Today is a very special day for me because it is the five year anniversary of me coming out publicly as a lesbian. Some people don’t see a need to come out, but for me it was really important to do so- I always tend to reflect on my whole coming out experience when this day comes up. I celebrate it because it took me so long to get to a point where I could even say those words, and it was monumental for me to finally accept who I truly am. Over the past couple years since coming out, I have constantly been asked about my overall coming out experience, how I did it, when did I know, why I felt the need to do so publicly, and what were people’s reactions. Everyone has a different story, and I wanted to share my whole experience with you in hopes that it might help someone to better understand why coming out is so important to those in the LGBTQ+ community and to hopefully inspire someone else to always be proud to be their most authentic self.
In order to tell you my coming out story, I really think I need to share every part of my process and journey. I knew I was gay when I was in eighth grade. Junior high is always an awkward time in anyone’s life and feeling different in any way is every kid’s nightmare. I remember going to sleepovers and having all the other girls talking about which boy they thought was cute and who they had crushes on. I always felt so out of place because I never felt that way or had any romantic interest towards guys. I just wanted to know what was wrong with me and I remember talking to my mom about it and she said that I probably was just a “late bloomer”. This made sense to me since I typically was friends with people younger than me and still liked doing more “kid-things” versus trying to be all grown up like my peers. However, I knew deep down that there was something different about me and one day I said out loud to myself (and dog at the time): “what if I’m a lesbian?” I remember then crying and panicking that I had even said that because no straight person would ever question it, and I didn’t need something to make me different. Living in a conservative mid-western town where I didn’t even know of a gay person made the thought even more scary. Also how could I be a lesbian when I liked such girly things? After this shock of uttering those words, I decided to be very strategic about not acknowledging this part of me and began a long process of denial within myself. I was not going to pay attention to this and decided the best way to hide it was to become obsessed with not one guy but three- my fan-girling over The Jonas Brothers commenced (even though at the time I was much more interested in Miley Cyrus). No one would ever question if I wasn’t into guys, because look at how into the Jonas brothers I was (so I thought).
Fast forward a few years and I had transferred to an all girl Catholic high school after being bullied at my previous school. Still in doubt of my sexuality, I quickly found that attending an all girls school was the best excuse for why I didn’t hang out or date any guys. Also being a Catholic school in a conservative area the LGBT+ terms were simply off limits, and I still didn’t know of anyone who was gay. All my friends and I were obsessed with the show Pretty Little Liars and it became a common topic that we all would talk about at lunch. One of the characters, Emily, the lesbian swimmer, was shown dealing with all the struggles of coming out. I had never seen a feminine lesbian- let alone a lesbian relationship- played out on television. It made me so nervous because I related so much to Emily, but yet was in such denial that I couldn’t possibly be like her. Even though at the time I would’ve never said that this character was important to me, it really was a big deal to me looking back because it was the first time I had ever seen a girl who liked girls being represented in main stream culture. Despite all of this is internal struggle and denial I did have my first recognizable crush on a girl my senior year of high school. She was one of my closest friends at school and I had never felt that way about anyone before and it stressed me out to no end. I kept telling myself that I was just really close to her, and thats why I felt that way and why I wanted to spend all my time with her. Its funny thinking back about it because I did things I wouldn’t normally do with my other friends like buying her expensive concert tickets for her birthday. I never once acted upon it or did anything about it because I kept telling myself that I wasn’t gay and that she was just one of my “best” friends.
Everything really started to change once I went away to college. I attend a liberal arts school in Florida where I was on a sports team and also joined a sorority. I loved my sorority and my friends I made on my hall. This was also the first time I had seen openly gay people dating each other and also people that were proud to be out. The hardest thing for me during my whole coming out process was that I really struggled with the whole stereotype of being a lesbian. How could I be a lesbian when I loved wearing dresses, having long hair, and doing everything “girly”? This really confused me because the only people that I did see who were out were more butch than femme (terms I didn’t know until much later).
