Teenage Confessions: Coming Out Stories by Roxanne-Alivia Du
First of all, happy (belated) Pride Month! I hope you have, and still are celebrating in one way or another. It’s a powerful thing to see more young queer people sharing and having their experiences celebrated—I would like to thank my friends who allowed me to interview them and share their coming out stories.
Tom, 19, Los Angeles
Julia, 17, Dana Point
Hunter, 15, Manhattan Beach
Keigan, 16, Las Vegas
What do you identify as?
Tom: “Ummm… I’m going to have to get back to you on that one”
Julia: “I’d say bi… officially bisexual”
Hunter: “I identify as gay. I still don’t really say that…But I just did”
Keigan: “I identify as a lesbian”
How old were you when you realized that you were what you identify as, and did that “label” ever change?
Tom: “The first time that I realized it… Probably my sophomore year of high school”
Julia: “The first time that I ever had an attraction to a girl was when I was 13, but I think I really knew what it meant when I was 15 or 16. I think that it’s scary saying that you’re bi, because [I feel that] you’re not fully committed, or accepted into the LGBTQ+ community… But I think that every person who is bi has been like “wait, maybe I’m just gay”. So I did have a little confusion with my label. And pansexual means that you’re attracted to people, regardless of gender, so that’s something that I’ve thought about. And the thing that I figured out with my label is, since I do have more of an attraction to guys than girls, I really cant identify myself as pan, because I think that there is a role that gender plays in my attraction towards people”
Hunter: I’ve definitely always known, but I think it was summer going into eighth grade that I realized. That I kinda had the words for it in my head. But even then I never actually said that I was gay. I kinda just said that I was bisexual [to myself] and my one friend, because I still wanted to have that little bit of… hetero? You know what I’m saying.
Keigan: “I realized that I was queer the summer before seventh grade, so like eleven? But at the time, I was like, “I’m bi”. I said that I was bi for a bit, but I realized I wasn’t bi, that I was just gay in seventh grade. So I was probably twelve”
When did you first come out to someone? Was it planned?
Tom: “Sophomore year. I realized it when I was with two of my friends at the time”
Julia: “This is kind of a weird thing for me, because I felt like I just started saying it. When I switched schools, going into sophomore year, I just started telling people that I was [bisexual]. [However] with our generation, sexuality is super casual, to the point where you can just mention it, and not feel the need to do a whole thing. But I’ve had one person in my life who I’ve come out to [planned], and that was one of my family friends”
Hunter: On my birthday, in uhh… 2018? I told one of my friends that was also queer over Snapchat in the LAX airport, right next to my brother, and I was like oh shoot can’t let him see that. It was the one friend that I had that I knew was queer, so I told them because I knew it’d be a safe space. I felt really good after.
Keigan: “[When] I was just starting to figure it out, I was on the softball team with a bunch of other queer people, obviously. They were all older than me, and I was like, “yeah, same”—so I told them. But I don’t think I even knew [that I was gay] at that point, but I was still talking to them about it. The first time that I really told someone… My parents used to look through my phone, that was the deal if I could have a phone, like, they’d be able to look through it. So they found texts, and it was awful… I was like, twelve years old, and my mother came around, sat me down, and talked to me about it. That was the first time, really”
Do you remember what you said?
Tom: “I was like, oh shit… I think I like guys”
Julia: “I volunteer at my [Jewish] temple, and I was trying to get the temple supervisor, who’s also my family friend, to switch me so I could hang out with this girl that I thought was cute. She’s lesbian, she’s married to a woman, and I knew that she was a judgement-free zone. I sort of said “Heyyyy, this is no big deal, but please don’t tell anyone, but I’m bi… So…”, and I said it pretty awkwardly too”
Hunter: I don’t remember [exactly] what I said, but it was on snapchat so I’m guessing I said something like “Oh I’ve got something to tell you. I’m bisexual”.
Keigan: “I don’t really think I said anything”
What was the person’s reaction?
