Today is National Coming Out Day, where we celebrate the courage it takes to truly be oneself. Many of us have had difficult coming out experiences, but there is also a lot of joy to be had out there when you are embraced lovingly by friends and family. Here are some coming out stories that will give you hope, and put a smile on your face.
“My name is Ariel and I am fairly fresh out of the closet. My journey began about two and a half years ago when I saw Sara Lance kiss Nyssa al-Ghul on Arrow. Before that point, I had been exceptionally good at convincing myself that I was straight, because in my mind, that was the safest bet. I know now that that had everything to do with the heavy dose of compulsory heterosexuality that I had been given when was growing up. My gym teacher in elementary school was a lesbian and by the way that my classmates talked about her, I got it in my head that I didn’t want to be like her because I didn’t want to be made fun of like that. Seeing this saddened me because I had been taught by my mom at an early age that love is love and it shouldn’t matter who you fall in love with.
In school, I had to argue against gay marriage and it took everything in my power not to burst into tears during the debate because everything that came out of my mouth was a lie. I got uncomfortable when my softball teammates would talk about how they couldn’t believe that people were gay and how wrong they thought it was. As a result, I stayed firmly in the closet for a very long time. I couldn’t bring myself to open up to a world that believed that I was wrong and gross. Every time I would make a move to step towards coming out, I would see or hear something that would send me right back in. Lexa dying destroyed me and all but made me lock the door from the inside. It took some time but slowly, I immersed myself in positive media, mostly bi and lesbian Youtubers, and I worked my way up to coming out to my mom, who long ago told me that she would love me no matter who I ended up loving (she definitely saw it coming before I did). I then told the rest of my family and a few peers of mine. At this point, I am comfortable with who I am, but I only tell people when they ask because I still can’t get past the hate that I saw early on.”@RoseWilliams157
“I mustered up the courage to tell my mother that I was a lesbian over the Holidays when I was in college. I sat her down and told her expecting the crying and hugging that you see on all of the coming out stories on TV. Instead, she said, “Oh I gotta tell Trish! She’s been saying you were a lesbian for years!” Trish is my mom’s best friend and apparently has impeccable gaydar.” – @ellieb2792
“The first family members I came out to were my three brothers. I knew that if I had them in my corner, I’d have the strength I needed to come out to my parents. (Which went surprisingly well.) All three brothers had different, but great reactions. The youngest one said, ‘Figures. You own a lot of flannel and listen to Melissa Etheridge, so, that’s cool.’ Second oldest was surprised, just because he never thought about my love life. He told me, ‘Anyone you want to bring over is welcome in our home.’ The oldest had thought about my love life, apparently, and said, ‘Yeah, I already guessed that, and I’m totally good with it. Thanks for telling me.’ No fuss. They basically just shrugged, told me we’re good, which was exactly how my brothers are, and how I needed them to be.” – @jerzeyredhead
“I can’t really remember when I came out. On the one hand that makes sense, because coming out is something you do in stages, and you do it over and over again. I know I came out to my immediate family four separate times, but I only had to come out to my two best friends once. I believe I was twenty-three years old when I told them, which would have made the year 2009.
Bestie M and I were walking around the local Borders Bookstore, one of our favorite ways to kill time. We liked to walk through the aisles and push the books back against the shelf so you could see the different size and shape of each spine. (Bestie M now works for the Library and she has since told me what an annoying thing that was for us to do to the employees, so I apologize.) She could sense that something was wrong. I wasn’t making eye contact, and anything she said to me was met with a monosyllabic response.
When we got back to the car I told her that there was something I needed to say. What I remember most about that moment was the fear. I was so intensely afraid I would lose my best friend that even now, all these years later, my heart races just thinking about it. I told her I was gay and she said ‘Okay’. I know she told me she loved me, but I think I stopped forming memories the second I heard those four little words. She asked if she could hug me and I said ‘Okay.’
Bestie J and I were hanging out at the movie theater. We had a few people with us, killing time at the bar before or after the show. She and I were walking back from the bathroom. Despite my very positive experience with Bestie M, I was still terrified. I told her I was gay and she said something like “Gay? Not bisexual? Oh. Alright!”. But it was the fear in my eyes, not my admission that broke her stride. She grabbed my arm and looked me in the face. ‘Lara, you know this doesn’t change anything between us, right?” I didn’t know that, but I know it now. I knew it from that moment on.’ – Bella debut author, Lara Hayes
“So I think first and foremost it should be said that I am a Baptist minister’s daughter with a very religious family from SC. However, we were never taught to hate anyone no matter their skin color, religion or sexuality. But when I accepted that I was a lesbian at the ripe old age of 17, I started to think that it was okay for everyone else to be gay, but not me.
