National Coming Out Day is October 11, which means it’s been a year since I spilled the tea to my mom and my friends. At the time, I was 15, pretty sheltered, and unsure what was happening to me. When I tried to look for answers online, I found very few resources for young LGBTQ+ people who were trying to figure out who they are. There are great LGBTQ+ communities on social media, but they can have their drawbacks, and you can’t join until you’re 13. We need more safe, clean spaces for LGBTQ+ kids, so this year, I want to talk a bit about my experience and share a few tips for my little rainbow siblings. As a bi girl growing up in a sheltered environment in rural Wisconsin, I would have given my right eye just to have a little advice from someone who got it. I know from experience that there is a lot of wrong information out there, so hopefully this can help someone out there.
- It’s totally fine to freak out.
First of all, I’m not going to say “don’t panic”. Believe me, it took me several months to stop wondering if I was crazy.
- Find LGBTQ+ role models.
I found it helped me to find other LGBTQ+ people I admired. For me, there was Karina Manta, the first openly bisexual female figure skater, who came out a few weeks before I did. There was also Eric Radford, who was not only one of my favorite skaters but also openly gay. There was bi queen Tessa Thompson, who played the fabulous heroine Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok. Seeing a bunch of happy, normal gay couples on my Instagram feed made it feel much more normal for me.
- You don’t need to know exactly what you are right away.
I originally came out as “bisexual/biromantic”. I had crushes on both genders, but I wasn’t sure if I was attracted enough to men to date one. As I got older, I started feeling more attracted to men and dropped the “biromantic” label, simply identifying as bi. But over the past few years, I went through plenty of labels before finding the one I identify most strongly with.
- Don’t ask Yahoo Answers.
When I was a young awkward teen, I was too embarrassed to ask someone directly, so I posted some anonymous questions on Yahoo Answers. “Am I bisexual? There’s this really hot woman…” And the responses? Useless, rude, and homophobic.
- Don’t get scared out by reading Cosmopolitan.
Oh, this was an adventure. I was a shy, sheltered little 15-year-old, and to be frank, it was overwhelming. I expected that I would read these articles and suddenly understand what was happening to me. But instead, it felt weird and awkward – not because I wasn’t into girls, but because I was still a kid, and this stuff was way above my level. At the time, I just wanted to kiss a pretty girl. That was it.
- Don’t ask some random gay on Twitter to help you figure it out.
Through the skating community, I started meeting lots of other gay and bi people. But I was really uncomfortable with telling them I wasn’t straight because I wasn’t sure yet. Finally, I ended up telling a girl I didn’t know very well, who also identified as bi, because it felt safer. Unfortunately, she happened to be a rather unpleasant person, and tried to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. There are a few people who treat the LGBTQ+ community like a table full of popular girls who say “you’re not gay enough to sit with us.” Try to avoid them.
- Don’t cut your straight friends out of your life.
My best friend, who I’ve known for over 3 years now, is straight, but she accepted me so much. You can’t expect them to accept that you’re gay if you can’t accept that they’re straight. Obviously if someone’s a total jerk about it, don’t take it. But 99% of my friends – both LGBTQ+ and straight – were nothing but supportive. True, sometimes it’s fun to watch Charlie’s Angels with a bunch of lesbians and gush over Lucy Liu in leather. But 99% of things can be shared with my bestie, because she doesn’t even raise an eyebrow if I say something about a hot actress.
- Give people (including yourself) time to accept it.
It took me over a year to figure it out – to expect acceptance from other people in five minutes isn’t realistic. My mom was just curious and asked me a lot of questions. My dad just didn’t care. It’s different for everyone. I really hope it goes well for you. You don’t have to ever come out if you don’t want to, but if you do, I’m rooting for you.
- You don’t have to stop being religious.
I identified as Christian for 15 years before I realized I was bi. Religion isn’t a huge part of my life, but I still believe in God and do my best to live the way He would want. With so many religious groups condemning the LGBTQ+ community, it’s easy to feel like you need to choose between your faith and your identity. But instead of walking out on God because I was bisexual, I turned to Him for support. I believe that God had a plan for me, and being bisexual was part of it. I believe God made men and women beautiful in His own image, and He made me see them both. That’s how I chose to handle things. Even if your church or preacher is homophobic, I think God is accepting of all His creations.
And that’s about it! A year after coming out, I can honestly say I’m proud of myself and happy to be out. I had originally thought I was going to wait until I was 18, just in case it didn’t go so well. Lucky for me, I had a fairly good experience. I am blessed to have friends and family who accept me, and I am learning to deal with those who don’t.
To all of you who came out this year, I’m proud of you. To all of you who haven’t, I say take your time. And to every LGBTQ+ person in the world, I’m with you.