A One-Person Coming Out Party

My life changed the day that I came out to myself.


“You’ll never share real love until you love yourself.” — RENT (2005)

Plenty of people in the queer community could probably remember a time in their lives where they didn’t know anything but the “default.” Most everyone knows the usual boy meets girl, prince charming saves the princess, and the hero rescues the damsel in distress story that’s been thrown on TV screens for ages. At some point, though, some kids grow up to realize that’s not always the case. Some boys grow up to marry their prince charmings. Some girls grow up to save the damsel in distress. Some people realize they can do both and some realize they want to do neither. Some of those born princesses grow up to be kings, some of those born princes grow up to be queens, and some people figure they never really liked royal titles in the first place. Sometimes, it may take years for people to discover and understand who they are. Even when they do, though, it’s a whole other challenge to accept it as well.

It’s a process, at the end of the day. First there’s the “discovery” phase. No, it’s not “finding out” you’re gay or trans or any other label outside of the heteronormative. It can be as simple as a girl wanting to kiss girls, or a person born a boy feeling more comfortable in female-presenting clothing. It’s a period of exploration, and unfortunately, a lot of people are raised to believe that these explorations are bad. If I had a dollar for every time a queer kid had to hear the words “it’s just a phase,” I would be donating billions to the Trevor Project.

Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s alright to discover and accept who you are at your own pace.

Personally, I couldn’t possibly tell you about the day I accepted the fact that I’m bisexual. I could tell you about the first girl I had a crush on, and how much I loved making her smile. I could tell you about the guy I asked out to a school dance and how awkward it was — middle school, that’s all you need to know. I could even tell you about both of my first kisses. I get especially excited when I have to explain to people that I am never going to “make a choice” or “pick a side” because deciding to date Captain America doesn’t mean I’m not pining for Captain Marvel. The point is, I didn’t just wake up one day after one particularly vivid dream and had some great epiphany where I knew like both guys and girls. Over the course of a few years, I came to understand that who I love isn’t a phase and that I deserve that kind of love.

However, the moment you feel like you finally understand yourself, a new door suddenly appears before you — closet doors to be specific.

People in the queer community usually have an extra experience in their lives that the majority of people don’t have to go through: coming out. For many it’s a daunting experience riddled with the anxiety and fear of not being accepted, usually brought on by those judgemental views mentioned earlier. Some people have had to quit school or lost their jobs after coming out. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ youth can even find themselves on the street after speaking their truth to their families and being honest about themselves or who they love. In some of the worst cases for people in the queer community, they can be outed — which is when someone reveals a person’s sexual or gender identity, regardless of whether they are ready or not.

Not all coming out stories are like this, though. There are plenty of stories where people throw parties and find loving acceptance. Most people will choose to come out to the people they are comfortable with first such as, close friends and family. Others might choose to join Pride clubs and find a safe place there to be themselves. The main consequence of this is that coming out is somewhat of a Pandora’s box — once you open those doors, you can’t close them back up. Sure, it can be a totally relieving experience to be able to come out to people and not feel the need to hide, but there’s also the fact that “coming out” never really ends.

I was lucky enough to have mainly good coming out experiences. With most of my friends being in the queer community or allies, I was usually accepted with loving arms. I knew I could trust a majority of my peers to not look at me differently and that if they did, they were someone I didn’t want in my life anyway. I went about it casually, mentioning that I was bi when I felt the moment was right, or waiting until someone caught on and confirmed it for them. I didn’t want to make a very big deal about it. I still don’t make a very big deal about it and it always makes me laugh when people say that after a moment of thought, they aren’t very surprised. After a couple years of coming out to people, I was able to fully accept the love I give and will gladly claim my title as a raging bisexual.

In my family, I had a much slower experience. I came out to a couple of cousins first, figuring I need at least some form of safe space during get-togethers. After a while, I was able to wiggle my way into coming out to my parents though months of hints before deciding it was safe enough to simply spit it out. Not everyone can be lucky enough to have a close relationship with their dad to be able to come out by making heart eyes at the same scantily dressed woman running across the beach in a commercial, though. Of course, I’ve had to receive my fair share of just-a-phase’s from my mom after telling her, but I got used to it and figured I would simply have to accept that this was as good as it got.

What shocked me, though, was things could get better. Things changed on a Saturday evening at a Denny’s after I told my parents that I would be traveling to San Francisco for school. When my mom questioned why, I was barely able to get a word in before my dad said with a straight face, “Because she wants to be gay.” Before I could recover from the staggering amount of confidence in his voice, my mom rebutted just as boldly, “She’s already gay.” I was already nearly in tears when my dad corrected her with the words, “No, she’s bi.” It was a three-minute moment that changed my whole life and they couldn’t even understand why. I was holding myself trying to understand that after all that time, I was still the daughter they knew and loved and that things were going to be okay.

That is, until I came to understand that wasn’t entirely the case.

Sexuality isn’t the only facet of the queer community. For some people in the queer community, gender identity plays a major factor in one’s life. This could come in the form of identifying as the gender you weren’t born with, not identifying as either male or female, or, in cases like mine, identifying with more than one gender.

