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LGBTQ Voices

How I Became Less Powerless After Coming Out

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A man with brown hair and blue button down staring at the camera.
Newark, DE

As with any manifestation of bigotry, there are two dimensions to homophobia: prejudice at the level of the individual, and sociopolitical disadvantage. In the case of the former, polling data demonstrates that the general American public is more accepting of the LBGTQ+ community than they were even a decade ago.

However, the institutional structures which have systematically relegated LGBTQ+ citizens to second-class status are deeply entrenched and will likely remain for at least the duration of this ghastly administration.

I endured substantially more prejudice and maltreatment before I came out as gay than I did afterward. My experience may be atypical because I was educated at a conservative Christian academy, but it seems that my decision to live the truth of sexuality lent me a degree of respectability that I was denied prior.

For me, the lingering suspicions and the, “Is he, or isn’t he?” questions were worse than the occasional homophobic slur. To feel as though people have unraveled your sexuality before you have done so for yourself is weird and makes you feel powerless in a way that is distant from the pain caused by blatant bigotry.

I was outed by a teacher at the tail end of my senior year of high school. At the time, I had a very close friendship with one of my male classmates. This prompted a teacher to disclose her suspicions about my sexuality to his mother.

The anguish of losing my best friend and being forced to confront the reality of my homosexuality plunged me into a most abysmal depression. During that time, I also experienced suicidal thoughts that culminated in my hospitalization.

With the support of my family, friends, and a damn good counselor, I recovered, but I was still not “out” about my sexuality. One week before I moved to New York to attend university, I began disclosing to a handful of close friends that I was gay.

Their warm reception probably made my transition into college, a New York City liberal arts school, lot easier. There, I gained the wisdom and confidence to be myself and love whomever I wanted.

Finally, when I met my first boyfriend in the spring of 2015, I came out to my family. I was met with love and support from all except my father, who had himself been teased for being a “faggot” as a child and was worried I would experience the same.

Overall, I regard my coming out as being among the best decisions I have ever made and I am grateful for my story.

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LGBTQ Voices

How I Gained Self-Acceptance Through Queer Straight Alliance

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Author, in a maroon sweater, and grey cap in the mountains and overlooking a vast canopy of trees
Rochester, NY

I’ve come out to friends who know me well. Not family. It’s mainly because they probably wouldn’t understand bisexuality. They would think that you have to be either straight or gay.

I feel like they would consider it ‘just a phase.’ I’m at a stage in my life where I’m fairly independent.

My personal life is something that my family becomes aware of on a need to know basis. I don’t know if I’ll ever come out to them. Maybe someday, but not now.

In high school, I was pretty repressed. I went to a Catholic middle school.

The message there was that being anything other than straight means that you’re going to burn in hell. Even though, at that point, I was starting to question that doctrine.

Moving into high school, subconsciously, I think I still carried it with me. I was pretty sexually repressed until around the start of junior year.

I helped a friend, who was out at the time, start the Gay-Straight Alliance, later the Queer-Straight Alliance, at my high school.

By changing who I was hanging out with, I began to develop self-acceptance.

I realized it was okay to question these things. It was in senior year of high school that I started saying to people, ‘I’m figuring myself out, but I know that I’m not completely straight.’

I’ve always felt sort of weird about being a late bloomer. I do feel privileged in that I did eventually have the space to explore my sexuality. I know that’s not always the case for everyone.

We had a honeymoon stage where it seemed like LGBTQ people were having a lot more freedom to be self-expressive. It felt like there was this social progression for acceptance.

I think the Trump era has definitely reinforced the fact that this maybe not have been true. Although it’s certainly not the 50s and 60s, I think that there is still a considerable amount of struggle when it comes to being out. Especially depending on where you are.

There are pockets where people are very accepting. However, we still have a long way to go.

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LGBTQ Voices

How I Overcame the Expectations of My Family to Conform to Societal Norms

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Author, in a black sweater and red pants, standing against a railing overlooking a canopy of trees
Long Island, NY

Growing up in a conservative household, there was no room to be different or to speak out against the norm.

My parents expected me to be very traditional in all aspects of my life. They even originally didn’t want me to go to college. Instead, they wanted me to just look for a spouse right out of high school.

However, I am not very traditional and I have come to the realization that I probably never will be. Most of my friends are single and in their late 20s.

They do not have typical office jobs and many of them are in the LGBTQ community. Actually, being a part of this friend group is the main reason why I had enough confidence to come out.

Once I graduated high school, I was pretty lost. I was hiding my sexuality from my family for years and even tried dating the opposite sex to please them.

However, once I started going online more frequently, I started to meet people who had similar struggles and stories. This is where I was really able to speak out and make connections in the LGBTQ community.

Eventually, I was able to come out as a lesbian to my family with my friends’ help and support. While I was not accepted right away, I was still so relieved that I was being open and honest with my loved ones.

Personally, I really hope that our community can keep staying strong and speaking out for what is right. In recent years, I have noticed many more LGBTQ characters and figures being publicized in pop culture. This is wonderful for younger audiences, specifically so that they can be introduced to our community at a young age.

I personally appreciate TV shows such as Glee and Riverdale for their ability to use LGBTQ characters. Also, seeing same-sex marriages being legalized and promoted is really a great thing for our community. This really gives our community the validation it needs to keep making a difference in the world.

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LGBTQ Voices

My Journey Testing Out Different Labels for Myself

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Two wrists wearing rainbow bracelets.
Queens, NY

Growing up in the internet age with things like Tumblr and Twitter in my life as a teenager really helped me see that I was bisexual. On the internet, you can be true to yourself.

You can explore and discover who you are relatively safely. You can be anonymous to people you know in real life. That gave me so much freedom.

Because of the internet, I was able to test out different labels and see what was right for me. I identified as aromantic, pansexual, and lesbian. I eventually settled on “bisexual” as the best label for me.

I don’t use Tumblr anymore because it has many toxic ideas on it. Still, it really helped me as a teen trying to find myself.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t grown up with the internet or if I hadn’t lived in a progressive city like New York. I think I could have lived my whole life repressing my sexuality and believing I was straight.

Being bisexual is so important to me. I’m so thankful for the environment I was raised in.

The LGBTQ community is incredibly important to me. Having a community like that helps me meet amazing new people.

I love going to LGBTQ+ events. This community is so strong, creative, and resilient. I’m very proud to be a part of that.

All of my close friends are LGBTQ+ too. Even people that I knew before coming out.

Having that in common brings us closer together. It’s something that we can talk about and bond over.

I’m not officially out to my parents but I think they know. They’re very open-minded so they wouldn’t care anyway. I’m out to my sister, she’s bisexual too.

With my friends, it was casual. Like I said, they’re all part of the LGBTQ+ community.

I knew they were LGBTQ+ before they knew about me. That made it really easy to just drop into conversation. Now we’re a big happy LGBTQ+ group, it’s great.

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