My coming out journey and learning to accept myself
Coming out can be a different experience for everyone. Illan talks about how it's an opportunity to grow and learn to love yourself.
A pivotal moment in any LGBTI+ person’s life, coming out can be daunting. In movies it is often the climax of the character's story arc. They have found themselves. They are liberated. Vigorous, proud, and strong. Surely nothing can stand in their way now! Yet for many, including myself, coming out was not like that. In fact for me, coming out was a long, drawn out process, taking years of learning and growth. Years of reasoning and anxiety. It’s a journey that is different for everyone. I want to talk about my journey.
My Coming Out
For me, coming out was not a spontaneous celebration at all. More like a moment of resigned defeat. Aged 15, sitting in my room, I felt ashamed. I had failed. Failed to “turn myself straight.” Looking back on it now, how I tried to convert myself is ridiculously hilarious. I watched football, a spectacularly boring sport to me, but I tried to endure. I listened to music that my straight friends listened to. I watched how I spoke, how I acted. I tried to mimic the actions of those straight people around me. Of course, none of those things have anything to do with your sexuality, but as a young teenager that is all I had to go on. When these all failed, I started the first step to coming out. I accepted that I couldn’t change.
But I wasn’t happy about it. Angry and cheated are probably the best words for how I felt. Cheated because I never signed up for this. What contract with God did I sign where it stated I was to be gay? I didn’t remember any! Angry because I now had to live a new version of my life. It wasn’t fair. Of course, it now seems ridiculous and self-piteous, but at the time it was all that consumed me. The real part of coming out is learning to love and accept yourself. Acceptance is a starting point.
An important part of this journey is the support of friends and family. I was very fortunate to have loving support from everyone, especially from classmates in school. It made me realise that I was okay. If they were okay with it, why shouldn’t I be? Allies are critical for young LGBTI+ kids. In my experience it helps them grow and accept themselves. Support can be in the simple form of accepting the LGBTI+ friend and not treating them any differently. That is all I wanted, and that’s what most people want too. Support is validation for those who need to be validated at such a young and vulnerable point in their lives.
Fitting into a new community
Once comfortable with myself, I began to expose myself to all the aspects of a community which I naturally became a part of. I found things that I liked, and parts I did not. Part of the learning when coming out is understanding that you do not have to fit in with a community in which you may only have a sexuality in common (ironic for myself who tried everything to fit in before I came out). When some people come out, and I too found myself doing this, they grasp onto their sexuality as a way to define themselves – as a critical identity. However, experience and learning makes you realise that sexuality is nothing more than one aspect of your wider identity. So, when trying to find out where I fit in, I realised that it was pointless and that I had not learned from my experience of trying to fit in by being straight. Loving yourself for you is better for your health than constantly trying to fit in.
Coming out is rarely like the movies. It is not instantaneous and it doesn’t have to be. If your coming out, like mine, is a journey, that is okay. The outcome is the same. From feeling ashamed and thinking myself a failure, I am now incredibly comfortable with who I am. This has allowed me the confidence to do things I would never have imagined. In the end, no matter how you come out, it is always worth it.
If you are experiencing bullying, having a tough time or if you want to find out more about LGBTI+ organisations please look at the resources below for help.