In a heteronormative society like ours, coming out of the closet as a member of the LGBTQ+ community takes a lot of bravery. There are around 11.3 million US adults in the LGBTQ+ community, but statistics regarding how many people identify as queer often aren’t accurate because many people haven’t yet come out of the closet. In fact, many people stay in the closet out of necessity and fear of backlash.
It’s worth noting that “coming out” isn’t always marked by a singular or linear event because LGBTQ+ individuals typically “come out” in different settings. For example, someone could be out as gay to their friends, but not to their family or workplace. For this reason, many LGBTQ+ individuals (including myself) come out in layers.
In honor of National Coming Out Day and our unique experiences, here are 12 real Coming Out stories the world should read.
1. Ghia Vitale
Hello! I’m Ghia Vitale, a writer at O.school and senior editor at Quail Bell Magazine. I became aware that I was attracted to people besides men around age 6 when I developed a crush on Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon.
I came out as bicurious when I was 12. I was walking along the beach with a cousin who’s close in age to me. I remember we were talking about in-depth topics because there weren’t any adults with us. I used that as an opportunity to tell him that I was bicurious. A year after that, I told my sister I was bicurious and she was shocked.
By the time I was a freshman in high school, I accepted that I am bisexual. I decided to take a passive, digital route to come out: I simply said I was bisexual on my MySpace profile and waited for my peers to come across it. My friends saw it and accepted me anyway. Eventually, my mom saw my profile, and while I was sitting at dinner with my family, she mentioned that she saw my post on MySpace. I started crying, and since then, my family has struggled to accept my queerness.
I came out as genderfluid when I wrote an article about my identity for an online publication in 2018. I don’t talk about it with many family members because they’re not comfortable with it.
2. Alena Adler
Alena Adler is the creative director of Queery Traveler, a site that covers queer culture, art, travel, fashion, and stories. Alena prefaced her story with this fact: “You're pretty much coming out to every person you ever get comfortable with.”
Alena didn’t come out until she was in college. She disclosed her queerness to her friends during her senior year, after she’d just gotten out of three long relationships with cishet men.
After taking a break from relationships for self-discovery,. Alena developed her first conscious crush on a punk woman. When that didn’t work out, Alena started hooking up with women and accepting herself as queer.
“I felt really relieved, but my exes didn't,” she said with a laugh.
Around three years ago, Alena came out to her parents as pansexual. She also told them that her partner is a trans man. Since she came out, her family has been supportive.
3. Kendra Dawsey
Comedian Kendra Dawsey is a lesbian, and according to Kendra’s personal website, “[she] garners humor from her identity and experiences by blending anecdote with higher concepts.”
Kendra explained to me that she grew up in a Catholic and white town as a black person who isn’t Catholic. She realized she liked girls when she was rewatching lesbian kissing scenes in movies at age 14.
At first, Kendra came out as bisexual to her supposedly “accepting” friends, but she still felt nervous and weird admitting her attraction to them. Instead of discussing her girl crushes with her friends, she “hinted aggressively about them on Livejournal.” One of these so-called “friends” even said, “Well, at least you aren't a gross lesbian!”
Once Kendra met more accepting friends after graduating high school, she fully came out to them. She says she made it a point to be out in college “because I was tired of hiding a huge part of myself, and also, I was horny (raging hormones).”
“I've switched back and forth between the labels, but now, I am comfortably a lesbian at the age of 27,” said Kendra. “I come out during most of my comedy performances mostly because every comic talks about dating, so it’s hard to avoid.”
Sara (name changed for privacy) is a trans woman who has come out multiple times. First, she came out as a gay boy when she was 13 and living in Wyoming. Her mom was especially upset.
Sara says that, as a result, “[My parents] grounded me from my identity: They shaved my head, took all my clothes, and made me dress in all black.”
Her family continued being unsupportive until she gave them an ultimatum: Either they would accept her or she wouldn’t be in their lives. They also didn’t react well to finding out that she’s actually a trans woman.
“My mother basically told me that if I was a trans woman, I would be killed and attacked and that I would amount to nothing,” Sara said.
Before Sara came out to her parents, she came out to her partner. Her partner is a two-spirit non-binary trans woman who was very accepting. Sara now works at the first job to have hired her since she’s been out as transgender. She openly expresses her gender in the workplace.
5. Cat Rogi
Cat Rogi is a non-binary person. They learned about the term “non-binary” in their first college queer theory class and described it as “an instant fit.” They never felt like they fit into the boy/girl binary and resented whenever their classes were divided by sex.
The first time Cat came out as enby (non-binary) was in a public Facebook status update. They experienced backlash from people who lived in their hometown and said things like, "You're a girl. Get over it."
This led to Cat blocking and unfriending multiple people.
Coming out to their parents wasn’t any easier for Cat. For a while, their mom never wanted to discuss the subject. She cited work stress or medical problems as excuses for not wanting to talk about Cat’s gender identity in detail. When they finally did have candid discussions, Cat’s mom would get flustered and upset. Then she would resort to citing “reasons” for why Cat isn’t “actually” transgender, such as the fact that Cat played with Barbies as a kid. (Playing with Barbies does not determine one’s gender.) However, she recently liked a status that Cat posted about the use of singular “they,” which they see as progress.
Cat describes their father as “an avid Trumper” whose primary value is “offending the libs.” He doesn’t accept their gender identity at all. “The closest he's gotten to acknowledging my gender is, ‘Okay ladies.... or whatever you are,’” said Cat. For this reason, Cat no longer speaks to their father.
Cat comes out to people they trust whenever it feels right, but often “‘[goes] undercover’ as a cis female at work and school.”