The moment I began to understand my identity, it felt like I was being thrown into a hall of funhouse mirrors. It felt nothing like the freedom and pride I felt in discovering my sexuality. It wasn’t anything like the hope and confidence that there would be people I could trust to accept me. Suddenly, I was wrapped up in confusion, insecurity, and a bit of denial.

I grew up being teased for looking and acting like a boy and getting along with them at school. At the same time, I went through puberty constantly being sexualized for dressing or acting like a girl. I hated growing up and being told that I have a great body and very nice curves. I hated the time that I cut my hair short in middle school and I punched someone’s shoulder for teasing me. The vice principal shouted, “Hands off policy, young man,” causing my peers to erupt in even more laughter as I ran off to the girl’s restroom, eyes seeming to open up on the walls themselves.

I spent two decades stomping my feet and insisting that I’m just a tomboyish girl. Everyone feels insecure about their bodies during puberty, right? Clothing isn’t gendered. Why should it matter if I want to wear a flannel one day and a skin-tight t-shirt the next? Why should anyone care if sometimes I want to wear my hair down and sometimes I want to hide it in a beanie? I just want to hide my figure because people can be cruel, but I also want to show it off because I love my curves. I constantly fluctuated between wanting people to see me and not knowing what I wanted them to see. It came to a point that I went completely numb and simply said, “I don’t care.”

Big shirts, hoodies, and jeans became my default outfits and if anyone wanted to know if I was a boy or a girl, I would simply shrug and tell them “Just use whatever pronoun you want. I don’t really care.” Those who already knew me used “she,” some people played it safe and used “they,” and one guy used “he” for a year before he finally noticed the two lumps sticking slightly out of my chest the one day in the school year I wasn’t slouching. I didn’t mind it and I went about my business continuing to not care.

Eventually, in an attempt to actually understand this side of myself, I found a list of labels and the discovery period started all over again. For a while, I thought I might be genderfluid, meaning that my identity could flux between various genders. I took that label and met with a few other genderfluid people in my high school’s NOH8 club. I went like that for a couple of years, but it didn’t feel entirely true. I wanted to know more and searched various sources for who I am. A few months after I graduated, I came across the identity bigender. I had never heard of it before and I never met anyone else who identified with it, but the more I read about it, the more I saw myself. I repeated the word in my mind and lay on it for a bit.

I knew something about it felt right, but for some reason … I didn’t.

I went into college slowly letting a few people know that I’m bigender and go by the pronouns “he / she / they” and that they could use whatever they felt comfortable with. Just like before, most of them used “she.” But that was alright because if I asked them to use a different pronoun every time I came into class with a dress shirt, that would just be a hassle and I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Having the label for myself and knowing who I was should have been enough for me. Just like being bisexual, there shouldn’t have been a problem in not making a big deal about it.

This went on until I came to the crashing realization that I never bothered to acknowledge my own comfort. This wasn’t the same acceptance I expected from my sexuality, it was a new beast with slightly different risks. Yet, all it took was a single non-binary friend of mine to proudly shout in a classroom of people, “We stan a bigender king,” for the mirrors to shatter around me in a cacophony of confusion. At that moment, I felt a blush rise to my cheeks and tears welling up in my eyes. It was the first time someone purposefully used another gender for me and the euphoric warmth spreading through my chest was threatening to burn me alive.

In the months after that, I experimented with it, discovering parts of myself I had been desperately repressing before. I slowly went from a walk to a run, chasing that warm feeling — that need to be seen and heard and accepted. I started to look up make-up tutorials for the first time, both on how to put on lipstick and how to create fake facial hair. I began to use a variety of outfits. I gained more confidence walking in the sun with a skirt swaying around my hips and a purse hanging at my side. I straightened my back up while wearing my flannels, sparing glances at my reflection and reminding myself that I’m a pretty handsome guy, regardless of whether or not I actually felt confident that day. Then I walked out in a suit and heels and figured it was a great day to be me. I took the time to look myself in the mirror and tell myself who I am and that it’s my flag to wave proudly. Yet, despite this newfound confidence, there was still one more thing I needed to do.

I had been lying to myself for years. I did care about the pronouns people used for me, and if I should care for their comfort, don’t I deserve to be cared about too? Yes, I’m still comfortable using ”she,” but after a few conversations with my friends, I was able to come out and ask for a bit more. I wish I wasn’t so surprised to find out that the people who accepted me before still accepted me after. A few people happily heard me and promised to make more of an effort to use my other pronouns and in the few days after I truly came out to them, I felt so much happier.

Currently, I’m still getting a grasp on my identity, and that’s alright. As I said before, it’s a process and I plan to come out of it alive and free to be me — pun somewhat intended. As for actually coming out, I’ve decided to take my time and that’s alright too. I know there are people who will be there when I’m ready for my reintroduction. For now, though, I think I’m okay with settling for the peace I’ve found in coming out to and being accepted by the one person who matters: me.