The First Time
The first time I came out, I was 16. It was 1997, the summer before my junior year of high school, when my friend Kim and I sat in my bedroom passing notes back and forth. We both had something important to tell the other one. We sat there for hours, bodies tense, before finally discovering that we both had the same burning admission on our minds.
I’m not sure which one of us took the leap and wrote it first, but one of us finally declared “I’m bisexual” in writing for the other to see. The other immediately replied, “Me too.” This double revelation blew open our friendship and we were soon a couple. Not knowing how our families or general community would react, we kept this between us and a few of our closest friends.
Learning More About Myself
A few months later, I realized that I wasn’t bi but a lesbian. Coming out this second time was, strangely, not any easier than that first time. It weighed heavily on me for the days and weeks leading up to the actual coming out. I was afraid of rejection. Does the fact that I’m not interested in boys at all make me a freak? Would I be the only one? Who would accept me?
When the time came for me to tell Kim, I was relieved and comforted when she replied with “Me too.” And we were far from the only lesbians in our hometown. In the second half of our junior year, we found the gay clique at our high school.
By the time we graduated our New Hampshire high school, in the spring of 1999, there were at least 10 or 15 people in our school who were out in one way or another, and a slew of straight allies who had our backs. We were immensely lucky, and I can now look back at that scared 16-year-old and smile because I know what great friends and support were headed her way.
Without writing out those first words in that notebook, without declaring who I was to someone else, my teen years could have turned out very differently.
In November 2008, after many years of living as an out gay lady, I had to come out about something new. I decided to be vegan. I had been mostly vegetarian for the few months leading up to the decision and, in that time, had done a lot of reading on the subject. I didn’t see it as such a big deal; I figured that since I didn’t really care what other people ate, why would they care what I ate?
I told people as it came up, and wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of questions I got, or how defensive people would become as I told them. It was almost as if my choice to eliminate animal products from my diet was seen by other people as a judgement of their eating habits. They made jokes about it, and often felt the need to question me about my veganism when we were at barbecues or parties. Anywhere, really.
I rarely wanted to talk about being vegan with non-vegans; I didn’t feel the need to explain or defend my decisions to them. That’s all it felt like they wanted me to do.
I know my true worth and feel so much love now—more than I ever could have experienced if I’d stayed in the sober closet.
Coming Out in Sobriety
On May 28, 2016, I came out as sober on Facebook. It was my half birthday and my four-month soberversary.
Although I’d mentioned something on Instagram a couple of weeks prior, Facebook was where all of my friends were: This was really my big, sober coming out. I was prepared for resistance. I was prepared for people to tell me that I didn’t need to quit drinking. I was prepared for the worst case scenario because I’ve heard from so many people about how hard it was for them.
All I got was love and support. If anyone thought differently, they kept it to themselves. I’d been worried and nervous prior to clicking on the “Post” button; now, I was relieved, happy.
In the time since I’ve come out as sober, there have been friendships and relationships that have changed or fallen by the wayside. That’s the price I pay for being unapologetically who I am. I also now know that the friendships I still have are the real deal. They are people who understand me and accept me for who I am, no matter what that is. I know my true worth and feel so much love now—more than I ever could have experienced if I’d stayed in the sober closet.
Coming Out Agender
On July 30, 2018 I officially came out as agender, meaning that I don’t have any gender. I’m just me. Twenty-one years after the first time I came out as bisexual, I was just as nervous now as that 16-year-old sitting on their bedroom floor.
This realization happened slowly. When I moved to Portland, 3,000 miles away from everything I’d ever known, I was giving myself the opportunity to discover myself without being restrained by other people’s ideas about who I am. Not only did my appearance change slightly, but I was also beginning to notice my reactions to things were different as well. The jolt of discomfort I got when I was called miss or ma’am or lady was similar, if not more uncomfortable, than the jolt I felt when I was called sir. When I quit drinking, I wasn’t able to numb these jolts anymore.
The nature of the recovery community is such that groups and events are often separated by gender. I was participating in women’s only communities and was never made to feel unwelcome but there was always a feeling of uneasiness that tainted my entire experience. I didn’t belong. This space wasn’t for me. I thought it was because I’m gay but, after an extended trip home to New England, things really fell into place. It seems I have been leading a gender neutral existence out here without even realizing it and, being back home where womanhood was an accepted part of who I was really weighed on me.
Shortly after I returned to Portland, I was unpacking these feelings and wondered why I had to be any gender at all, why couldn’t I just be me? It turns out I can.
Once I realized that I was able to not have gender, my whole world opened up. In naming it, I gained a level of confidence in myself that I hadn’t known before. In telling other people, I am claiming who I am without shame. Sure, finding larger sober communities that feel I feel compatible with may end up being harder now but, I have a small circle who will always have my back in the meantime. It’s worth it to be 100% true to myself.
After you come out that first time, you will be coming out over and over again about the same thing.
Coming Out, Again and Again
It never gets easier.
You would think, having come out so many times before, coming out would be a cakewalk for me by now. Unapologetically declaring who I am to the world is something I do on a daily basis, and have been since I first came out as bisexual in 1997. But it doesn’t get easier.
Every time you have something inside you, scratching like a dog that wants to be let out, the fear about revealing that part of you resurfaces. The process of figuring out how, when and, where to tell people is difficult and highly personal. Disclosing something so close to you, whether it’s something you’re born with (like your sexual orientation) or a decision to change your life based on personal reflection and serious thought (like your diet or giving up a substance) is never easy.
What if you’re rejected? What if you’re attacked emotionally, verbally, or physically? What if you lose the people closest to you? What if you’re wrong and you have to take it back?
These are all chances I’m willing to take in order to live my life as the exact human I am. The feeling of fear for possible personal repercussions pales in comparison to the feeling I get knowing that my visibility can help even one other person.
Coming out, in any form, is not a one-and-done thing. After you come out that first time, you will be coming out over and over again about the same thing. If you’re part of the minority and don’t want to hide who you are, you have to keep declaring it. Keep declaring your queerness. Keep declaring your recovery and sobriety. Keep declaring that you make choices about your food and your body based on what is right for you, not based on what makes everyone else comfortable.
Your reasons for coming out will be different from my own but the end result will be the same: People living their lives in the open make it easier for other people to see themselves in society. And seeing yourself in society helps you to see that you are not alone.