Looking In From The Outside
Coming out as LGBTQ
I would personally say I was the shy kid growing up. I kept few friends and most of them were people I'd known pretty much through grade school. Some moved away and I made a few friends with others as we passed along through life like we all do but no matter what I would say i probably had all of 3 friends as I was growing up. If I met someone new it usually meant I lost a friend but that was okay for me at the time. I didn't exactly like to be social since my parents were both abusive drunks that didn't exactly like people coming over and realizing that they didn't spend a lot of time doing anything other than drinking and beating each other up. Like many other kids in similar situations I didn't think this was weird until sleepovers started and I realized that no one else's parents did this.
When I was around 10 a lesbian couple bought a house across the street from my family home at the time. I didn't think there was anything wrong with two women loving each other as long as they were happy and weren't hurting anyone. The fact that they were both police officers was even more exciting since it meant that they were stopping the bad guys whenever they went to work and they made my life a lot safer. The only thing that bummed me out about the two of them was the fact that they were essentially forced to work different shifts which meant they never actually worked together. At that age I thought the police force was being cruel by not letting them work together and, years later, i realized that they were separating them in case something happened to the other. The fact that they had been together for a long time, were successfully working for the police force, and eventually taught me to ride a bike, didn't stop my parents from being incredibly homophobic. I got to hear almost every night that they hated the lesbians across the street and they couldn't believe that anyone like them could live in a neighborhood that had so many children in it. I thought it was strange that they hated them for something that seemed harmless but stayed quiet because i always did my best to avoid being the target of their abusive tendencies.
When I hit the age of 12 I started realizing I was different than a lot of my friends. While a lot of them were starting to talk about which boys were cute and which ones they would like to date and their parents annoying their parents dating rules were I was started to notice I didn't feel a lot like them. I wouldn't mind dating a boy or a girl. Like my parents many of them also strongly disliked the gay community which caused me to hide my sexuality from them. I often played off my interest in both genders and I just simply wasn't interested in dating anyone. I hid both out of fear and due to the fact that I, at the time, had no name for my sexuality. When I found a girl I found pretty in my gym class I learned to dress quickly and to keep my eyes to the floor so no one would know I was gay and so she wouldn't catch me staring at her (though I'd caught her staring at me before). I spent all of my middle school years hiding my sexuality despite knowing about it because I was too afraid of what my friends would think of me if they found out I was interested in dating a girl.
For high school I went to a private charter school. It was around 400 students in total meaning we all knew each other and knew all about the rumors that we were hearing about each other, literally no one remained anonymous to anyone else. We all knew everyone. I completed freshman year with a few new friends while keeping a few I had known from middle school which was a rarity for me. I went to a Christian summer camp with one of my friends that summer and enjoyed everything that the camp had to offer though I wasn't fond of too many of my counselors (though, to be honest, at 14 I was still in my rebellious stage and would say I hated most adults who I considered an authority which doesn't seem to be an uncommon thing when I talk to parents with teens these days). I went back to school that year, went through the same high school drama most of us seem to, and returned to the same summer camp for a single week the following summer.
That 2nd week at camp ended up being a huge game changer for me. My friend didn't attend camp with me that year, I went knowing I would know no one that was there. I was thrown into a situation that I had never been in before then: I was well and truly alone. It ended up being the best week of my life. During this week of camp I met 18 year old Brian, he wasn't a counselor but attending the camp as a camper for the absolute last year that they would allow him to without him becoming a counselor. He often dressed like a pirate and would (jokingly) speak like one often. I spent almost the entire week at camp spending time with him and we became fairly close friends. Around day 3 of camp Brian did something that, in the first 15 years of my life, had never happened: he came out to me as bisexual. Having never heard the word before and having no idea what he could possibly be talking about I asked him what he meant. When he explained to me that being bisexual meant being interested in dating both men and women I immediately came out as bisexual to him as well.
For both of us this was the first time we had ever come out to anyone. For me it was the first time that I had even had a name to put to what I was and that I knew I had a valid sexuality. It was also one of the first times when I became truly afraid of anything in my life. I knew how people that weren't straight (and/or heteronormative depending on which term you would prefer to use) were singled out by my family and many others. Even Brian knew coming out could see the dangers in coming out which is why he decided to first come out to a 15 year old girl that he met in a Christian camp that there was a chance he would never see again after the end of the week. For him there was a small relief since he knew that he would be able to successfully come out to some people while I, who had never come out to someone who hadn't come out to me first, had nowhere else to turn.
Brian and I dated awhile but eventually broke up due to his drug use. I dated a boy from my school who was a year younger than I was at the time. At some point after this new boy and I started dating I decided it was finally time to start coming out to friends. I started with the new boyfriend since it made sense for me to tell him first. I wanted him to hear it from me first so rumors wouldn't be the first ones to get to him. I got lucky and he accepted my bisexuality for what it was. I soon had come out to all of my other friends and, luckily enough, only managed to loose a single friend during that time. I was happy that I'd done well enough picking friends that, despite the cruel rumor mill that started up after telling them that they didn't have to lie about my sexuality anymore and could discuss it with others, stuck beside me through my high school years. It was a blessing.
Coming out to my parents is when things ended up going more poorly. I had hoped that my parents would accept me for who i was no matter what my sexuality was and that it wouldn't be a problem that I was bisexual. Instead I got a lot of anger, a lot of names, and them blaming the people that I hung out with for making me gay. No matter what I said they refused to believe that I wasn't choosing this and that there was no way any of my friends had an influence on my sexuality.Eventually, while I wasn't kicked out, they did stop speaking to me. At a point in my life when I needed as much family support as possible I lost all of it.
At 16 loosing family support was devastating, now I don't mind the loss so much. Like some of the other LGBT people I've met over the years I wasn't the only one who's coming out went horrible. I wasn't the only one who had to learn how to build my own family made out of friends that knew how to support me truly. While it's been 10 years since I came out at the age of 16 I'm very sad to say stories like mine haven't changed. There's still people in the same situation that I was in. Some just loose emotional support, others loose homes. I have a friend now who, at the age of 24, is afraid of anyone else knowing of his sexuality besides me. He doesn't want to loose his family or even some of his homophobic friends. The only reason I know of his sexuality is because I annoyed him until he gave me an answer, I forced him to answer a question instead of simply allowing him to dance around it like I was asking some fanciful question like "what color would your unicorn be?" and forced him to admit that he wasn't as "normal" as his family was forcing him to be.
It scares me that in 10 years things like this still exist. That even with activism so many people in the LGBTQ community live in fear simply because they fear loosing everything if they come out or if someone they know outs them. When will the madness end for us all?