I came out at 16, shortly after I discovered I was gay. To me, coming out was all about being true to myself. I totally rejected the idea that I should hide how I felt even though being Mormon taught the complete opposite, as if it was wrong or horrible. It always amazed me how the LDS church teaches that you need to be honest but pushes that you hide your sexuality. So stupid. I also wasn’t comfortable with lying about who I was or who I loved. However, my strong feelings on the subject didn’t exactly prepare me for how difficult stepping out of “the closet” into the big, bright world would be or how deeply it would affect me and those around me.
I came out to three distinct groups: my friends, my school and lastly, my family. I told my friends individually, and their responses varied from confused to unsurprised. Regardless of their initial reaction, all my friends eventually accepted me. They all became completely comfortable with it; in their eyes it was just part of who I was. My honesty really strengthened our friendships, and their support became an invaluable resource for me for years to come.
Coming out to my friends was one thing; coming out to the rest of my high school was another. My high school is rather conservative, duh this is Utah. I faced discrimination and harassment from both students and faculty. I remember the helpless anger I felt when I realized that my school wasn’t going to do much to help me or my friends in the LGBTQ community. The frustrating thing was that we weren’t trying to make a splash or a sensation; we just wanted to be treated like any other people and any other couple. Fortunately, after a few months, things started getting better, and slowly, people became more tolerant.
Once I had come out to my friends and my school, I started feeling more and more uncomfortable that I had not yet told my family. The main thing holding me back was fear of my parents’ reaction. They were open and accepting people, but I still doubted they’d be thrilled that I wasn’t “normal.” I prepared many different speeches in my head and was waiting for the right opportunity.
Unfortunately, my school administration eliminated that opportunity by informing my mother after a parent wrote a letter to the school, complaining that her child had to be “exposed” to my “alternate sexuality” and me. When I got home that day, my mom met me at the door, looking concerned. I braced myself, but she sat me down and told me she loved me no matter what and that while she wasn’t happy with the way she had to find out, she wanted me to know she would support me. I was overwhelmed by my mom’s reaction, and it brought us closer than ever.
While coming out at such a young age was difficult, I have no regrets. I can be myself, knowing that the people I love support and accept me. I also became closer with my family, especially with my mom. The most gratifying aspect, however, was seeing the positive impact on others. During high school, many students, some of whom I had never before met, thanked me for giving them the courage to come out and showing them that it was possible to persevere.
Now that I’m out of high school, in college, and looking back, I’m glad I came out when I did. It helped me see the world a little differently and made my skin a little thicker. And, I can only hope that it has helped my friends, family, school and community become a little more tolerant and aware.
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Each Sunday we feature a new Coming Out Story on the Latter Gay Stories blog. Coming Out is an important process that is different for everyone; some experiences are difficult to hear while others are heart-warming and inspiring. Still, coming out is never easy and more often than not we draw inspiration from others through their stories. We rely on weekly submissions to keep the Coming Out Stories alive. We invite you to share yours now.