National Coming Out Day, October 11, is a special day to all people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. As this day progressed, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and I smiled at all of the posts that describe people's experiences. There were so many posts about people coming out to their friends and family on their Facebook.
All of these narratives are different. Everyone has a different way of coming out to the people around them. Some of them have added photos that look like a name tag saying "Hello I am... bisexual" and others have written out heartfelt posts about their experience of finding out who they are.
As I thought about all of these different people and their various ways of coming out to their loved ones, I realized that my own story is different in its own way and that I want it to be told to the world. So here I am.
It took me quite a long time to fully realize my sexuality and admit it to myself. The journey actually started when I was a sophomore in high school, when my then-best-friend had come out to me, telling me that she was bisexual.
This was the first time I had known anyone like that. I had heard about lesbians and gays, but I had never known someone who was actually part of that community. It intrigued me.
It was New Year's when I kissed her for the first time. She had asked me if I would be her New Year's kiss and I agreed. When midnight came around, I started getting nervous. My arms and legs gave a tingling sensation like the muscles had fallen asleep, and I could feel my stomach doing somersaults in my abdomen.
We kissed, and I remember playing it off like it was nothing but harmless fun. I didn't think anything of it, but I knew I wanted to kiss her again. And when we made it a New Year's tradition, I was overjoyed. I still didn't understand why.
Freshman year of college is when I actually started thinking about it - my sexuality. After my boyfriend of two years had broken up with me senior year, I realized that I didn't find guys that attractive. He had really been the only guy I was ever interested in. I worried that I wouldn't find anyone that I loved like I had loved him. But I wanted to try anyway.
I built friendships and I talked to people, but nobody really sparked my interest. The beginning of my sophomore year at college, I actually went on a couple dates. This was when I was really concerned about my sexuality and I really wanted to make sure that I was absolutely not interested in guys anymore. At this point, I could recognize my interest in women and I understood that I was attracted to women, but I didn't know if I was bisexual, like my best friend, or if I was simply gay.
I think, though my best friend and some others had started to guess, the guy that I had been on a few dates with was the first person that I actually told that I was gay. I had finally admitted it to myself and I knew that I had to tell him something for why I didn't want to see him again, so I decided to finally admit the truth.
I remember feeling like I could breathe, again, when I finally was able to come to terms with and understand my sexuality. I felt like I was finally at a point and in an environment that I could be myself.
October 11 of my sophomore year of college, I decided to tell my mother. It was the day of the homecoming game on campus, as well as National Coming Out Day. I was in the parade that morning with my school's Sexuality and Gender Alliance, so I was busy almost all day, but it was on my mind the whole time. I figured that it was National Coming Out Day, so what better day to come out?
I was sitting on my bed in the dorm room that I shared with one of my friends from high school. She was sitting at the desk, her face glued to her computer screen. I had my laptop sitting on my legs and I leaned against the wall. My phone was in my hand. It was around 11 p.m. and I figured that my mom would be in bed.
In a sudden burst of courage, I began to type out a message about National Coming Out Day and I told her that I was gay. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I do remember setting the phone down and feeling oddly calm.
But then my phone vibrated and I saw that she had answered me. This was something that I hadn't expected to see until the morning and I automatically started panicking. The message was supportive, telling me that she loved me no matter what, but she also said that she would let me tell the rest of the family in my own time.
So I set myself a deadline. I wanted to tell my siblings and my father before the new year started. Winter break came around quickly and I realized that I was running out of time.
It was Christmas Day when I told my brother and sister about my sexuality. I decided to send them a Snapchat picture of a black background that simply said, "Merry Christmas from your gay sister." I wasn't really worried about my brother's reaction, which was, in turn, anticlimactic. He only sent me a snap back, saying, "Merry Christmas from your dumb brother". I was worried about my sister's reaction, though. She seemed to be the least supportive family member, the most outwardly homophobic.
She was surprised at first, asking me questions about what I actually meant by 'gay,' but she didn't talk to me about it for the rest of the day. It was the next day when she confronted me. My siblings and I were in the kitchen. She started bombarding me with questions that were both insensitive and inappropriate, while my brother was silent. I eventually made it back to my room and stayed there for the rest of day.
I couldn't tell my dad for a week after that, worried about what would happen, how he would take it. I was trying to figure out how I wanted to tell him, and I decided that I would tell him through a letter because I didn't want to have another conversation like the one with my sister.
It ended up being January 2, I believe, when I wrote the letter and left it on the counter for my dad to read in the morning. I remember writing about it being late, and citing the reason for it being late as what had happened with my sister. I explained a lot of things that I had been feeling, talking about how I was worried because I didn't know how he would take it, and then I left it for him.
The next day, I got up and noticed that the letter was gone. I was alone with him a couple times in the kitchen throughout the morning, but he didn't mention anything. I started to worry that he didn't get the letter and that I would have to start over again. But later, in the afternoon, he took me out on a drive.
At first it was quiet. I kept waiting for him to say something, but he didn't for so long that I thought he never would. Eventually, though, he did. We talked about it and he asked some questions. I remember him asking what had happened with my sister, but I didn't really answer him because I didn't want to talk about it. He was supportive, in his own way. He said he was hoping that I would end up with a guy, but he said that he loved me no matter what at the same time.
Again, I felt like I could breathe easier. I felt lighter than I had in many years. I had finally come out to the most important people in my life.
Throughout the rest of that year, I got my first girlfriend, which lead me to tell some of my extended family and I made some posts on Facebook which I hoped would reach the rest of my extended family that lived throughout the country.
Today, I consider myself out of the closet to everyone who is important to me. But coming out is more than a one-time thing. I still find myself being nervous any time I want to talk about my fiancee to someone new that I work with or go to class with. I have to decide if I want to come out to my hair stylist or my dentist. Coming out is an everyday process, but that's why I'm glad we have a day to celebrate it, just like I'm happy that I live in a world where I can finally be myself.