To conclude the series of interviews with members of the LGBT+ community, I thought that I would 'interview' myself. I have not been open about my sexuality, but I am considering this article as my official 'coming out'. Even as I am writing, my hands are shaking. The biggest misconception I think that people have about 'coming out' is that those who are not gay think the process is easy. I have told people, straight people, that I am gay, and they wondered why I hadn't told them sooner, especially since they were completely okay with me being gay. What they don't understand is that the current atmosphere is not the best to come out in. Even before telling my friends, who are also gay, I felt fear. When I came out to my parents, every story I had ever read, or heard, about parents kicking out their children or worse, ran through my head. As I have gotten more comfortable identifying myself as panromantic/demi-sexual, and with the continual support of those I have come out to, I have finally accepted that this is who I am, and I would like to be recognized by my friends and family as a panromantic/demi-sexual woman.
Following the style of my two previous articles, I will be asking myself similar questions, and hopefully answering them in an understandable form.
Question: What is your sexuality?
Answer: I am currently identifying as panromantic, demi-sexual. So, I am still new to this, but as far my understanding of the terms themselves, and how I feel as a person, is that panromantic is romantic attraction to a person of any gender. Basically, I don't care what my partner's future gender is, I am in the relationship for the person, and what I like most about them. Demi-sexual is a more recent development of my sexual identity. Even I still don't really know how to explain it fully, but, basically, I do not feel sexual attraction to another person until I really get to know them. I'm still trying to figure out this part of my sexuality, but this is currently how I am labeling myself.
Question: But you've never been in a relationship before, so how do you know this is your sexuality?
Answer: Well, if you are a straight person, and you've never been in a relationship before, how do you know that you are still attracted to the opposite gender? Because your relationship does not define your sexuality. And because you have probably looked at a person, and said "I am attracted to them" or you have gotten to know someone and thought "I would date them". For me, it is kind of the same process. I've never been in a relationship, but I have felt romantic attraction to people that I knew, that were all of different genders: male, female, non-binary, people who identify as some form of transgender, etc.
Question: When did you first start realizing that you weren't straight?
Answer: Well, I kind of only started realizing in college that I wasn't straight. Looking back now, I can identify moments where I was "gay as hell" as me and my friends like to joke. I recognize times when I felt more than just friendship for some of my friends who were girls. So when I first started thinking about my sexuality, I wondered if I was a lesbian, or bisexual. But when I really started to accept that I was gay, I realized that I didn't care. Until that point, I had only felt attraction for two genders, but then I just said "Screw it. It doesn't matter to me. I'll love, and be in a relationship with whoever I want." I can also look back and see moments where I was subconsciously trying to pass as a heterosexual woman. But those are really embarrassing, so I won't go there.
Question: What was it like coming out to friends and family?
Answer: As I said above, it was really scary. With my friends, who are both panromantic/asexual, it wasn't because I thought they would reject me because I was gay, but I was worried that they thought I was lying, to try to fit in more with them. Because that is what I said to myself for a long time. "Oh, it's just because you're hanging out with them, and you want to fit in more." But then, I went home for the summer and said to myself, I'm going to really give this some thought, and make sure that this is really who I am. But like the great friends they are, when I came out to them last fall, they were insanely happy.
I also remember my one friend, a year before I officially came out, telling me to my face, after I made a joke about possibly being gay, that "It's okay. Come out whenever you're ready." It was so out of the blue, and I just felt like, "what??" That was when the feelings of panic started to set in, and I really started to try to figure out my sexuality. My friend's gaydar is scarily accurate...
Coming out to my parents, at least my mother, was slightly more awkward. And she is probably nodding her head now as she is reading this.
We were driving through downtown Bangor, in Maine. It was winter break, so I was home. And as we passed a store, I was like "Aw. That store used to have a pride flag up in the window, I wonder what happened?" and my mother, who was driving, just said, "Well, what do you care, you're not gay." Now, I have never been able to easily lie to my mother, and I had been suppressing the urge to tell her since I came home. So, rather than saying anything, I said nothing and continued looked out the window. I remember see her head snap back and forth, and she said, "Are you?!?!?!". It was so awkward! But after that, we continued to have discussions about my sexuality, and I tried to be as open as possible, thought it felt weird to be telling this to someone who was not part of the LGBT+ community. I was so lucky to have a mother who didn't disown her daughter, just because she was gay. And I can never thank her enough for it.
Question: Now that you have officially come out, what do you plan to do? How do you feel?
Answer: Well, I am scared. I can count on one hand, mostly, the people that I have come out to, and now I am coming out in such a public and, exposed, way. So, yeah, I am scared. I am worried about backlash from my friends and family on social media. I am worried that there will be people who will no longer talk to me. While I hope that doesn't happen, I don't want people in my life who are going to make me feel bad, or horrible, for being myself. I think once the initial reactions to my coming out are over with, I will feel this enormous weight lifted off of my shoulder.
I will always have to come out. To strangers, to co-workers, to my bosses, if the situation ever arises. There will always be this fear in me about the negative backlash from people toward me as a gay person. Or even from people in the LGBT+ community who don't recognize panromantic as an actual sexuality, or like the common misconception about bisexuals, "We just can't decided which gender they like best." I assure you, I like them all, generally about the same degree of attraction. I can't wait to be open and honest with people, and not have to hide who I am, especially to people I really care about.
Question: Any words of wisdom to others who are realizing they are panromantic? What about to the family members and friends they are coming out to?
Answer: For those who feel that they identify as panromantic, my best advice would be to not let anyone scare you away from that identity. There's a lot of push against pansexuals/panromantics to identify as bisexual, because some people think that's what we really identify as, and we are just 'confused'. Don't listen to people like that. You alone know what you are feeling and who you are attracted to.
To the friends and families that they are coming out to: get over your predetermined prejudices. They are still your child, they are still you friend. Their sexuality hasn't changed who they are as a person. Who they are attracted to has nothing to do with what makes them funny, or dramatic.
My love to all my friends and family who are continuing to support me. Thank you so much for the little things that make being openly panromantic/demi-sexual so much easier.