Some people have reasons for staying in the closet. Maybe they are religious or they know their parents won’t accept them or they are afraid of being bullied at school. I didn’t have any reasons. I knew. Of course I knew. I knew for so long. To this day I cannot explain why I held it in. We all need to do it on our own timeline, I suppose, and for whatever fateful reason, this was mine.
I was twelve or thirteen the first time I remember consciously thinking about being attracted to another girl. I was watching The Notebook, and as Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling flapped around like birds and gazed into each other’s eyes, all I could think was, “Man, Noah is so much luckier than Ally because he gets to have the pretty girl.” Then I shook my head like a dog, as if you could just fling feelings out of your head, and convinced myself Noah was just as great.
My childhood was a series of female obsessions, from celebrities like Avril Lavigne, Idina Menzel, and Tina from S Club 7 to camp counselors, teachers, and sometimes friends. They were all “role models,” of course, not crushes. This trend of mine—which has culminated in my current, 8-year strong love for the magnificent Taylor Swift—coupled with a lifetime free from boyfriends and filled with intense female friendships, made coming out a little easier because, well, people were not surprised.
The first person to ever come out to me was my friend, Rachel. We were nineteen, and she pulled my friend and I into the fire ring at the summer camp where we worked. It was pitch black outside, Rachel was crying, and all I could think was that she was about to tell me she was dying. My hands were shaking, and when she finally said that she was gay, I had never felt more relieved in my life.
I am, to this day, so proud of Rachel, not only for having the courage to be the first of her friends to come out, but also for doing so simply because she knew who she was and not because she had fallen in love. She taught me, however, that coming out doesn’t have to be such an intense reveal. After her, friends started coming out simply and easily, just the way it should be. By the time it was my turn, my friends and family were all used to people coming out, and I knew they’d be more concerned that my heart had been broken than by the fact that it had been broken by a girl.
I told people hesitantly at first, mostly because I still wasn’t used to saying the words to myself let alone to others. But the more I talked about it, the more I wanted to talk about it, and suddenly the topic of my sexuality, and my love life in general, became a common focus during chats with my friends. It quickly became less of a “subject” that needed to be discussed and more a part of our daily gossip sessions, accompanied by everyone else’s adventures in romance as well. I loved it. I was shocked by how easy it was, how natural it felt, like I’d been out for years. I loved finally chatting openly, honestly, and best of all, casually, about feelings I’d been silencing my entire life.
I understand that I am lucky, that, unfortunately, many of us do not live in the warm and fuzzy world of acceptance that I do. All I had to do was get over my own inability to come to terms with being gay, and for others there are so many more hurdles to jump. I wish it could go for everyone how it went for me. Everyone deserves to become their true self and have that revelation bring them closer to the people they love.
People surprise you. Not all people, of course. Some just suck. But there are people in my life who I truly did not expect to be okay with it, and some of those people have become my biggest cheerleaders.
I can’t write about what it felt like to come out to the people I care for and be rejected. I can’t say how I would have handled all this if I’d had far more odds working against me. I know I can’t empathize with the more difficult situations so often associated with coming out. All I can do is say that for my whole life I felt broken, and now, no matter what else life has thrown at me, I don’t.