Ah, the process of coming out! At sixteen, I went on a coming-out spree for around six months. I think it was because of how exciting it was to finally reach stable ground away from unsteady waters, feeling elation like one would imagine scientists might feel after a breakthrough. It took years of exhausting questioning and self-reflection; a concoction of emotions mixed with a dash of fear, 500ml of internalised homophobia and, to top it all off, a heaped tablespoon of confusion. Having largely undone all of that, I felt like this newly understood aspect of my identity deserved to be shared – so that’s what I did.
Ever-so-smoothly, I would slip it into conversation, like the time I was on the phone to a close friend, asking where to meet her, and she replied, “I’m in New Look; I’m coming out now.” You can imagine the pun I greeted her with as she stepped out of the shop. Other times, I would just tell my friends when there was a lull in conversation. Every single time I came out to someone new, I felt like Eminem in the first verse of Lose Yourself. I was almost certain that none of my friends would treat me any differently, but revealing something so personal – something I had hidden and thought about for so long – to someone else, coupled with the minuscule chance that they might react adversely, brought on my nerves. I’ve been fortunate enough to always walk away with an adrenaline high though. Disappointment sometimes, but rarely sadness.
Now that I’m a few years older and slightly wiser than my excitable sixteen-year-old self, I’m more settled. I no longer feel the need to come out, because it’s not a big deal to me for people to know. If it comes up naturally in conversation, then so be it; it may be as inconspicuous as me using a female pronoun when talking about crushes – something which should hold the same significance to someone as finding out who my favourite singer is. Make no mistake, I’m not hiding it. I just feel ‘so comfortable with it that it’s not even a topic of conversation.’ (Damon Dominique, 2018 – watch his YouTube video titled ‘MY NON COMING OUT COMING OUT VIDEO’ for a good time).
Perhaps this is because my perspective on non-heterosexuality has changed. As I mentioned, it was crucial to me that my friends knew this important information, because I had finally reached that level of certainty about my sexuality, and felt comfortable enough to share it. But now that being gay is such a normalised part of my identity, there is no longer that bubble of excitement and fascination; for me, being LGBTQ+ is as normal as being heterosexual and cisgender, so it should be treated accordingly in order for society to normalise being LGBTQ+.
Now, why did I say ‘at that level of certainty’, and not that I was certain of my sexuality? It’s because, for one, I couldn’t call myself bi because I was primarily attracted to women and there was a possibility that I didn’t like guys, having never been attracted to one before; yet I couldn’t call myself a lesbian because I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that I didn’t like guys, thanks to my lack of contact with them in my all-girls secondary school and college. That was before I discovered that there are umbrella terms for anything non-heterosexual, such as ‘gay’ or ‘women-loving-woman’ (wlw), which I now use to accurately and comfortably describe my preferences, giving me room to breathe. If you’re struggling with your sexuality because you’re not exactly sure of what you like, and/or there isn’t a label to describe your situation, don’t sweat it. It’s fine. You don’t have to know exactly what you like, and if you do, you don’t have to label it either; whatever you feel like doing is right. Some people like to label themselves because it provides them with a sense of community and validation, whereas some people don’t like to label themselves because it feels restricting and categorical to them, and some feel both or neither. There are so many options, and they’re all valid.
Your process and journey is yours alone. So whether you want to be as flamboyantly out-and-proud as possible (you may catch me like this during Pride month) or you want to be nonchalant about it, or if you fluctuate along the spectrum, live your life. Don’t let anyone disrespect you along the way.
Cover photo: Jiroe on Unsplash