Not every queer person has a coming out story.
But I thought I would share my process, for anyone who’s wondering what it’s like to figure out you’re not straight — because it’s not as obvious as you’d think.
So this is as close to coming out as it’s going to get!
Growing up, I thought that I would end up with a guy.
I mean, this was in books, movies, fairytales, everything. It was just assumed that if you were a girl, you’d end up with a guy.
And that was fine by me.
I even had a crush on one of my close guy friends as early as grade four.
But at around eleven years old, I started to feel confused.
I would see pictures of pretty ladies in magazines, whether dressed sexy or not, and I knew that my attraction to them was different.
But I was afraid.
At that age, “girl crushes” weren’t a thing.
No, at eleven, crushes were just something everyone used to make fun of each other. In fact, the previous year of school left me really embarrassed because my best friend told my entire class which guy I had a crush on.
I mean, no one ever talked about gay people. You were different if you were gay. You were weird.
And I didn’t know any different.
I thought there was something wrong with me.
So I was pretty private about my feelings toward girls.
Instead of talking to someone, I went online.
I found a website where young people could anonymously ask questions about puberty and related topics, and expect a good helpful response. (Obviously, it could have been anyone answering, but back then I thought it was good website.)
I explained that I was worried about being attracted to women. I said I would look at pictures of women in magazines and be attracted to them, and that I was confused about it. I thought I was still attracted to boys, but what if I was attracted to girls? Am I gay, I asked? I had no idea that there are a whole myriad f different sexualities — I thought I was either gay or straight.
I was told that this phase shouldn’t affect my life in any bad way.
I shouldn’t be concerned: almost everyone goes through a phase where they are attracted to the same sex. I was perfectly normal.
So I put the concern out of my mind, thinking maybe it would one day just go away.
Of course, it never did, and I realize now that I knew that — but I was too young to understand at the time.
I went through the rest of high school without really thinking about it.
I was never one of the girls that anyone wanted to date, so my sexuality wasn’t a big concern for me.
In grade eight, I had what you would call a “girl crush” on someone in grade twelve. I thought she was beautiful, talented, and really friendly. I even let her know that I looked up to her, and she was really nice about it. We had lunch every so often, and she would brighten my day with a simple hello.
One of my friends made fun of me for being “in love” with her. I denied it, and truly, I don’t even know if it was a real crush. Looking back, it probably was, but things like this are confusing — is it a crush if you have no idea, and you aren’t really thinking romantically about the person?
When I hit grade ten, I found myself definitely attracted to women.
At this time, it was very physical — of course, this was the time when hormones were going absolutely wild, but it was also because I didn’t know any girls who were openly gay. I didn’t have any idea what a romantic connection with a girl would look like, and I didn’t really know how to imagine it either.
So I kept it to myself. I dated — if you can call it that in high school — two different boys. Both ended quickly, and that was about it.
I continued along, still not really sure what being gay or queer or lesbian meant, or what it was like. I knew a couple people in my extended circle of friends were gay, but that seemed so distant — and they were othered.
I thought gay people were part of an entirely different world from mine.
To feed my curiosity, I read a book or two about lesbian teenagers who had to keep their relationship quiet. But that was the extent of my understanding.
All I really knew was that being gay was seen as weird.
One of my best female friends never dated anyone in high school, and people would say she was lesbian because of that. She felt defensive and unhappy about it. I tried to comfort her, but this was really all the more reason for me to keep quiet. I didn’t want anyone to know that I could be gay for real.
I really just had no idea.
I just thought I was straight, and I had no idea that bisexuality even existed.
I was nowhere near any resources — and I was afraid to go looking for them.
Then in grade twelve, I started dating an older guy.
I still didn’t know any other girls who were interested in girls, and I certainly didn’t share my feelings with anyone I knew.
Several months after we had started dating, in my first year of university, I met people who were openly queer, and I started to realize that it wasn’t weird, but in fact very normal. They were just people.
I tried to open up to my boyfriend at the time about it, but he shut me down. He mocked me, saying, “You’re not going to start experimenting, are you?” and, “You know they say bi people just want the best of both worlds — they’re just really horny.”
I was angry at that.
But I didn’t say anything.
And after we broke up, I didn’t know anyone I could talk to.
Even if I had been over the break-up quickly enough, I wouldn’t have been able to find anyone. I didn’t know how to meet other queer people besides those in my program, and I wasn’t ready to out myself.
Instead, I just got to know many of the queer people I knew. Some of them are now my best friends.
Their world wasn’t separate from mine.
But still, I had no idea how to meet a guy who would be interested in me, let alone a lady. I was single pretty much my entire second year before I met Grady. (And I’ve been with him for nearly 5 years now — I never dated again.)
It was around the time that I met him when I finally started to accept who I am, and understand my sexuality.
When I returned home for the summer, I developed a full-on crush on one of the girls I worked with.
I’d known her the year before, but this was the year I got to know her really well. She never identified herself as gay or bi, but she had talked about being curious. She was open about her sexuality and her experiences. and was a great friend.
Even knowing she was someone safe to talk to, I still didn’t open up to her. Instead, I started developing feelings for her. She was my first real crush that wasn’t a guy.
Grady was very understanding, and he was the first person I talked to about my confusion. We had been watching Firefly, and I thought one of the actors was really pretty. I commented on that, and he asked me if I liked girls.
For the first time, I said it out loud: “I think so.”
I don’t know exactly when I realized that I’m not straight.
I just found that I could identify with a lot of the queer friends that I have, and as I learned more, I realized how obvious it was back in high school that I was queer too.
I learned about emotional, romantic connections with other women, even if they didn’t always feel the same about me. (How familiar.)
And it’s really not that different.
It’s true that you are born gay, at least for me.
But everyone is different, and everyone learns about themselves differently.
I didn’t know right away.
Our society is so focused on heterosexuality as a norm that even though I wasn’t heterosexual, I didn’t even realize it.
And trust me, I’m not the only one who felt that way. Almost all the queer people I’ve met have a similar story.
Figuring out you’re not straight is not easy.
And you can help.
You see, it would have been amazing if I’d just known people were open.
If the people in my life had acknowledged different sexualities, it would have made everything much less scary, especially since high school and puberty can be stressful enough. Because that’s the truth — figuring out you are not straight is not fun. It’s lonely, stressful, beyond uncomfortable, and it hurts self esteem.
Knowing support is out there would have made all the difference in the world.
So be open. Be supportive. You never know who might need that, and it doesn’t take much — in fact, here are a few very simple ways you can show that you are inclusive.
Use gender neutral language like “my partner” or “my significant other” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”
This lets others know that you are aware that not everyone dates the opposite sex.
When talking about gender and sexuality, say “all genders” or “all sexualities.”
This shows that you are open to more than just male and female genders, or gay and straight sexualities.
Encourage people (especially children) to think for themselves.
If they think gay relationships are weird, ask them why. If they’re trusting you with their confusion, let them know that they are not weird.
If someone trusts you and wants to share their confusion with you, try not to impose on them by telling them what to do or how they should feel. Even if you have an idea of what they might be going through, they are likely sharing with you because they need to talk it out.
These things might seem awkward, but it lets those around you know that you are open, and trust me — you’ll be making a bigger difference than you can imagine, for people of all ages.
What’s something you didn’t realize about yourself as a child? Let me know in a comment below!
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