Best Of: My Coming Out Story
June is LGBT Pride Month and we’d like to take a moment to remember this beautiful coming out story that we published last June.
It’s kind of amazing how every LGBT person’s Coming Out Story is SO different from the next. Every story is unique. Every story has a different ending. Every story is empowering and beautiful, regardless of the outcome. The stories of strangers have helped me immensely over the years and I’ve found that they are the best way for non-LGBT people to learn about our community. The following is (most of) my story. It’s actually an excerpt from my “Coming Out Letter” that I wrote to my parents several months ago. This letter will always hold a special place in my heart and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express my emotions and feelings as accurately and eloquently as I did when I wrote this. So, instead of writing a brand new piece, I thought I would just share a portion of this letter.
This is by far the most emotional, heartfelt, toughest, and honest letter I will ever write to you guys. This letter is probably long overdue and I’ve been holding a lot of feelings inside for many years. I’m finally in a place in my life where I feel somewhat comfortable and confident enough to finally express all of these feelings to you. I’ve been holding them in for many reasons, the main reason being fear. Fear of your reaction, fear of losing you, fear of disappointing you, etc. After years of keeping you guys separate from a large portion of my life, it’s not easy being completely open and honest about absolutely everything, but it’s necessary.
About 8 years ago, I came to you and told you I was in a relationship with a woman. As I remember it, my “coming out” was pretty much a disaster. I was in my first serious relationship (with anyone), I was in love for the first time (or at least I thought I was), and I was just coming into my own and was very stupid and naïve about many things. I was 20 years old and thought I had my life figured out. I was defensive and didn’t really know how to “come out”. I was also terrified because I knew that you guys didn’t understand it and certainly didn’t agree with it. I remember it ending with me storming out of the house. So, while that relationship ended and I’ve since realized that what I felt for her was not true love and that I made really dumb decisions back then in the name of “love”, I was right about one thing. I am gay. It wasn’t just a phase. Over many, many years (like, since I was an adolescent), I’ve struggled deeply with my identity, my attractions, relationships, etc. Instead of dealing with my struggles, I was just going through the motions of being a “normal” girl. I would go to church, I would talk about boys with my friends, I would force myself to look at the world a certain way, and I would make plans to graduate high school, go to college, meet the perfect man, get married, have the perfect kids, etc. That’s what I was supposed to do. That’s how the life of a good, Christian girl is supposed to go. The problem was that my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t attracted to boys like I was supposed to be. I tried so hard to be, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t into church like I was supposed to be. I was just going because that’s where my friends were and I got to sing, which has always been a passion of mine, and, let’s face it, you guys made me get out of bed every Sunday and go. Other than that, I was extremely skeptical about what was taught in church and I hated the “church drama” that existed in every single church we attended.
After high school, I began to explore how I truly felt inside. I’ll admit, I didn’t explore it in the most healthy way. I made stupid decisions when I was away at college, and even a few when I moved to Alabama. I was hanging out with a not-so-great group of people. But at the time, I didn’t care because I finally had gay friends. I felt somewhat “normal” around these people. It took a few years before I discovered that there were mature, responsible, successful, normal people who were also gay. Luckily, I found those people, and to this day, I have a very small, close group of people who I call my best friends. They’re like family to me and they’re really good people. They’re all responsible, independent, successful people who are established in their careers. We’re just a group of normal humans. One of those friends referred me to the therapist she used when she was going through struggles of her own and that’s the best gift she could have ever given me. I went only a few times to the therapist, but it was extremely helpful. I told the therapist that I felt like I had failed you guys as a daughter. I told her how I was constantly torn between embracing my true self and living an authentic life or making my devout Southern Baptist parents happy and hiding my truth. I tormented myself with the thought of how disappointed you guys must be that your only daughter turned out to be a lesbian and worse, an atheist. I won’t go into details on what the therapist told me, I’ll just say that I’ll forever be a fan of therapy.
So, this is my REAL coming out. This is my educated, mature coming out. Yes, I am a lesbian. Just like being straight doesn’t define you, being a lesbian doesn’t define me. Just like you have been a functioning, contributing member of society, so am I. Just like you didn’t wake up one day and choose to be straight, I didn’t wake up one day and choose to be gay. This is something that has always been inside of me, but for a very long time I didn’t know how to define it. And when I learned how to define it as a high school kid, I did everything in my power to suppress it and make it disappear. I was successful in suppressing it for a long time, I filled that void with everything I could possibly think of, but just like you can’t suppress your heterosexuality, I can’t suppress my homosexuality. It’s at the core of my being. And when I finally began to open up about it and live openly as a lesbian, my outlook on life has drastically changed. I can honestly say that I’m truly happy with the majority of my life – the only thing missing was you guys. The only thing that I still struggle with is my relationship with you guys. I feel that if I can repair the relationship with you guys, so many other things will fall into place. I know for a fact that it would lift a huge weight off my shoulders and would probably do the same for you.
I understand that your disapproval of homosexuality is rooted in your religious beliefs and I would never ask you or expect you to change those beliefs. I don’t expect you to openly support your gay daughter and march in a parade or something (but if for some reason you DO want to do that, I will gladly march alongside you!). I don’t expect you to be perfectly okay with meeting my girlfriend and having us over for family dinners. I don’t expect you guys to do anything you’re not comfortable doing. The only thing I want is for us to have a mutual respect for each other. I respect the fact that you don’t agree with it and I respect your religious beliefs and conservative world view. All I ask is that you have the same respect for my world view as I do for yours. Just like I don’t expect you to change your beliefs, I would ask you to do the same for me. I’m firm in my “beliefs” about life and I’m not interested in changing them. I know that’s not what you want to hear, and I’m sorry if this is a disappointment for you, but I have to be honest. Please don’t think of this as some sort of insult to your parenting, because it’s not. You have not failed in some way at being a good parent. There’s nothing that anyone did to “make” me turn out this way. You guys have been the most incredible parents to me and you continue to be the most incredible parents. You’ve given me way more than I deserve in this life and I will be forever grateful for both of you. I need you to know that I mean that and that I love you guys endlessly.
Since I sent this letter to my parents, things are slowly getting better. I can see their minds slowly beginning to open and it’s the most wonderful thing to witness. My story is far from over and I can’t wait to continue this beautiful journey that we call “Life”.
(image via our queer stories)