or as long as I can remember, I’ve felt different. It wasn’t until seventh or eighth grade that I realized why. It took me years to finally accept it, to stop living in denial. But now, I’m ready to tell the world.
Oh God. Was this a bad idea? Am I ready? Maybe I should have waited? I’m not ready. I need to breathe. I can do this. It’s been long enough. I can’t wait any longer. I’m ready.
My sexuality has never been something I’ve used to define myself, mostly because I’ve never felt like I had to. Being gay is one small part of who I am. There’s a lot more that makes me — me. So why do I need to “come out”?
Coming out — it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Opening myself up, being vulnerable, it doesn’t get easier.
The first person I came out to was one of my closest friends. I’ve never been a very open person, especially about something as personal as my sexuality. But this was different. It took until my sophomore year to finally come to grips with who I really was, and by then I had a safety net of friends who I hoped would accept me no matter what. Yet I still had my doubts.
What if they don’t like me anymore? How can I be sure they will accept me? Will they treat me differently?
These thoughts plagued me for months, always lingering in the back of my mind. But then, two months before school ended, my friend told me he was moving out of state. At that moment I knew I had to tell him the truth. I joked about my sexuality for a month or so, warming him up to the idea I wasn’t straight. “Why does the gender of who I like matter?” (A question I still don’t know the answer to.)
I had delayed it long enough; it was finals week and I still hadn’t told him the truth. I sat down and rehearsed what I would tell him, trying to calm my nerves. The time came and, he asked me what I wanted to talk about. I stood, staring at my message for what felt like a century. Reading it over, and over. I could barely bring myself to hit send … but I did. And his response?
“Ye I kinda figured already.”
That was such a relief. Now, we’re closer than ever, which wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t completely honest with him. That experience taught me, no matter how hard it is, coming out was something I needed to do. Since then I’ve developed the courage to tell a lot more people, each one as special as the first.
Lately I’ve come to realize that coming out is much more than explaining my sexuality — it’s the first time I really get to be honest. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Coming out also reminds me of the lie I’ve been telling people my entire life.
I shouldn’t feel pressured to live a lie. I should be able to feel comfortable just being who I am, but I’m not. And a lot of the time, it’s because of the way other students talk about LGBTQ+ people.
“Why are you being gay?” “That’s so gay!” “What a f–!” Hearing people say these things — is disappointing. Not just because it offends me, but even more than that, it shows how ignorant some people are.
People say these things thinking it doesn’t upset anyone, but it does. Do they know about the shy lesbian girl in class who overhears their slander? Do they know about their teammate who’s afraid of changing in the locker room because he is gay? Do they know about me?
Through coming out, I hope to change the way some people think, and maybe even inspire people like me to be honest with themselves and those around them. This is something I struggled with for a long time, and because of it, there’s a part of me that I’ve never really explored.
I intentionally tried to act straight almost all my life. I wouldn’t compliment people on their outfits. I wouldn’t talk with girls out of fear they’d think I was flirting. I wouldn’t compliment people’s photos on Facebook with “that’s cute” or “you look great in this picture.” I wouldn’t talk about relationships with friends for fear the tables would turn on me. Even this year, the first year I truly accepted who I was, I succumbed to the pressure to be “normal.”
How would I deal with homecoming? Junior prom? Should I ask a girl and lead her on? Or would I do nothing and not go — or go alone? I had convinced myself that finding a date was my only option. But after actually going through with finding a girl to go with, forcing myself to be someone I was not, I knew what I had to do.
There were times when I was ashamed of myself and my sexuality. Not anymore. I don’t live to satisfy any negative influence. This is who I am and there’s nothing I can do to change it, so why would I want to? I’m happy just being Nate, and that’s good enough for me.