Eight years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, I came out to my best friend as bisexual.
It was kind of anticlimactic, really. There I was, waiting at her locker door trying to muster up the correct sequence of words to say. I thought I had the words down on the bus ride to school, but faced with just minutes until the big reveal, I was rendered somewhat speechless. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Freshman year she came out as bisexual, so having first-hand…experience (for lack of better words) herself on the matter wouldn’t be that foreign to her, I figured. The moment she arrived, I was at this mental state where I knew I was ready to say what I needed to say, but also had this false confidence that I have this imaginary rewind button to press once the words spilled. With nothing but awkward silence between us, I just blurted out:
“Ali*, I’m bi.” (*Name changed to protect anonymity)
“…I know,” she said.
I really didn’t know what kind of response I was expecting from her. I mean she was cool with it all, but a part of me was hoping she’d have this epiphany, like she didn’t realize it before I admitted the fact. But considering how she knew of my fondness for the Spice Girls–and particularly how Mel C. was my favorite–in elementary school, it was safe to rule that possibility out. A part of me was also hoping that I’d meet this admission with some sort of celebratory response. “Congrats, I’m proud of you!” But being met with just an “I know,” was kind of disheartening. But now that it was out in the open, it allowed us to be more open with each other. Throughout the rest of my high school years, as I came to know more and more about who I am, I eventually figured out that I was gay, and having her, as well as my other friends, be there as support was just what I needed. It all boiled down to realizing that I lucked out, knowing that it’s not as easy for some other people to come out of the closet, especially when they don’t know if they’re friends or family members would accept it.
When I entered college, I kind of let my sexuality take a back seat. I knew I was entering a whole new environment, and was now faced with the process of coming out all over again. Perhaps my biggest apprehension about fully coming out during college was the fact that I attended a Catholic university. I told myself that I wouldn’t let that fact get in the way of anything, and for the most part, in hindsight, I never really did. And even though it was a Catholic university, I was surprised at how tolerant they were of the LGBT community. What surprised me most was during my sophomore year, I discovered that there was a gay-straight alliance at school. I eventually joined midway through the fall semester, but kind of felt like my membership was shrouded by the fact that I still wasn’t out to anyone in my family. I eventually worked my way up to editor-in-chief at my college’s newspaper and graduated with high honors, but while I was making great strides in coming into my own, and coming out to my friends at school, I barely budged when it came to coming out to family members.
That is, until a couple of days ago. I just turned 25, and while I don’t believe in timelines when it comes to the coming out process, I do believe in not resting on laurels. I’m out at my job, with co-workers and friends, and I can take stock of how much I’ve been able to accomplish since I came out. My sexuality didn’t stop me from making friends, graduating college and getting to where I am right now professionally, so why should it hold me back when it comes to telling my family about it? Considering this, I decided to come out to my best cousin, whom I consider not only as my unofficial sister, but my best friend, as well. All these years of not telling her I felt like I was cheating her out, and I knew that I owed it to her to tell her about this one part of my life I’ve been keeping a secret from her.
We grabbed lunch by her job, and I was actually planning on telling her face-to-face when we were seated across from each other. Instead, I felt like a rewind button was hit and that I was back in high school, ready to come out for the very first time. I thought that I had developed an immunity to the whole process. I’d consider myself a pro at coming out to friends and co-workers, knowing when to nonchalantly drop the bomb. “Yeah, that’s what I love about retail–you get to meet women easily,” a co-worker once told me during my tenure shilling credit cards at Gap. “Well you won’t have to worry about me getting in the way, I’m not into women,” I replied. There, it was that easy. But knowing that this was the first person from my family to know, it felt completely different.
As we walked towards State Street so I could drop her off to a Red Line stop, I once again felt the pressure. My chance to come out to her was dwindling to mere minutes, or rather, blocks away, and to not take advantage of the confidence I had built up would result in another stalemate. We finally rounded the corner onto State and that was where I took the plunge:
“So there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about […] and it’s something that I’ve actually been wanting to talk about with you for a long time now,” I said.
I wanted to swallow up the word vomit I just spewed.
We sat down on a bench in front of some hotel and that was where the words just started coming out–the fact that I was gay, how long I’ve been keeping it a secret from her and how I’m too afraid to come out right now to family considering how religious everyone is. I was met with another “I know…”, but this time it felt relieving, more so because of the fact that for the first time someone in my family now knows, and more importantly, accepts the simple fact. We walked on for several more blocks and finally stopped at a Barnes & Noble to hash out everything I’ve been wanting to say for the past eight years, as well as moments that were dead giveaways for her, which, in hindsight, and to save myself the embarrassment, I think I’d rather keep to myself.
I know my coming out story is still being written, and that this was just one turning point in the many chapters that will unfold. And though I know I still have many important people in my life to come out to, I can take solace in the fact that one of those people loves me for who I am, and for that I will be forever thankful.