They ask, “what was it like to come out?”
I ask, “which time?”
The first time, I was twelve. I tried to tell my mother I was bisexual and she sat me down and told me I was “too young.” She said that I could be gay or straight, but that I could not be bisexual because it was “slutty.” To this day she denies ever saying it, but I remember my heart in my throat and the way that fear sunk its claws into my stomach. She must be right, I had thought, she’s my mom. So I corrected myself.
The next time I came out was to myself. This was not a discussion with myself or a day’s length dilemma. It was years worth of internal reconstruction, of learning about parents sometimes being wrong, of confronting my own doubts.
I have come out to others since then. To friends, to my sister, even to my mother again, who had a more accepting response this time.
Coming out is not always a memorable speech behind a podium, an announcement at a family dinner, or even a big update on social media. Coming out is a work in progress.
It is a conversation with yourself every time you enter a new social group. It is a decision with every new person in your life. Am I safe with you? Am I free of judgment from you? Or, am I better off keeping this from you altogether?
And that’s okay. Coming out was a burden placed on us, so we should have our own say in how each of us handles it. It hurts me to see people getting criticized, being told that they need to be “braver,” or “stronger,” or “to suck it up” if they don’t have LGBT plastered on their name tag. Every moment of our existence should not have to be about the war we are fighting.
We deserve our own moments.
The truth is no one’s ever asked what it’s like coming out. This is a conversation with myself at three am when my eyes can’t stay shut, my heart is in my throat, and the first girl I ever loved is texting me and I remember
how she never even knew.
Emily Rose Cartwright is a writer, musician, and artist. She is currently working on her degree in Early Childhood Education and hopes to become an elementary school teacher, where she can be a positive role model in children’s lives who may not have one. You can find her on Tumblr and Facebook.