Society has informed itself in such a way that, from birth, it's implied that you're straight and cisgender unless you state otherwise. But sharing your identity with others is not a passing conversation; it's one that sparks anxiety, worry, doubt, and fear—fear of not being accepted, fear of judgment. Lin-Manuel Miranda's repetitious two-word quote, "Love is love is love," is a simple yet profound reminder that regardless of the gender of the person you're in love with, at its core, love is the binding force behind your attraction—the chromosomes of both parties don't define whether the relationship is valid or not. But the "coming-out" conversation remains a milestone for LGBTQ+ individuals, and as allies, we can only hope they come out on the other side welcomed with open arms. Of course, this is certainly not always the case, but for those who have found a strong support system, we thought we'd share their stories to offer hope and inspiration, and, if anything else, be a source of comfort in this difficult political climate. Below, five LGBTQ+ individuals share their stories.
"I come from a black, Southern, and religious family, so the thought of coming out was a terrifying feeling. I came out initially to my mom through a text message when I was 21. She told me she loved me no matter what and referenced a scripture in the bible about Sodom and Gomorrah. Out of fear over the mixed reply, I decided not to engage it, and we entered a phase of don't ask, don't tell. I live in California, so it was easy to live two separate lives. I tried again seven years later when I was in a serious relationship. This time, when I came out, I was a little more unapologetic, approaching it with a take-it-or-leave-it stance. I was ready to say goodbye to my family if I wasn't accepted because I felt the person I was presenting to them was a complete lie. I called and texted my family that I would be changing my relationship status on Facebook and wanted to let them know before social media found out. To my surprise, everyone was super supportive. My stepdad and mom are my biggest advocates. It's a process, and everyone has to approach it their own way and in their own time. It's very important to be true to yourself at all costs. You are not alone." — Antwan
"Eden was waiting for me on her front porch as I pulled into her driveway. I had called her and said I needed to talk. We parked in a cul-de-sac around the corner, and I sat quietly for several moments. I wanted so badly to confess my secret, but I couldn't bear to say it. I hated the word. It was the worst thing you could call a boy in high school. The one syllable carried the weight of shame that left me crawling out of my skin. With an aching heart, I whispered to her softly, 'I need you to ask me.' She knew what this was. 'Is it about Sean?' she asked. I nodded. 'Do you like him?' Yes. And even though I had known for years, as far back as the second grade, I began to tell her that these feelings were foreign to me. That I had never felt this way about another boy, and I was terribly confused. Maybe it made me feel like I was still a man, or maybe it's not nearly as hard to say 'I'm gay' as it is to say 'I've been lying until now.'"
"For me, the topic of 'coming out' is different than most. I guess you could say that I never officially came out to my family. Am I still in the closet? No, I'm not.
"I didn't start dating other guys until I was about 17—the summer before my senior year of high school. I met a guy online and would sneak off for weekend trips to New Orleans. It was about a four-hour drive from my mom's house, away from my friends and family. One day I was hanging out with two of my best friends, Brenna and Micha, who knew that I was seeing someone, but they didn't know who it was. They combed through my Myspace account endlessly that day pointing at pictures of girls saying, 'Is that her?' Finally, they both went for my cell phone. I can remember holding on to that phone for dear life. Of course, they finally got my phone from me and saw the boy's name. That is when I officially came out to my friends. Luckily for me, I have some of the best friends in the world. They shrugged it off and were more mad that I didn't just tell them. We spent the rest of that day sharing stories together and nothing really changed. I am friends with them both still and love them very much.
"As far as my family goes, I just started bringing home dates as if nothing was different. At a certain point, it was clear to my parents that I was gay (as if they didn't ever figure it out before). I still have never sat down with my parents and had the talk. I regret this in so many ways. I can remember my mom crying in a parking lot one day, saying that she 'just didn't want my life to be any harder than it has to be,' after asking me to not be so vocal about being 'you know.'