I didn’t want to be gay because that would make me different and told myself that since I attended a school with guys that I would finally have feelings for a guy. I was determined to prove this to myself, and became close with a fraternity. I decided to compete in a pageant to become the frat’s “sweetheart” and won. In my head this proved that I wasn’t gay because a frat wouldn’t have a sweetheart who wasn’t straight.
All while I was trying to prove to myself that I was anything but gay, I became extremely close with one of my hall mates. When we got back from Christmas break, I was so nervous and excited to see her. I was completely filled with butterflies when I saw her again after being away for a few weeks. I truly had never felt this way towards anyone before. She was out, and when I had met her and was so confident in who she was. It didn’t take long for the rest of our hall to start asking me if we were dating because we literally did everything together. I was shocked and confused why they would ask that when I was presumably straight. Then one day I went into the room of one of my closest friends, Maylis, and started to cry because I realized I really liked this girl and that was the first time I had ever told anyone that I liked girls. It was terrifying and so freeing all at the same time. Maylis was the sweetest and just hugged me and told me that I needed to tell her because she definitely liked me too.
I struggled with the idea of telling the girl I liked though, because I had never dated anyone before. The thought of sharing this deep dark secret of mine was nerve racking but the thought of actually dating someone also scared me. I knew I needed to tell her and after listening to some Lady Gaga (of course) I found the courage to do just that. One night we were talking and I just told her that I had feelings for her. This girl that I had such intense feelings for was Melanie, who is now my wife! We decided to start dating and just take things day by day, but I didn’t really make it public because I wasn’t ready. This was hard because I wanted to tell my mom the exciting news because this was my first relationship ever, but it also meant that I would have to tell her that I liked girls. My family is very open with each other and I am very close with my parents, so I couldn’t imagine not sharing this news with them. I called my mom and told her that I needed to tell her something and she immediately guessed what I was about to tell. I thought I was going to get sick or pass out honestly because I was so nervous. I confirmed her and told her I was dating Melanie. I then immediately told her that I was bi because in my head that made me “half-straight.” We talked for a long time and then finally my mom told me not to post anything about it. At the time I took it as she was ashamed of me and not accepting of me (couldn’t be more opposite) but now I know she said that because I wasn’t ready for it. I still was struggling coming out to myself, and there was no reason for me to come out to others until I was comfortable with myself. Honestly it was great advice, and couldn’t have been more true.
Melanie and I continued dating privately even though I transferred to a different college in Arizona. I was really lonely being at a new school and away from all my friends and Melanie. I was also still confused about myself and was forced to face the internal struggle I had been fighting since I was 13. One day I was in my dorm room alone and decided to pull up youtube. I then typed in the search bar “lesbian couple” and a whole world opened up for me. I finally found people like me! I found feminine women who telling their stories that were attracted to other feminine women living out and proud of who they are. For the first time ever was I seeing someone who was like me. I loved watching and following “What Wegan Did Next” and other femme lesbians, because for once it made everything make sense for me. I could be the girly person I’ve always been and still like girls too. I will never forget watching Lucy Sutcliffe sharing her coming out story because this was when I really truly came out to myself. In that moment I had accepted that I was gay, that I still liked feminine things, that I still could be myself and that this was just part of who I am as a person. It might seem weird that I was dating a girl prior to this moment but sitting by myself and saying that “I am a lesbian and that is who I am” was the hardest part of coming out for me. I never wanted to be gay and it took me over seven years to actually speak my truth to myself and embrace it. It took me so long to accept my sexuality and to find the label of “Femme Lesbian” which I am extremely proud to wear.
Now that I had finally found myself, I felt the need to tell others. My parents and I really didn’t talk about it or mention anything about Melanie after I told them I was bi. It just felt like this weird elephant in the room but I knew it wasn’t right. I needed to tell them the truth and didn’t know how to address it so one day I sat down and wrote a letter. I sat down and wrote down essentially what I said above and laid out my entire struggle with this part of me. It was a very long, hand written letter and I gave it to them right before I went back to school after Thanksgiving. I was so nervous because I was truly exposing this part of me that I had kept hidden for so long, but I knew they needed to know all of it. My parents are the most loving and supportive people and I received nothing but love from both of them after my letter. I know that it helped them to see first hand what I went through and how I handled it. I know that my parents never really thought that I was gay, but after the letter they realized that it was there the whole time.