Tom: “[My two friends] were like OH F*** REALLY? And I was like… yeah. [But] it was a good “oh f*** really?”—one of them was lesbian and the other was bisexual, they didn’t really care, but it was like “oh my god yay!”. And they were always talking about gay things, and I was kind of thinking of myself, like, that’s me”
Julia: “She said thanks for feeling comfortable with telling me that. And I’ll tell that girl (who I thought was cute) to switch to your shift period”
Hunter: They told me their personal story, and telling me that it’s going to take time, and that kind of thing. So just very supportive and understanding.
Keigan: “I think she said that she I thought I was too young, and her saying something about me wanting attention. I mean, she was fine ultimately. I think she was kind of taken aback at first, and she tells me that story now, and how she was talking to my dad and [told him] that “she’s too young to have a girlfriend”. And my dad said “we let her have boyfriends”, which is true. I had a boyfriend in fifth grade. And my mom was like, “oh, right”
Did it affect your relationship with the person afterwards?
Tom: “It didn’t change anything”
Julia: “Yeah, just cause now she’s sort of become a bigger support system for me. I have a really republican and conservative family, so when something happens with all of that, I just go to her house now, and be like, Hey I’m sad, make me food”
Hunter: I’d definitely say [it changed our relationship] more positively. I knew that I had someone that I could be myself around, even though we weren’t that close. Like, this weight is kind of taken off me. It just felt awesome.
Keigan: “I wouldn’t say it drastically affected our relationship on a day-to-day level. I didn’t talk to her about it for a while, and I kind of had this little bit of resentment because for the first couple years she would say things like “Oh Keigan thinks she’s a lesbian”. And I just never really talked to her about it, cause my family doesn’t do that. But it never affected how I interacted with her, other than just, I wouldn’t bring it up”
Are you out? What does being out mean to you?
Tom: “[Being out] for me, means that I’m not really afraid to hide it, and not lying about who I am to people. Even with my homies, when I’d talk about guys I hook up with, I would instantly change it to this fine a*s girl, or whatever— I’d change the gender. But now, I don’t really give a shit about hiding it”
Julia: “I feel weird about this, but obviously if you ask many of my friends, they know it. But I haven’t, like, officially come out to my parents. I find it kind of unnecessary, because I don’t want to date anyone right now. And here’s another aspect of it— I don’t really want to date girls, but I do feel attracted to them, and I’ve hooked up with them. In my mind, that’s kind of not my family’s business. I feel like I’m out as I need to be for right now. I’ve always been a guys’ girl, and [being out] has given me an ability to be more bros with my guy friends and talk about girls. But for some of my girl friends, it’s kind uncomfortable because they think that I’m trying to f*** them all the time, which sucks, because it makes me uncomfortable in certain situations, because I don’t want my [girl friends] to see me as someone who wants to get with them”
Hunter: I’m basically out. I told everyone in my family, and I also kinda also made an instagram post about [coming out] too. But honestly I feel like coming out, it doesn’t really do much because you shouldn’t have to tell people every time you meet them. I feel like you’re never fully “out”… Unless you wear like, very stereotypically gay clothing, or something.
Keigan: “I am out, I’ve been out to my family since that moment. But I’ve in and out of the closet since the seventh grade. To me, [being out] means not keeping secrets from anyone, no matter who they are. [It means] not being ashamed, not code-switching, and drastically, not censoring myself”
Have you experienced any form of homophobia?
Tom: “My family’s pretty homophobic, they’re the only people that haven’t come out to officially. I think that some of them know, but [it’s[ unsaid. But yeah, my entire life, they’ve been super f***ing homophobic, which affected my coming out, because that gave me a lot of internalized homophobia”
Julia: “Growing up, and being a Jew, I kind of used to weird little remarks from people about relationships and sexuality. There are probably incidences that I haven’t noted, because they’re just sort of… normal”
Hunter: Okay…I’ll share this. I’m going to try keep myself together. In middle school, I experienced a lot of bullying, [but] they didn’t even know I was gay. These kids that I thought were my friends took my bag one day and threw it in this circle where all the LGBTQ kids were sitting. It was one of those things they did that was supposed to be demeaning, and kind of ghosted me after that. Obviously they had seen me in that way, and treated me with a lot of disrespect. Throw food at me at lunch, stare and laugh at me when I’m walking by, and [other] things like that. That’s kind of what made it really hard, especially at that point, I realized that I did identify [as gay], and the only thing that I had associated with being gay was bad.
