My coming out story is one that I haven’t really been motivated to share because its well, rather lovely. I’ve had some sort of strange “survivors guilt” for years about my coming out story. About how I didn’t face much adversity and how my life really is far and away much better now than it was prior to coming out.
This pride month I have been reminded how important gay visibility is no matter your background or current situation. All of our stories together remind the world how diverse and varied the LGBTQ+ community is. I am sharing my story today as a reminder that every story is different and while it is a huge part of my life, its not my whole life.
My story starts where the image above was taken: on fraternity and sorority row at Vanderbilt University. I had a blast at college, but as much as I thought I was genuinely happy, I was not. My friends from Vandy, who I know will be lifelong friends remark today that there is a genuine happiness in my life now that was not present at school.
I always say I was really good at playing the part of a happy sorority girl except when it came to dating. I was basically just not interested. And whether it was shame, denial or my Catholic upbringing, I never associated my disinterest in men and dating with being interested in women instead.
After college I moved to Atlanta for work. I moved in with a friend of a friend of friend, basically a stranger and her pup. She quickly became one of my best friends and definitely not a stranger. Niki knows this, but being friends with her pushed me to grow in many aspects of my life.
I became interested in politics and other social justice issues mostly so I could relate to my very well informed roommate. We were still doing the college stuff like going out to the bars every weekend and joking about the boys we thought were cute, but I was growing and changing as a person. I was growing out of my deeply held beliefs of childhood and college and learning more about the real world.
One night, about 3 months after moving to Atlanta, I was at a music festival with all of my new friends. In between acts we were laying on the grass to save our spots for one of the headliners. I was drunk enough to be blissed out, but not so drunk that I was uncomfortable. (Photo of me in pure bliss above) It was one of those perfect nights until this thought crossed my mind, “ WAIT! Do I have a CRUSH on HER!?”
I had been thinking about one of my friends (sorry, Niki, not you) and realized my feelings were maybe more than friendly. I grabbed my phone and texted a queer friend and said “We need to talk tomorrow.” I’m sure the tone and out of character use of punctuation prompted her to say, “Is this by chance about lesbianism?” I responded with a quick “perhaps.” and grabbed another drink.
The next morning for that second in between sleep and full consciousness (cue Goodmorning by Bleachers) I was so happy. I was living in a great city, with great friends and I was about to spend a sunny fall day listening to music and then I remembered my realization from the day before.
I put my running shoes on and ran until I could run anymore and then called my friend who I had texted the night before. She reminded me that this was one thought one day, but that I should take some time and think on it. This wasn’t something that my engineering analytical brain could just “figure out”.
I went into deep denial for a few weeks. Trying desperately (and failing) to have a crush on every guy that I knew. I finally had to take my friends advice and jump on some dating apps. Couldn’t hurt to just swipe, could it?
I instantly felt different about being on these apps with the preference “woman interested in women” but this was also my first bought of anxiety in my life. I flinched anytime a friend said, “can I see your phone?” or “Look at that girls dress?!” I would think, “Why do you want to see it!?” and “WHAT I wasn’t looking at her!!”
I was terrified and paranoid and I hadn’t even made it on my first date yet! Reminder at this point only one person knows I have feelings for women. It took a shit ton of courage, but I finally made it on my first date with a woman.
No fairytale ending here because this date was a disaster with a capitol D. In the first 5 minutes of the date she told me all about her mental instability, financial troubles, and how she wouldn’t be able to pay for the glasses of wine that she was chugging. Needless to say we did not have a second date, but I wish the best for that woman and will never forget her.
This story gets happier soon, I promise. I went home defeated. My first date with a woman had gone horribly and I couldn’t even talk to my best friends about it because they had no idea I was even remotely gay.
Somehow I got the courage to go back on those dating apps and try again. I matched with an extremely kind girl who was open to the fact that I wasn’t out to anyone and honestly wasn’t even sure if I was gay. We had our first kiss on our second date and I felt like I was 14 again experiencing all the things my friends said when they first kissed boys.