Fast forward a year to Sept. 15, 2006. I’ve graduated from high school earlier in the year and I’m dating my first girlfriend. My girlfriend and I had a wonderful evening together and sleep over. The next morning when we woke up around 2, I had a ton of missed texts and calls from my father. I had told him I was staying at my friend Jessie’s house because I assumed he did not know where she lived. Apparently, he did. I also thought, ‘If I tell them I’m staying at Heather’s, they’ll know I’m gay.’ So I called my dad and continued to lie about where I was saying that Jessie and I had gone to brunch. He said, ‘Stop lying to me. You’re at Heather’s aren’t you?’ I immediately said yes and he told me to come home so we could talk about it. Heather was amazing about the whole thing and said, ‘If you get kicked out, you can come to me and if I don’t hear from you for a while, I’ll understand and will be waiting.’
I drove home and thus began hours of conversation about my sexuality. Am I gay, am I bi, it is a phase? Yada yada. My mom ignored me for a good portion of the day. My dad turned to me and said, ‘I’m not mad that you’re gay. I’m mad that you lied to me (about where I was).’ After my mother took a nap, she said she was going to go for a drive and my dad followed her. They ended up talking for hours outside.
Now you might wonder why I remember the date so well. Well, the day I came out was also my mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday! I’m a huge homo! So I went to my car to get my mother’s birthday present and even though I’m sure it didn’t happen exactly this way, I just remember coming back in and my mom had done a 180. She was happy and excited and everything was back to normal.
It has taken my mom a long time to come to terms with it and be happy for me. For a long time she said, “I’m just praying to G-d for guidance.” And even though a lot of people would roll their eyes at her for saying that, I knew that was how my mom was wrapping her head around it and accepting me. 10 years later, my mom and dad have both accepted me and my mother is a HUGE ally for the LGBTQIA community and I no longer feel awkward or weird to tell my parents I’m going on a date. Now I just gotta tell my sister…” – @kaitlynkrieg
“Within six months of my falling in love with a woman for the first time, I had come out to my close friends and my sister. But it took me almost four years to come out to my parents. I initially decided I wouldn’t tell them until the topic became relevant, i.e. I was dating a woman and needed to explain. But my singleness lasted longer than my ability to keep that part of my secret. On New Year’s Eve of 2016, my parents and I were having dinner at an Italian restaurant. As I was staring at my plate, not registering how the food was tasting, I struggled to find the preamble I had rehearsed in my head. Finally, I brought up the woman I had fallen in love with years ago and that was my segue into blurting out that I date both men and women. I started bawling, not even caring that other customers or the wait staff may have been looking at me. My mom held my hand and told me she loved me. My dad kissed my cheek, rubbed my back, and told me everything was okay. They asked me if I had been wanting to tell them for a while and I said yes. They said that I didn’t have to tell them because they already knew. I corrected them by saying it was important for me to be able to finally tell them. I wiped my tear soaked face, we finished dinner, and then we welcomed 2017 with champagne.” – @nicclee
“My first coming out occurred when I was 14. I was in a domestic science class when a classmate suddenly asked me about sexual orientations. I explained the differences and there was nothing more to it.
Later that week when I was in church during a lunch break (the church was next door to the school and had “open doors” during our lunch breaks) another classmate, out of nowhere, asked me about my sexual orientation. I, who always felt welcomed in the church, answered and the youth leader, who overheard this, and embraced me with such warmth it made me feel so secure. So the church became my safe place and I have never ever met anything negative about me being not straight in church.” – @Lutter_Lappri
“Alright, so I had been showing signs for most of my life but you know, I’m like 8. I don’t know why I admire Miley Cyrus so much. My brother also had a friend who was a girl and she was so pretty and so nice and amazing. Totally a crush on her (I literally called her every day, it was ridiculous). But crushes all around and mostly on girls. So right around the age of 12, like when the gay starts getting stronger and more relevant, I go on Facebook. I am just browsing and I get a message and it’s from one of my close friends at the time. She states that she has to tell me something important, and then tells me that she’s bisexual. I was confused as hell on what that could mean and then she tells me. My kind is blown. Literally. I am being honest with you. I didn’t know it was possible to like both girls and guys AT THE SAME TIME WOW. Anyways, I was like “wow this explains so much to me” so I go on knowing I’m bisexual and experiment like everyone else does.
