#NationalComingOutDay: Sharing Our Stories and Why Representation Matters from @kleffnotes

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. This is a day that celebrates that special, though not always easy, moment of coming out to those you love and sharing your identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Some of the best moments of representation within popular media include the moment a character comes out to their family and friends and to celebrate today I wanted to highlight some of those moments as well as share some of my personal experiences, as well as the experience of a friend who helped me finally decide to open up to my own family.

I want to begin with my own experiences first as my coming out in many ways is still very new. For a couple of years I had discussed my sexuality with a friend and explained that I had always thought that if I fell in love it wouldn’t matter who the person was as long as we had a connection to each other. I had in passing mentioned these thoughts as early as high school to my closest friend at the time, but had never thought to label this in any way. My town isn’t very big and the queer community is almost nonexistent. Over the past two years I had been working through my own thoughts and feelings and finally realized that my attraction to more than one gender really did mean that I was not straight. I had waffled between terms and how I felt comfortable describing myself and a little over a year ago I came out to my siblings as bisexual. I chose this specific identifier because, while I believe that you should be able to express your identity outside of the gender binary, I had actually used this term privately before. Bisexual just felt like the right word for me and I embraced it. My brother, sister, and very close friends were very accepting, but I couldn’t amount the courage to tell my parents. I live in a very supportive household, which I know is a blessing, but I was still scared.

I attended ClexaCon in 2017 and this trip ignited something in me. For the entire weekend I was able to openly identify as a bisexual woman and it was so freeing not to worry about keeping a part of myself hidden. While at ClexaCon I met amazing people, one of whom helped me finally decide to talk with my parents. I will admit that this decision did not lead to some epic speech when I was picked up from the airport after ClexaCon or even anything within that week. I sat with my thoughts and tried to figure out just what I would do. Starting in March Krista and I began talking and she shared her personal coming out story with me, which I will share a bit of later in this article, and offered her unwavering support whatever my decision might be in terms of coming out.

On the first of October this year I woke up in a strange mood. I was angry at myself for not talking with my parents earlier, I was upset that I was being a coward, and beyond that I was feeling so anxious that I just wanted to blurt it out. I spent all day waffling between emotions and my mom noticed something was wrong. She kept asking me if something was on my mind and for hours I brushed her off. Finally while she was folding laundry with a rerun of Snapped on I looked at her and blurted out, “Hey mom, there is something I want to talk to you about.” Then in a rush of words, I think this was the fastest I have ever talked in my entire life, “I said that I liked guys, but I also liked girls and I had for a long time and I might date girls and I needed to know if she would be okay with that.” My mom teared up and said, “That’s all, that’s why you’ve been upset.” We were both teary and my mom said something really beautiful and supportive about just wanting me to be happy, but I admit I was still shaky and don’t remember it word for word. She asked if I had told my dad and when he came in the room I basically gave him the same, still in a way faster speed than a normal human should talk, explanation of my identity as bisexual. My dad very politely pointed out that he thought I just liked people that shared my interests anyway and said that at 26 I shouldn’t worry about what other people think. He also mentioned wanting me to be happy. They were both very supportive and I immediately felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my chest. My brother came home right after this entire thing and jokingly pointed out he already knew so it wasn’t really a big deal. After that I told my sister I had come out and then sent a text to Krista, who called me to make sure I was okay and to congratulate me since I’d been talking about how much I wanted to come out, but wasn’t sure how, for months. I wouldn’t have been able to tell my parents that I’m bisexual without the support of my friends and siblings. I also know that not everyone has family members who are so willing to accept them, but the hope is that with more positive representation of LGBTQ+ people in popular media we can create a more accepting and open society.