In true lesbian fashion we were inseparable from that day forward. Nearly overnight I had to learn how to tell almost everyone in my life that this girl is not just a gal pal. My roommate was the best abut it. So open, loving, supportive and understanding. My notoriously boy crazy friend Brittany said, “THAT IS SO TRENDY!” and seemed genuinely excited to here about my dating life.
It was easy to tell my Atlanta friends. They had only known me for 3 or 4 months and if they had a poor reaction, I figured I wasn’t really missing out on a lifelong friendship. I did have one friend say to me, “I’m okay with it, but I won’t introduce you to my parents as a lesbian.” And to that I said, “Don’t worry. I wasn’t planning on announcing your sexuality to my parents either.”
When I went back to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving my stomach was in knots the whole week. I was harboring a secret from the people I loved most in the world, my parents and siblings. I wasn’t sure if I could keep the secret much longer, but I also knew I wasn’t ready for a poor reaction.
On my last night at home I walked into my parents bedroom and said. “Mom and dad, I have to tell you something. I’m seeing someone in Atlanta and she’s a woman.” My dad immediately made an inappropriate joke and broke the tension in the room. It wasn’t perfect from there on out, but my parents told me they loved me and supported me no matter what.
For the rest of that fall and winter I continued my coming out tour of the northeast. I told my siblings around Christmas and my sister Katherine said it was the best gift she received that year. I told my friends from home at different times and got an overwhelmingly positive response. I told my roommate from college in bed in the dark because I couldn’t look at her face when I said it. She was wonderfully supportive.
Almost everyone in my life remarked that they were happy to see me so happy. And I was happy. I felt as though all any gay cliche applied to my life. I was living my truth, I felt whole, I found a part of me that was missing etc etc etc.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows (pun intended). Like any romantic story, mine is not without heartbreak. My first girlfriend and I broke up about 6 months into dating. I broke up with her and felt terrible for what I had done. I will never be able to thank her enough for everything she did for me and for loving me during some of the most confusing months of my life.
I dated another girl in Atlanta and this time it was my turn to be heartbroken. She absolutely crushed me and turned me into a version of myself that I hope to never be again. I didn’t sleep and I didn’t eat. I repeatedly played Tegan and Sara on Spotify. I was naive enough to beg her to change her mind. During this same time my father was beginning chemotherapy, I was miserable at work and knew I needed a fresh start.
Moving back to Philadelphia was the hardest and easiest decision at the same time. I needed to be around my family. I needed to spend time with my Dad. I needed to heal from my breakup and remind myself there is life beyond the one I thought I had with her.
We played that back and forth game for almost a year. If I can offer advice to any young person going through heartache or a breakup it would be this, if they have hurt you profoundly enough to shatter your heart, they did not appreciate what they had and don’t deserve you crawling back to them. It won’t be healthy for either of you in the long run.
Nearly a year after our breakup I sent her a text that said, “Was there ever going to be a future for us?” in a roundabout way she finally gave me the NO that I needed to move on. I started dating in Philadelphia and went on A LOT of first dates, a few second dates and just a few beyond that. I eventually found my way to my current girlfriend Amy.
Being with Amy and building a life with her makes me profoundly grateful for my journey up until this point. Some days I wonder what life would be like if I had never expanded my mind enough and built up enough courage to come out and live my life as a gay woman. I’m cryer, but I tear up thinking about the joy and love I have with Amy and that I would have missed out on it had I not lived my truth.
My final thoughts on coming out are that its not one moment or series of moments that define someones coming out story. I live my coming out story daily. I come out every time I hold Amy’s hand in public. I come out every time I have to correct a well meaning stranger who asks if I have a boyfriend. I continue to come out publicly online and will continue to do so even amid backlash. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support. If you want to support LGBTQ youth, please consider making a donation to The Trevor Project.