Opening the Closet Door

Everyone who has ever had to come out as anything in their life knows that it’s a really scary thing to do. No matter what environment you grew up in, how accepting your friends and family are, it’s terrifying. And once you come out, life becomes a series of coming out over and over. I identify as lesbian, and every time I go to a family gathering and someone asks me why I don’t have a boyfriend I have to come out all over again. And again when a guy asks me out. Or when I’m mid heartbreak and someone says to me: “well he didn’t deserve you anyway.” 

I took a long time to come out, even though I grew up in an extremely left wing household, where it was known that my grandmother wasn’t straight, and I never had a moment in my life where I ever considered same-sex relationships to be abnormal. 

I first had an inkling that I might be gay when I was ten years old. I remember watching an episode of Glee, the one where Santana and Brittany realize that they’re in love with each other, and while they sang Landslide to one another, my stomach did a weird flip. Later I told my mom that I couldn’t picture myself being married to a man in my future. The next day, I rescinded that statement. I didn’t like girls, no I liked boys. Boys boys boys. That was it. 

When I was 13, I had a photo album on my phone entitled “girl crushes” that was just a bunch of pictures of Emma Watson and Taylor Swift. This was the same year my sister started calling me a “lesbo” as a joke. It was all fun and games, but I got defensive every time she would say it. I would yell at her that I wasn’t gay and the mood of whatever conversation we were having previously would shift into something uncomfortable. I would sit in my room and think to myself: “no one can think I’m gay, I like One Direction too much, and they’re all boys.” I now know that people who are not gay do not have thoughts like that. 

It wasn’t until ninth grade that I would come to terms with the fact that I was definitely attracted to the same sex. I remember watching the music video for “Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko and feeling that same twist in my stomach that I did watching that episode of Glee five years prior. I thought to myself: maybe I’m bisexual. Yeah, I’m bisexual. I can like boys and girls. I stuck with that label for a long time, coming out as bisexual to my family and friends slowly over the next two years. The label resonated with me, and I liked having a label. 

Even with calling myself bisexual, I still tried to deny my attraction to girls. No one was forcing me to, there wasn’t anyone in my life who wasn’t okay with me being gay, it was just myself trying to swallow back those feelings like bile rising in my throat. 

And then I fell in love with my friend. It happened slow, where I started to like her a bit and I tried to tell myself for months that this was just how it felt when you wanted to be friends with someone. But it wasn’t, it was very obviously more than that. It got to a point where I couldn’t push it away anymore, and I had to admit to myself that this was very much a crush. And then the more I told my friends about it and said out loud: “I like a girl”, the more comfortable I became with that fact. 

Falling in love with her was one of the best and worst things to happen to me. She’s straight, and was not interested in any sort of romantic relationship with me which left me very heartbroken for a long time. It was my first real heartbreak and taught me a new sort of pain that I had never experienced before, the slow burning kind of pain that they warn you about in books and movies. But I learned how to nurse that pain, and heal from a heartbreak which is one of the most quintessential adolescent lessons to learn. 

And the experience of my relationship with her was what really helped me come to terms with my sexuality. The feelings I felt for her were very different than the feelings I had ever had for anyone else, and they were strong enough that I was forced to accept a truth about myself that I had previously denied for years. I felt a new comfort in myself and who I was, like a puzzle piece fitting into place. I began coming out to more members of my family, and when asked I would say that I was a lesbian, because I am. 

(I feel like this is also a good time to share that this girl and I are still very, very much involved in each others’ lives and we are even closer now than we ever have been.)

My favourite coming out story is when I told my stepdad. I mentioned, sort of in passing, that I had hung out with girl that I was interested in earlier that day, and my mom and I both looked at him waiting for him to say something. He said: “were you expecting me to have a reaction?” That’s how it was with most people. 

Throughout the process of getting to a point of being out publicly, I came to learn of how lucky I am to live in the time and place that I do. I do not have a lot of fear of homophobia, and when I encounter discrimination it’s really confusing to me. While I was coming to terms with my sexuality, the only homophobia I really experienced was the homophobia that I had created within myself. All those times I tried to tell myself that I liked boys, that I was straight, that it was entirely normal to have “fear” of people thinking I was gay. It wasn’t until very recently that I could even say that I was a lesbian out loud, it has just been within the last few months. 

My journey through my sexuality and coming out has been nothing grand or exciting, it wasn’t sad or triumphant, it just was. Nobody was shocked, but they also didn’t know ahead of time. It had very little effect on anyone but me; the only person that it was even remotely difficult for was me. It’s 2019 now, and the fact that I have things so easy with being a lesbian isn’t lost on me. I can openly talk about the fact that I’m gay and no one even bats an eye. I have the occasional run-in with people using the word “faggot” around me (in which case I always call them out on it), but things are relatively good. Gay marriage is legal in Canada and has been for a while now, so that’s not a concern. But my heart is still with those who are afraid to live as themselves, who have to be afraid. The kids in Arkansas who are forced into conversion therapy. The people in Russia being jailed for their homosexuality. The transgender people who aren’t allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender that they identify with, or the ones who are being murdered for being a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. 

When the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in June of 2016, my heart broke in two. I was still in the closet at the time and I was destroyed at the idea that these people who were a part of a community I was quietly a member of were harmed in such a brutal and unforgivable way. I think about this tragedy often, and this direct attack on the LGBTQ+ community and I remember that there is still so much growth that needs to happen in regards to acceptance. The Pulse nightclub tragedy acts as a reminder that although nowadays, my coming out story is no longer considered out-of-the-ordinary, there is still a fight left to be fought for my community. 

If you or someone you know is a youth member of the LGBTQ+ community, and are in need of support, check out https://www.youthline.ca/. They are a Canadian LGBTQ+ resource that is youth-centric. They are intersectional and sex positive, as well as homegrown in Canada. They are available to provide support Sunday through Friday, 4-9:30pm, and are reachable by call, text, and online chat.