I spoke with Krista expressly about this article and she was more than willing to share her own experiences with coming out, as well as help me compile a more comprehensive list concerning popular media representations of coming out. Her own story has had a number of ups and downs and she has found herself having to come out to her family multiple times. Sadly I will admit her family is not as supportive as mine, but also following ClexaCon, she decided that she could no longer keep a part of herself secret from those around her. She had previously come out to her mother, but this moment had not gone well, and Krista had found herself having to assert her identity as a lesbian multiple times for a period of roughly 12 years. Last year she had opened up to her family and friends about her identity during Thanksgiving and at this point in her life is no longer keeping that part of herself secret. Krista even wears her identity on her sleeve with a rainbow heart tattoo that I had the privilege of going with her to get during a trip to New York City. While her own coming out was not perfect she is still proud that she did it and shared with me how positive it feels to come out and just let yourself be who you are for everyone to see. I would like to say that we both understand that in some cases you may not feel safe coming out to those you love and that waiting to come out isn’t something to be ashamed of. We all have to find our own perfect time and you should never feel pressured to come out to anyone.

For the rest of this article I want to share some positive coming out narratives within popular culture that show characters coming out to themselves, friends, and family. The hardest step in coming out is often the moment processing your own emotions and coming to understand yourself before you can become comfortable sharing yourself with other people. An exceptional example of this appears in the series Faking It. Amy realizes that she has feelings for her best friend, Karma, but doesn’t relate her feelings for one particular girl to a larger queer identity. At one point while at school everyone is expected to label themselves and she refuses. Instead she puts on all of the labels because she feels comfortable identifying as someone in love with Karma, but not as a particular sexuality. Going forward Amy begins processing what liking Karma means and after trying to determine whether she might be bisexual, she realizes she is a lesbian and only is attracted to women. This personal realization does come a bit out of order in some ways as the series is focused on Amy and Karma being considered a lesbian couple early on, but this journey is so important to show that not everyone knows immediately how to identify their sexuality. Another coming out story that is admittedly a bit brief is of Delphine Cormier in Orphan Black. After having sex with Cosima, Delphine realizes that she is actually attracted to women, though she has only ever dated men in the past. Though her coming out story only takes place with Cosima, it is still a wonderful moment to see represented.

There are two very light hearted examples of coming out that appear with a bit of musical flair. Colby in Girltrash: All Night Long comes out to her sister Daisy, who identifies as a lesbian, and pushes her to take her out so that she can hook up with the girl of her dreams, Misty. This coming out leads to the adorable phrase, “good gay egg,” and the movie highlights Colby trying to navigate the new world of dating women. The other is Darryl from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, who realizes that he has feelings for White Josh. He has never dated men before and begins coming to terms with the idea that he is attracted to men and women equally. I will admit I have belted out his song, Getting’ Bi in the privacy of my own home a time or two.

A more recent coming out story that really helped me during my decision making process appeared in the new One Day at a Time series on Netflix. Early on in the series Elena’s sexuality is hinted at by her grandmother, but her mother brushes it aside insisting that this is just how teenage girls act. As the series progresses Elena is working through her own feelings and while talking out loud to a recorded hold message mentions that she might have feelings for girls, which her younger brother happens to overhear. This leads to her trying to see if she also likes guys, as she has never dated anyone, but ultimately comes out to her mother. Her relief at coming out is so wonderful and Penelope, her mother, handles the moment in a caring way. While Elena doesn’t know is that while Penelope loves and supports her, she still is having some issues coming to terms with her daughter telling her she’s a lesbian. We watch as Penelope works through her own emotions as well as Elena’s grandmother, Lydia. The entire storyline of Elena’s coming out is so well done and the writers take the time to exam the family’s response as well as hers. This even includes a heartbreaking moment with her father.

To end this article I want to again say that today is for celebrating those who have found the courage to share who they truly are, but if you are still in the closet please don’t feel pressured to come out if you aren’t ready. We all need to take our own time and make our own decisions; your coming out narrative is entirely yours. Krista had a wonderful quote during our conversation that I think sums this all up perfectly, “Each person’s experience is as unique as a snowflake. Each one made of feelings and connections and attraction, just like each snowflake is made of water and ice, but the experience itself is so unique and personal and beautiful.”

Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.

Header image from The Human Rights Campaign

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