also identifies as demisexual.
Megan: I want to feel like I have this deep connection with someone rather than being solely reliant on attraction. It took a long time to say it out loud because so many people would say that I was weird. It’s because of my spouse that I know what demisexuality is and it was nice to finally have a name for it. But we need more representation.
Luke’s coming out story
Luke: The first time I came out I was 16 or 17. I accidentally came out to one of my close friends. The first time is the hardest and I think it kind of helped that it was accidental. It took some pressure off. It is a monumental hurdle and while there are other hurdles in the future, I was able to tackle one big hurdle. It made my life easier because I didn’t have to hide it from everyone anymore.
From that moment on, I had a complicated love story with this guy who was already out at school. Now looking back, I didn’t realise that I liked him, probably because I was only able to be open with my feelings after coming out.
As Luke started spending more time with this person, it developed into a ‘cliché-like romance’. Their relationship became more complicated over time. People started realising what was going on between the two and therefore, made their judgments about Luke’s sexuality. Meanwhile, his other friends were ‘totally supportive’.
Luke: There is a period of solitude where you haven’t come out to anyone yet. What accompanied me through my journey was Troye Sivan’s Blue Neighbourhood. That album helped me come out and made me feel less lonely. It normalised queerness and it gave me a role model. It is something I cherish so deeply.
Coming out to family
Luke: Coming out to my family was different. It felt like another hurdle. I am very lucky to have a really supportive family but there is always that doubt in your mind that it is going to go horribly wrong.
Before going off to university, while still not out to their parents, Luke started seeing a guy [the same person mentioned above] who continued to come over and Luke’s parents began to take notice. The two decided to not develop their relationship further, leaving Luke heartbroken and ‘distraught’. However, they later ended up dating which is when Luke finally came out to his parents.
Luke: For some reason, perhaps I was seeking some kind of validation, I didn’t want to come out to my parents saying, ‘I’m gay’, without a boyfriend. I don’t think I was consciously avoiding coming out, but I think I didn’t want my sexuality to be invalidated. So I thought that having a boyfriend would help with it.
My family was cheering me on without forcing me to come out. That was the best way to approach it. They gave me space to figure things out without having to disclose my identity on someone else’s terms. There was love, there was a loss, there was drama, there wasn’t a relationship and then there was, it was a whole mess but it all worked out fine. Since then, there have been fewer instances of me coming out. Most people simply guess that I am not straight.
It is heartwarming to hear such a positive, queer coming-out experience. Queer joy is just as important as queer pain and resilience which is why Luke’s story is an important one to share.
‘There is so much commonality between people’
Luke: Coming out and being perceived as queer is also very different depending on a country’s culture. In Western Europe, we have a certain notion of what a queer person may look like and while there is no way to look queer, stereotypes exist. However, these stereotypes don’t translate as well in other places. When I am in a different country, with a different culture, that is where I come out more often.
There is so much commonality between people coming out. Some people had the easiest experience in the world, and some had traumatic experiences. However, I found that there are many commonalities, whether it’s how you go about doing it, the steps you take, or the places that your mind goes to, most people experience a similar thought process. There is something that we all share, and I think that is truly beautiful. It’s a journey and we all take something from it which will follow us wherever we go.
Advice from our team members
Megan: Coming out to yourself is very important. You don’t need to come out until you are ready. Sometimes people feel forced to and that can cause a lot of internalised harm. Make sure you are doing it in a safe space and come out on your terms and on your own time.
Luke: You don’t have to come out to be valid. Everyone’s journey is so individualised, and we all face different barriers. You are not alone. Even if you haven’t connected with your community, there are people out there who have gone through similar mental journeys that you have gone through. Knowing that absolutely helped me.
For more coming out stories, check out last year’s blog where we spoke with Rebecca, Sera and Sofia.