In celebration of National Coming Out Day (#NCOD), we decided to answer some questions about our own identities and coming out stories. We recognize that it is not always safe for LGBT individuals to come out to their families or friends. Please join the #GetYrRights conversation on Twitter to discuss what LGBT people need to feel safe in their communities.
How do you identify?
Morgan: Queer transman.
Tiffany: Queer femme cis-woman.
What was coming out like for you? Was it a process?
Morgan: It was terrifying. I held a meeting with my entire immediate family about a month before I graduated from college, because I didn’t want to end up on the streets homeless or uneducated.
Tiffany: It was really easy to come out to my close friends, but much more difficult with my family. It’s definitely been an on-going process as I come out to extended family and even to new people in my life. It feels like I constantly gauge whether or not it’s safe to be “out” in various spaces and I wish that wasn’t the case. And today, for National Coming Out Day, I’m officially declaring my queerness on social media, even though I think most people have figured it out based on my posts.
Who was the first person you ever talked to about your identity?
Morgan: My brother, Kyle. After he died, it took quite some time for me to talk about it with anybody else.
Tiffany: I’m not entirely sure, honestly. I know I talked about sexuality during high school with my boyfriend and with my best friend. They were both incredibly open and comforting, so it wasn’t something I felt I had to label or explain further. It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I started directly identifying with the word queer. I just never liked to consider myself bisexual, it still felt really limiting to me.
How did coming out to your family go?
Morgan: Mixed reviews. There was hugging and acceptance, and quiet disapproval.
Tiffany: Coming out to my sister and my dad was pretty easy, they were very relaxed about it and didn’t really seem bothered. My mom had a tough time at first, because she kept wanting an explanation of my identity and wanted to put me into boxes that made sense for her (i.e. bisexual). She really didn’t like that I used the word queer to define myself, as she thinks it has a negative connotation, but I think she is coming around to it.
I’m still not out directly with some of my extended family, though many have heard through the grapevine. I grew up in a very conservative family, so it’s been difficult having conversations about my sexuality with them.
What would you want to tell somebody else who might be afraid to come out?
Morgan: For some, the day they come out is the first time they are able to be truly honest with their loved ones about something that is inherently core to their life. For others, coming out doesn’t wind up being eventful and they receive responses like “No shit, I’ve known since you were 3 and asked for a tutu for your birthday.” The people who really love and support you will be understanding and kind. Hug them, kiss them, tell these people how much they matter and thank them for their continued support and love.
Sadly, for many coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer to family and friends means that they become orphans or outcasts. LGBT youth homelessness is a very real problem.
If you know the people in your life will never accept you, fuck ‘em. They aren’t worth the energy, so instead find ways to live safely and authentically until you find other places to receive support. You are more loved than you will ever know and by being true to yourself, you will eventually find acceptance from other people and communities.
Tiffany: First and foremost, I just want to say that if you’re not ready to come out, that’s ok. It’s up to you to gauge your safety and your comfort in being out. My suggestion would be to try to find a place where you feel safe being yourself. Whether that’s online (tumblr!), with a specific group of friends, a local LGBT center, or some other place that’s right for you.
Coming out as an adult made things a lot easier for me in many ways – I didn’t have to worry about being kicked out of the house, I already had work experience and a great career, etc. The downside was that it really started to wear on me when I couldn’t be completely authentic about certain aspects of my life. I’m really glad that things are rapidly changing and that my generation and those younger than me are increasingly comfortable with and accepting of LGBT identities.