A piece contributed by junior Morgan Owens as a part of National Coming Out Week.
I decided to come out when I realized one of my friends at my high school was also queer, and that we wanted to date each other. I had always thought, “I don’t have to come out. There’s no need, and all it’ll do is risk losing my friends.” But I suddenly had something worth coming out for.
I realized that dating this guy was my chance to stop lying to myself about the importance of being honest with my friends, family and peers. I was fairly certain my parents would be happy that I was coming out, so I decided to tell them first in case any of my friends reacted badly and I needed to escape to home.
My parents drove me to school in the mornings and would alternate days, so on a Tuesday, I told my dad during the commute. He was thrilled that I was able to come out to him, and his first response (which has meant so much for me as I’ve continued to grow and understand who I am) was, “Don’t feel like you have to label yourself if you don’t want to. You don’t have to box yourself in.”
He thought that I should tell my mom as soon as possible, but I was weirdly nervous about that. There was no real reason to think she wouldn’t be okay with it, and it would mean a lot to her that I was able to tell her myself. I felt like this first step, this first person, was some kind of fluke. Coming out was supposed to involve slammed doors and screaming parents, I thought, so my dad must’ve been an outlier.
I hyped myself up on Friday morning and once I told her, she cheered! She was overjoyed for me and somehow seemed happy that one of her sons wasn’t straight.
With my parents taken care of, I turned to my friends. I made a list in order of descending closeness, so that my best friends were at the very top of it. I decided to work my way downward, so that if any of the friends I was less close to weren’t accepting, I would have my best friends to fall back on.
The biggest problem was that my closest friend was a very straight guy who I had been close to for years. I was terrified he was going to think I was in love with him, or that others would think I had some kind of unrequited crush on him. I procrastinated on telling him for weeks, agonizing over what I would do if he was scared of or disgusted by me.
A month or so after I had originally wanted to tell him, I invited him over to a park near our school. He got my most cliché coming out ever, sitting on a park bench staring at the sunset as I contemplated the fastest route out of the park if needed. He let me say everything I needed to, not challenging the half-truths and my visible discomfort. Once I finished, he told me I would always be like a brother to him and that he was happy I had found someone I wanted to date!
With that out of the way, I felt free to tell all of my other friends. I would pull them aside during lunch and quickly tell them, proudly inform my neighbors during class and generally tell anyone who would let me for about a month. Everyone seemed great about it! They would respond with happiness or indifference, as if it wasn’t some cataclysmic change in how I interacted with my world.
The final prod towards hurrying up was my school’s Homecoming dance; I desperately wanted to be able to take my new boyfriend and not have it cause a scene. Ultimately, I wasn’t confident enough that everyone knew by the time the dance came around, and I was scared of the rest of my school’s reaction to two guys dancing together.
During the dance, I felt ashamed and disappointed with myself for allowing that fear to stop me from enjoying myself. I took that and resolved to never let that shame dictate my actions again; if someone else had a problem with who I wanted to date, that reflected more on them than it did on me.
It’s hard to express exactly how it feels to be closeted, especially after-the-fact.
You feel like everything you do is a reflection of your secret, worrying that even the most meaningless behaviors will be interpreted as wrong, not masculine enough, or too weak. There is always someone looking over your shoulder, always someone watching, always people judging you and finding you lacking. Realizing that the “someone” was myself let me have the courage to tell my peers about me.
The worry that I was going to enter free-fall and not have anyone to back me up was an irrational fear – at least for me. I am incredibly lucky that my friends and family are supportive, loving people who made the process of coming out as easy as possible.
In spite of that, it still felt like a Herculean effort and there were plenty of moments when I wanted to stop, turn back and give up. I’m so glad that I didn’t, because that was the first step toward becoming someone who can advocate for others and work to improve the lives of other LGBT people.
Feature photo courtesy Pixabay user nancydowd.