My brother knew I liked girls when I told him and he just didn’t really care. My mom, however, had to warm up to the thought but now she makes closet jokes whenever possible. I don’t think my dad knows but that’s because we aren’t very close but I feel like he would be fine with it.” – @silkythunder
“Growing up in a conservative, religious family in a very rural area meant my parents had rigorous views of the world. Coming out was one of my biggest fears. While I knew from the time I was 12 that I liked women the way I was “supposed” to like men, I worked to keep my secret from everyone. I dated my first girlfriend for four years—all while hiding carefully in the closet. Over the years, I gradually told a few select people. By the time I hit my late twenties, all of my friends knew, and I knew it was time to talk to my parents. We had always been close and I knew how they viewed homosexuality, so I felt like I had a lot to lose.
I visited my parents one October, right before my 27th birthday. I waited for an opportunity, continually finding excuses to stay silent. I knew I couldn’t tell my entire family at once. I didn’t feel strong enough to watch several people I love turn their backs on me in unison. I was terrified, but also very much in love and determined. One evening during my visit, I was finally alone with my mother. I knew it was time. I opened my mouth to speak, but words failed me. She pried, asking what was wrong. I shut my mouth and shook my head. After another round of questions, I blurted out that I had to tell her something. She sat down facing me and told me she had a hunch about what I might want to say. Calmly, she explained that she knew I was a lesbian and knew I was dating my ‘best friend.’ She then told me that it didn’t change anything and she poured us both a margarita. I cried, and she hugged me. Life went forward as normal that night, with her telling me she would tell my father and things would be okay.
The celebration was short-lived, as my gayness became reality—instead of an assumption they had held for years. My mother’s acceptance, I later found out, was more shock than truth. Over the course of the next several months, there were difficulties, a lot of intense discussions, more than a few times when my calls went unanswered, some hurtful words, and even a period of time when we did not speak. My mother had always been my best friend, so the distance stung. One day, she called out of the blue to tell me she missed me. We talked with the closeness we had before I came out. Over time, we talked about the “difficult time” we had endured in that emotional distance, and we never returned to the ugly place of silence and judgment that had marked the previous months. After she took some time to sort out her feelings, the entire family came around and eventually asked to meet the love of my life. They love me unconditionally, and they welcome her into their home (and our family) with open arms. While they still say they don’t understand, they have made leaps and bounds in their willingness to let go of their narrow ideas of the world. My family is still making progress, and I know they are working on it. It was rocky, but it definitely has turned out to be a happy ending. Coming out and knowing that my family loves me—with full knowledge of who I am—was the best decision I ever made (well, aside from asking my lovely fiancée to marry me).” – Bella author Riley Scott
“My coming out story starts with a note-to-self: don’t make jokes when you tell your mother you’re A: probably gay and B: definitely dating a woman. To sum it up: I made so many “let’s face it, it could have been way worse”-jokes when I came out to my mother at 28 that she was actually relieved when it turned out I was “just” dating a woman. She cried for
about 3 mins and asked me not to tell my father. She lasted 12 hours before telling him herself. He called me and asked: “Is she hot?” I said yes. He answered “good” and then wondered if I had seen the last ep of his favorite English whodunnit. My father is a taciturn man.
They’ve had a great journey. My now 75-year-old mother and father used to be openly and loudly homophobic. These days, they would happily walk in the “proud parents”-section at Pride. My father cried when my girlfriend dumped me. They’ve never been ashamed or hid that I was with a woman.
Then again: we’re Swedish and Sweden isn’t a homophobic country anymore. Being a homophobe is considered very bad form. So the punchline probably is: people can change. Even nations can change. I think that’s a pretty happy coming out-story. – @ClillaryHinton1
“My story is actually kinda funny because when I was in 8th grade I started using Tumblr and my mom found out and asked to see my page which was very gay at the time but at the end of the night my mom, dad and I were all happy and they are still very supportive.” – @erin_tierney2
Photos via Pixabay