Keigan: “Yeah. So, in eighth grade I went to a new school, it was my first time at a private school. I had been out to my friends public school in seventh grade, and I switched to this new school, and there were these awful people. I knew I couldn’t be out. So, I had stayed, or at least tried to stay in the closet. I got some friends so I told them but I was accidentally outed by a friend that didn’t realize that I was still in the closet. I had already been picked on form the moment that I had been in that school. I was new, I was on financial aid, it was just kind of this new, poor, gay kid that was an easy target. These boys… It was only boys, like all the girls were fine, or like, oblivious. And [these boys] would put me in group chats and just like, spam slurs like “dyke, dyke, dyke, dyke” or “faggot, faggot, faggot”. I was sexually harassed, which I get isn’t directly homophobia. I think that my [queerness] made them not know what to do with me, like they’re eighth grade boys, they’re white, they’re privileged, they see women as sexual objects, and all of a sudden I was unavailable to them. And they didn’t know what to do with that, so I just became an easy target”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to come out?
Tom: “The scariest part is telling the first people, because the first people are probably going to be your friends and the people that you care about most. But once you tell them, you’re going to realize that one, or most people [you’re telling] already knew, and you were too stupid to realize it… Or that now, nobody really cares, aside from my parents, it’s just based off from how they were raised, they’re from a different generation. But where we are now? It’s 2020, nobody really cares. At least in America, in LA”
Julia: “Aww, why does this make me want to cry… The people that are supposed to be in your life will be there to accept you and support you along every step of your journey. And if they don’t, it just means they’re not supposed to be in your life. So, do whats best for you and opt worry about how other people are going to react. Because if they react shitty, it’s more their loss than yours”
Hunter: One thing that I had people tell me that I did not understand, but now I do, is that it takes time. I’d say try to find a close group of friends, or one person, that you feel like you can trust and open up to. Maybe someone that’s already out as queer, so you know that there's someone who’s accepted already. It’s like that bond, like queer people just [gravitate] towards each other. Having that bond is really helpful with becoming accepting towards yourself, and with feeling like “alright I call tell people that I’m comfortable with”.
Keigan: “I think I would tell [people who want to come out] that whatever they’re doing is on their own time, and they don’t feel pressured in anyway. I would also tell them that, in my experience, people can sense your shame and it’s the first step to anything getting better. I think the biggest reason that the boys in my eighth grade class was able to use my queerness as a weapon against me was because I was in the closet. They knew that I had some sort of shame, and that ultimately lead me to the decision that when I came to high school, I was not going to let myself be in the closet. I wasn’t going to let people think that I was ashamed. Bullies want to get to the heart about what you’re insecure about, and if you can come out, and be as confident [as you can be], even you’re just faking it, and build a wall, as hard as it may be, even if it’s just a mask… Then it won’t be as bad as you think it may be”
Anything else you’d like to add?
Tom: “It’s hard, it’s going to suck doing it, but once you come out and don’t care about that , it just takes off so much stress from your life. It’s just so… freeing. Highly recommend”
Julia: “Sexuality is becoming one of those things that are more fluid nowadays. People are a lot more accepting, and it’s amazing how much we’re adapting and changing. So my note is to keep going with the progress, and try not to fall back to prejudices against people who are different, and learn to accept people, and love the people around you. And just because you’re not out doesn’t mean you can be proud and celebrate pride month in your own way. Finally this is specially for [people who identify as] bisexual—don’t let anyone tell you that you need to make a decision about who you are, or that you’re going through a phase, or that you haven’t fully figured yourself out. The ability to be attracted to people regardless of their gender is an amazing thing, and it’s dope that you have that trait”
Hunter: It’s not the end once you come out because there’s still a lot of hate that comes with expressing yourself. There’s a lot of emotional stress when you’re so closeted, but when you come out of the closet there may even be more stress because you’re out and open about who you are. Even then, you’re facing a lot more stress because you accept that part of yourself, but society hasn’t, so you have to kind of suppress it, even when you know that’s who you are.
Keigan: “I think that being queer is great, and I’m really happy that I’m gay, and that there’s a community that love and accept me. And I think what I would tell baby gays is that there is a world of people just like you, who will welcome you with open arms”