"While I still talk to my mom about guys I date, she gives me advice, and everything is normal, there is still a cloudiness to the situation that I think is unfair to my family. I don't think my parents truly understand what it means to be gay. Perhaps they think it is a choice. I have never been good at face-to-face confrontation, and it scares me to think of sitting down and bringing this up. Regardless, over the years, it has become clear to everyone in my family that I am gay. I don't know how much they can connect to it, but I do know that they love me unconditionally, and I must appreciate that as much as possible. Not everyone is as lucky as me."
"As a child, I carried the weight of others' expectations with me everywhere I went. I was 'supposed' to be a boy, so I needed to play the part. For weekly show-and-tell in my kindergarten class, I would steal my brother's action figures to present to the class, even though I secretly had the largest Barbie collection in all of New England. I played every sport my suburban town could offer in an effort to please my parents, all while dreaming of the uniforms I would wear if I had been assigned female at birth. At 9, I admitted my womanhood to myself. Sneaking into my mom's bathroom and applying her makeup had become a ritual for me, so it was while staring in the mirror of her vanity that I thought to myself, I'm a girl, but I'll never tell anyone. My struggles with gender identity ebbed and flowed from that point on, only becoming more complex the longer I feigned boyhood. Now, not only does everybody in my life know about my womanhood, but I now have a platform to talk about my gender identity openly and publicly, helping me to take pride in my journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
"When I first publicly came out as trans, I was petrified. It was the beginning of my senior year of college, and I was a confused and vulnerable 21-year-old. Makeup was the escape from my masculinity, as it had always been, and I finally drummed up enough courage to wear it boldly and in public. I would spend hours painting on layer after layer, seeing a sort of doll-like beauty come to life each morning. I relied heavily on my makeup to be seen correctly, artfully crafting the presentation that eventually became normal for my friends and classmates to see. It gave me a taste of confidence in my femininity that I had never fully felt before—the only problem was that this confidence disappeared as soon as I washed my face. I hadn't yet learned how to be confident in my womanhood without all the physical bells and whistles. Makeup was the armor I wore against the outside world, and I was scared beyond belief that I wouldn't be accepted without it. My family and friends were epically supportive of my transition and gender expression, but my fear was that nobody else would be. I had nightmares of never finding a job after graduation and having to suppress the identity I had only recently been able to claim. I didn't think the corporate world would accept me. I could not have been more wrong."
"I was ironically on the way to church with my family when I decided to come out. It certainly wasn't planned, but it happened.
"Growing up, I was always a 'tomboy,' according to my family and classmates. I wore baggy T-shirts and jeans just about every day—floral prints and dresses weren't for me, as much as my mother forced them on me, as if wearing femme clothing would normalize me in some way. I enjoyed playing with the neighborhood boys and didn't have many girl friends because we didn't have anything in common, though I longed to want to be accepted by them. They would gush over their school crushes on the playground, but I never had a boy crush. The boys were my friends, period. Then one day, Cruel Intentions came on the television, and although I was far too young to be watching it, I caught the part where Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair kissed, and I felt something. It was from that moment that I realized that that longing feeling I had for the girls in my class was more so a feeling of affection for them, but I couldn't talk to anyone about it. My parents and sister would always ask me which boy I thought was cute, and I'd just shrug it off. I could tell from their looks that they were concerned.
"Then, on that one fateful day on the way to church, my sister kept prodding me and nagging me, asking me why I only did 'boy things' and finally blurted out, 'You're a lesbian!' I turned to her and shouted back, 'You know what? I AM!' The car was completely silent, and my mom pulled over to the side of the road. She looked me dead in the face and said, "Honey, if you like girls, then that's okay." I immediately burst into tears and hugged my mom. It felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. And even though I grew up in a Christian family, religion was never used against me. I continued to go to church all throughout high school and even into college. Yes, there are some conservative, right-wing sectors that may see being gay as a 'sin,' but I've met many fellow Christians who are widely accepting of my sexuality. Church has actually been a great source of community for me." — Emily
This story was originally published at an earlier date.