They also pointed out a harsh reality for many trans people: “There will never be a point where I stop coming out as long as everyone is assumed to be cis until otherwise declared.”
Jessica (name changed for anonymity) first came out as asexual while she was a college student in Long Island. One day, a friend came out to Jessica and her friends as bisexual in the student lounge, which prompted Jessica to disclose that she’s asexual. Jessica’s friends were accepting of her asexuality, but a group of nearby students had heard her come out. One of them asked, “How could you be asexual?”
Jessica told them that she doesn’t get any pleasure from sex. She also told them that she only has sex to satisfy her partners. Instead of accepting Jessica’s response, one girl tried to say that Jessica only thinks she’s asexual because she “hasn’t had good sex yet.” They also tried to use the fact that Jessica has a child as proof that she’s not asexual. They even accused her of claiming the identity for attention.
Jessica stood her ground against the aphobic people harassing her and told them off.
7. Jacob Moses
Jacob Moses is a poet and writer. He’s also a cis man who identifies as queer. The first person he ever came out to was his college roommate. When Jacob was in his early 20s, a photographer who likes redheads asked him to pose nude for pictures that emphasized his red pubic hair. Jacob declined, but the incident left him wondering,
“I later told my roommate that I thought I might have been queer because I had seriously considered dropping my inhibitions,” said Jacob.
Then in his early 30s, Jacob made a social media post that said, “I’m not straight.” His parents saw it. His father and mother were cool with it, but his mom was shocked to find out on social media.
8. Catalina Baldwin
Catalina Baldwin is a genderfluid and gray asexual person who uses ze/hir pronouns. Ze first came out as pansexual to a lot of friends and family.
“Most people were really supportive, although my dad and stepmom were both resorting to stereotypical Christian ‘you're going to hell’ conversations,” said Catalina., “And several friends disowned me.”
The second time Catalina came out, ze came out as a binary trans woman. This time, most of hir family expressed vehement opposition. Hir family’s reaction was different.
“This time,” explained Catalina, “most of my family (with the exception of a few cousins, aunts, and uncles, and one set of grandparents) were vehemently— and even abusively— against my coming out.”
Hir mother even told hir that ze was “demon-possessed.”
When ze came out as genderfluid and gray asexual, ze primarily told people who were close with hir. Since then, all of hir partners and close friends have been supportive.
9. Cat Meseck
When Cat Meseck was 16, her dad asked her if there were any boys she was interested in.
"No,” she said, “but I've got a girl I've been wanting to ask out for a while."
He responded with, “Oh, okay.”
Then her father told the rest of her family. When she told her brother she was either bi or pan, he replied, "Cool, cool! So we can, like, check out chicks together and stuff!"
10. C. B.
C. B. is a genderfluid person. They were AFAB (assigned female at birth) but never fit into society’s definition of femininity. When C. B.’s twin came out as trans, they learned more about being transgender. “He made me realize that you don't have to identify with your birth gender and it's okay to question things,” C. B. said.
C. B. began researching non-binary identities after they met an enby person at university. They eventually asked their best friend (a now-out trans man who is also now their fiancé) to refer to them with a gender-neutral name and different pronouns for their different moods.
They then told their brother, who they knew would be accepting, followed by their mom and grandfather. While their mom and grandfather both try to use their chosen name, their stepfather outright refuses to call C. B. by their chosen name and, in C. B.’s own words, “doesn't believe in my identity at all. He thinks it's a phase.”
11. Andy Napier
Andy Napier describes himself as “a non-binary trans man who grew up in a conservative household in Idaho." Before he came out as a non-binary trans man, he came out of the closet as queer when he was 13. Before kissing his crush (a girl) for the first time during school hours, he asked her, “Can I be your boyfriend for a day?” After they kissed, he cried for two days and hid from her while he was at school.
“I grew up Christian and was always told that gays were disgusting and ‘unnatural,’” said Andy. “ I was painfully confused by the joy I found in kissing someone who was also AFAB.”
Three days after kissing his crush, Andy came out as queer to his mom once he was sure his dad was in bed. Upon finding out about Andy’s identity, his mom cried, and that made him cry. However, Andy found that he was not only crying out of fear and guilt—but relief. Because his mom was not accepting, Andy is no longer in contact with her.
Jack (name changed for anonymity) has known he was gay since he was about 11. He realized it he was gay when he noticed that he paid more attention to handsome men on TV than he did to conventionally attractive women. In fact, when he looked at girls, he felt none of the “magic” that he felt when he looked at boys.
Shortly after having this realization, Jack developed a crush on a boy in his class. This would be the first time he couldn’t deny that he was gay, but Jack didn’t act on his attraction to men until after he graduated high school. During his first year of college, he met a boy he “clicked” with, and couldn’t hide his true self any longer.
“Once it was looking like I was going to get an actual boyfriend, I decided to tell my mom I’m gay,” said Jack. “It was one of the scariest things I ever did because I knew she wouldn’t be happy about it.”
When Jack came out to his mom, she cried and asked him where she went wrong in her parenting him. He tried to assure her that she did nothing wrong, but she kept crying. Since then, Jack’s relationship with his mom has been rocky. However, she recently expressed that she wanted to meet his long-term boyfriend, something she’s never done before.
“It’s definitely a big improvement from how she used to be, so I’m glad,” said Jack.
Unfortunately, so many queer people still experience negative reactions from others when they come out. When you come out of the closet, you’re revealing a part of your identity, but it’s people’s reactions that reveal who is willing to accept you as you are and who isn’t. Let today be a reminder to you that, as a society, we must continue fighting for the LGBTQ+ community’s liberation. Happy National Coming Out Day!