Find the original post at In Our Words: A Salon for Queers and Co.
I wish I knew before coming out the first time that I would have to do it again… and again… and again. Media and society seem to inform young queer folks that “coming out” is this one-time-wham-bam-Kodak-moment, whether for better or for worse. This is quite the lie. We’re constantly forced to come out just in living our life, in little to big ways: in holding hands with our cutie pie, in gendering our partner in conversation, in discussions at work or school, in the ways our names don’t match people’s perceptions of us, and the list goes on.
That being said, however, the first time I officially came out, I wish I knew to do it small instead of a big, grand gesture. It wasn’t easy for a certain parental figure when I made this big play and it could have gone over more smoothly (who really knows what would have happened if I did it differently); with less sudden restrictive rules during my early high school years and definitely less anxiety and feelings of shame.
I also wish I knew before coming out the first time that my first girlfriend wouldn’t be my only girlfriend — even in that small rural Texas town I grew up in. How to tell and convince “high school” me of that, I do not know but I wish I had known how many LGBTQ people were out in the world so that I wouldn’t have thought that heartbreak was the last time I’d feel so loved.
In that sense, I wish I knew that I would eventually find a queer community that grew from a small conservative group of gays and lesbians, to a really beautiful group of individuals who identify on a spectrum of gender identity and sexualities that I didn’t know then even existed. I wish I knew then that I didn’t have to come out as a “lesbian,” knowing that label didn’t fit me, but lacking the words I would later develop, to describe that I was attracted to people of all genders. I wish I knew that I would learn so so much about being queer the older and more braver I became.
Ultimately, I wish I was aware of the world out there so I didn’t have to feel so alone, so confused, so ashamed and so determined to make everything an absolute. But that I could also have hope, joy for discovery, be excited about meeting and dating new people, be constantly learning and have the knowledge that it’s okay to question and be fluid in my identity and choices.
I wish I knew before officially coming out the second time that it wouldn’t be the only time. That this time, outside of my parents’ roof, I had the power over our relationship, even though it sure didn’t feel that way when I anxiously prepared to tell them about my female-identified partner.
I wish I knew that I can’t seem to explain it to them in a way that they would understand, so I shouldn’t try: just to let it be a new fact of life. This grand gesture of exclaiming gay love is romantic for only a moment and only on our end… that it partially disregards their parental perspective of years spent planning engagement parties and wedding dresses and having a son-in-law, etc. I’ve spent years working on and understanding my identity and sexuality, whereas maybe, just maybe they forgot my earlier triumphant and tumultuous moment of coming out the first time. I wish I realized that it may take time for them to adapt and that they will accept it (this, at least, goes for my parents, which I feel really really privileged to be supported and accepted by them. This is, in a large part, due to the years we spent working on our communications which I wrote about here/here).
I wish I knew before officially coming out the second time that, while it matters in really really big ways to me and my sense of honesty within in my family and community, that in some ways it didn’t really matter at all because I am who I am and I will love who I love.