Coming out is often seen as the pivotal moment in any queer person’s life. Ciera Littleford discusses the importance of coming out to yourself.
Stumble across any LGBTQ+ blog, website or forum, and you’ll discover that ‘coming out’ is the most frequently covered topic of them all. After all, it is seen as the pivotal moment in every young queer person’s life. The reality is, coming out has many different variations, phases and ages. For me, coming out to myself was the hardest, and I’m still doing it today, even though I’m ‘out’ to those around me.
I was 13 years old when I first realised I was gay, and I didn’t take it very well. My parents had been – tactlessly, perhaps – making comments or asking questions about it which I’d simply swat away like flies, until I arrived home from a school trip one day and sat down and thought about it. I believe I cried for the entire day; it’s always difficult to come to the realisation that you’re different in some way, and at that tender age I imagined a life of hell in front of me. For years I trawled through website after website, reading advice columns, experience projects and forums, trying to figure out the best way to ‘come out’. It could be said that I had it easy; my sexuality was a simple one to discern and I never had to worry about my gender or the less frequently discussed sexualities on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. As I wade further into the community, however, I’m learning more and more, and who’s to say I won’t find a label or description that will fit me better? Will I have to go through this process all over again?
I believe I cried for the entire day; it’s always difficult to come to the realisation that you’re different in some way, and at that tender age I imagined a life of hell in front of me.
Coming out to my friends and family took me a year and a half; it was more or less a domino effect, and in a way, unintentionally, I got people to do the hard work for me! I told a few friends, who told everyone else – usually in a drunken setting – with my consent. When I told my mum, she asked permission to tell the rest of my family, my dad, sister and grandparents. So that was that, everyone was accepting, and I was lucky.
Coming out to myself, however, was infinitely more difficult, and it’s something that needs to be discussed much more. I fervently wrote diaries and consulted online chat rooms anonymously in futile attempts to define how I felt and who I was. The key element that made this process of self discovery all the more challenging is the fact that LGBTQ+ youth are ultimately rushed into coming out – the rhetoric is usually along the lines of ‘Coming out. You’ve got to do it. Take your time! Maybe even never do it! But really, think about it, you’d better do it soon.’ We need to be talking to LGBTQ+ students and young people in order to make queerness as normal as possible within the general population. Simply the fact that you’re ‘straight by default’ and that straight people never have to ‘come out’ is already a hugely detrimental issue, but if you ask me, we’re a long way from abolishing that concept.
We need to be talking to LGBTQ+ students and young people in order to make queerness as normal as possible within the general population.
I’m 20 now and am just starting university, and I am slowly, in roundabout ways, letting people know that I am a lesbian. But I still can’t say the word aloud. I’m still getting over my issues with saying the word ‘gay’ aloud too – in my close circle of friends, we laugh about these ‘L’ and ‘G’ words; the bane of my existence. When I disclose this information to new people, I’m sure to play myself off as a ‘casual gay’, for many reasons, as ridiculous as that sounds. One possible reason is a certain anxiety because I’m unaware of the new person in question’s preconception of gay people. I’m aware of the ‘types’ of gay man or lesbian and just use those sexualities as examples for now, and maybe I don’t want to be put into a box straight away. I don’t want to scare people of the same sex away in case they think I’m attracted to them. Maybe I don’t want to be seen as the stereotypical lesbian feminist activist – the list goes on, and I know for a fact I’m not the only queer person who has these fears. I have a bisexual friend who’s terrified of acknowledging this because of the downright hateful and repugnant predispositions about her particular preferences. Be sure of your surroundings and your own feelings – you don’t have to force yourself to accept it at first.
I still can’t say the word aloud. I’m still getting over my issues with saying the word ‘gay’ aloud too – in my close circle of friends, we laugh about these ‘L’ and ‘G’ words; the bane of my existence.
If you’re reading this and you’re ‘in the closet’, know that it’s okay to take time over discovering who you are. Learn to be comfortable with your decision and your labels (if you choose to use them) before saying them out loud to others in some sort of grand but awkward gesture – it really helps. You don’t have to start dating straight away, you don’t have to start dating ever, you can date everyone at once if that’s what you want. Maybe you’ll never be comfortable stating your sexuality or gender out loud and that’s okay too, as long as you feel you can still talk about it with people who care about you if you need to. Just take your time, and bask in your own queerness.
Disclaimer: This article is aimed at those who are in a physically and financially safe environment to come out. If you don’t feel like you are, wait until it is safe to do so. Help can be found at:
Follow Ciera on Twitter (@its_blitz)