Coming out of the closet was a strange experience. It was a part of me that I spent many years coming to terms with. I kept it from my family though I knew they would have accepted it quickly if I told them. For me, it felt like this unspoken secret that wouldn't be true unless I said it out loud. In my family, pretty much everyone is straight except for my Uncle who has still never officially “come out.” He has lived with his partner for over 30 years and we call them both “Uncle.” But he still hasn’t come out to his parents. There was this strange line between acceptance and rejection that the family existed in. So I buried this secret.
Most of my high school friends were also gay and I watched them all come out to their families. Some struggled and some were accepted with ease. I never saw an issue with them coming out, yet still kept this part of me under wraps. I pushed it away and even at times denied its existence. I already felt different: I was a quiet nerd who did theatre in a school full of jocks; like a walking stereotype. Sayville is a small town in the middle of Long Island, filled with conservatives and Trump flags. Those who were out had to deal with slurs from other students. While they would simply snap back at anyone who made fun of them, I felt that I would feel shameful in their position. They saw their differences as positive traits to celebrate; I saw my own as flaws. It was never the people in my personal life that I feared, it was just this constant unbalance.
So long as I kept it to myself, I didn’t have to add to my differences. I supported my friends and pushed for LGBT rights. We went to walks, performances, and drag shows where I happily played the role of the dutiful ally to all my loved ones, as long as nobody knew my secret. But the more I did that, the more people around me suspected something. Things began unraveling when I met up with one of my cousins and she congratulated me on coming out, having seen a video I posted of me at Pride. I protested before mumbling, “I think I could be Bi.” That was the first time I openly said anything. But once I said it, I felt the pull. I wanted to be myself to the fullest.
I began slowly bringing up my own sexuality as casually as I could,which for me meant commenting on how pretty I found actresses like Daisy Ridley. Would chopping my hair off and dying it blue do the trick? I threw myself so far over the line that, in my head, she couldn’t possibly miss the signs, only to be met with confusion when I finally talked about liking a girl from my school. “I thought you were just an ally?”
It only took one conversation before I was no longer balancing and had finally leaped out of the closet. In order to thrive I had to let myself be queer.
Art by Yi Shen Wei