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It's National Coming Out Day. Here's what that means to LGBTQ+ people

lgbtq

The first National Coming Out Day was in 1988, celebrating the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Advocates Rob Eichberg and Jean O'Leary first proposed the idea of National Coming Out Day. It was their belief that illustrating to most people that they already knew and respected someone in the LGBTQ+ community helped push the human rights movement forward.

The experience of coming out is personal and unique to each individual. We asked a handful people to share their experiences of coming out — the good and the bad — and why this day is important. Here are their stories.

'It wasn't my choice, but I'm glad it happened'

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Claudia
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My coming out story happened when I was a teenager. I was scared to come out because I didn’t know how my parents would take it. We can kind of say my coming out wasn’t really planned, it hurt and it wasn’t my choice but I’m glad it happened. I’m 24 years old and ever since the day I came out, I made it my duty to be fully out and proud about it. I am very blessed to have never dealt with any rejection from my loved ones due to the fact that I’m a lesbian, and even though it was hard for my parents to accept, my mom has always defended me and my family has always loved me the way that I am. Coming from a religious household made me have the whole “Catholic guilt” mentality and I tried “praying the gay away” thing, which I find pretty funny, considering the fact that I’m a lesbian atheist that practices witchcraft now. My friends are all gay so everyone was very supportive (yet not surprised, the closet was made out of glass) and I’ve been very blessed! I started college and I became the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, I started working with my community to build a better future for LGBTQ+ individuals and I’ve met many wonderful people throughout the years. I hope to inspire many young members of the LGBTQ+ community to live life loud and proud, and if you can’t do that just now, know that there is a community out there that will love and accept you for who you are, even in moments where you can only be yourself behind closed doors. Happy coming out day from your local they/them lesbian!

— Claudia, Fort Walton Beach

Devin
Devin

'Queer/trans people are still suppressed'

I started telling friends I was queer when I was 12-13 years old, in 2007. Only a handful of friends knew, as I grew up in an extremely reactionary area in Alabama. I publicly "came out" of the proverbial closet in 2009 when I was 15. I was technically outed, so I just went with it. It was a time of dread and exhilaration because of where I was raised, and how I was raised. My mother did not react well at all — no need to go into what all happened — but it was a very difficult few years following that. Then, when I was 19, she told me that she accepted this and supported it. Now, with me at 28 years old, she is one of my biggest supporters. Sometimes she calls me and tells me LGBTQ+ news before I even find out about it! She's always excited when she tells me. I don't tell her, but I'm usually tearing up on the other end of the line. It means more than she knows.

Coming Out Day is a reminder that queer/trans people are still suppressed by a violently anti-LGBTQ society that seeks to stuff us away in a closet, per se, and leave us there to die. It is up to us to not only realize our goal to smash the proverbial closet and fight for liberation, but to raise the consciousness of other LGBTQ+ persons, so that they may do the same.

— Devin, Pensacola

'I can form my own family'

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Hannah

I came out as pansexual to a few of my friends when I was a sophomore in high school. I don’t remember the specific day or time, as I was never afraid any of my friends would judge me, because at the time I had two friends who were out and gay. Somehow none of them were surprised, and almost all of my friends from that time are gay in some way or another (birds of a feather flock together or something). I remember being influenced a lot by what I was seeing on Tumblr and really questioning my confusing thoughts about girls. I was identifying as pansexual because then I believed the distinction was attraction to all people instead of just men and women, but that definition differs from person to person and now I like to use queer as a more all encompassing term. Sometimes I’ll use bisexual because it’s easier for most to understand.

I’ve never actually come out to my family and I don’t plan to. I know that many of them, especially my close family, wouldn't understand or believe me. I was raised Catholic and the beliefs that come with that have mangled me in ways that I am still undoing. While it made my life difficult growing up, it only taught me that I can find solace in others, that I can form my own family somewhere else.

Everyone’s story is different and for a lot of people it takes a long time to figure out what it is you feel and what you want. For some, coming out to people who may or may not “accept” you is important to them, it’s a moment of declaring who you are despite what others may think. For me, I’d rather avoid the conversations with those whose minds I’ll never change. I know who I am.

— Hannah, Pensacola

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Del

Being outed

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Lea

The first person I “officially “ came out to was an authority figure at work. I had to — I was in love with a coworker and wanted to test the waters. If things went south it could be bad for the company as I was a very visible public figure, so I had to give the powers that be a heads up. As it happened the person I was in love with did not love me, and the person in whom I confided spread my secret all over town. Not a very uplifting story, is it?

— Del, Fort Walton Beach

'You are not broken'
I am an asexual aromantic individual, which is something I’ve struggled accepting for a long time. It was an ordeal to come to terms with my identity, and even more so coming out to my friends and family. I felt like I was lacking something that would make me human, but coming to terms with my identity helped with that. Coming out to others and getting their support in return has helped with that feeling as well.

Some people that I used to consider friends had told me I wasn’t part of the LGBT community, that I wasn’t “gay” enough; that my lack of attraction didn’t make me, or any asexual, a member of the community. It is important to recognize that each and every person goes through different experiences with their identity, and should not be put down for it. My coming out experience was a mixture of support and invalidation, but I believe others can learn from this combination of feelings and maybe make other aro/ace people feel more confident about their identity. You are enough, you are not broken, and you’re not missing pieces. You are uniquely you.

— Lea, Pensacola

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.