After the letter to my parents, I then came out to my brother but in person. I had to do this at the beginning of Christmas break, because Melanie was coming to celebrate with us the day after Christmas and he didn’t know that we were a couple. Coming out to him was how I think every coming out should be- he said “that’s great. I love you. Now can we go back to watching our show.” His reaction was one of my favorite moments and I love how he almost didn’t care!
Next were my grandparents. I wasn’t necessarily nervous about coming out to them because I knew it wouldn’t matter- they have always been extremely accepting of the LGBT+ community (they hosted a same-sex wedding in their backyard) and are so progressive. What I ended up doing was copying the letter I had given to my parents and sent it to them as well. My grandpa actually wrote a letter back to me and it is one of my most cherished items. I honestly had so much love and support from my closest family members and that is something I am forever grateful for.
At this time I had come out to my immediate family, grandparents, one of my cousins, and oldest best friend, but I was still not out publicly. I told my mom and Melanie that I wanted to do this before Melanie and I celebrated our one year anniversary. I wanted to stop hiding who I was and celebrate this side of me and this amazing relationship that I had been in for the past year! I was nervous because most of my family, friends, and neighbors were all conservative and also I didn’t know of another out person in my whole town. Even though coming out had been received so well up to this point, I was still nervous because now I truly did not know how people would react. So with some help from my mom I wrote a Facebook post on January 30, 2014 and shared my true self with the world. I felt the need to do this not only to tell everyone about me but to also document my progress and show myself to be brave and unapologetically me.
There is nothing worse than living in denial of who you are and being ashamed. Once I pressed “post” I immediately held my breath and then let out the largest sigh of relief. The constant worry, shame, and denial was gone and for the first time I wasn’t hiding behind a mask. I felt so relieved and free in that moment and at peace. Then I got a notification. I immediately went from that state of relief to impending worry. What will they think of me? I can’t take it back now, I’m completely exposed and vulnerable. Then another notification and another and then my phone started lighting up with texts. I was so nervous to refresh my page and look at my phone. I didn’t know what people would say. I was so surprised by the overwhelming amount of support and love I received after posting. I know that I am so lucky because I had nothing but love and support coming at me from all sorts of people.
Of course there were some people that didn’t like it, and I lost some friendships- but that is okay. If someone doesn’t support you for who you truly are then they aren’t worth your time anyway. I am also extremely grateful to have been with a person who didn’t push me to be out when I wasn’t ready. I know that it was hard for Melanie at times, but she never once pressured me into coming out and let me do it on my own terms. She gave me so much strength then and still gives me strength today to be nothing but myself. I know a lot of people don’t have the luxury of choosing if and when they want to come out, and I that is something I don’t ever take for granted.
Even though I came out 5 years ago today I constantly have to come out everyday. It is not just a one and done thing, but almost an every day thing. People that I’ve met since then are also so shocked to find out that I’ve only been out for five years since I am so confident about my sexuality now. I am so proud of this part of me, and I’m so proud to love the woman I love and to call her my wife. For me the hardest part of coming out was coming out to myself and honestly seeing someone who looked like me and who also liked girls like me. Representation matters so much, and that is one of the biggest reasons I started this blog.
If I hadn’t found Whitney and Megan, aka “Wegan”, I don’t know how I would’ve found the confidence to be where I am now. I am so lucky to have the family and support system that I did and still have today. Never would I ever imagined my life playing out the way it did and I would’ve never imagined myself happily married to my dream girl, living in a beautiful city with an amazing fur-baby. It truly does get better and I just wish I could’ve told that to my 13 year old self.
Everyones coming out story is different, and I want you to know if you ever have any questions or just need to talk please always feel free to reach out to me. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to and share their experience with you to make all the difference.
Here’s to being nothing but your truest and most authentic self.