We have yet another coming out story, this one from our lovely Vice-President (Undergraduate) Sam! If you’d like to share your story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re thinking of coming out, check out our guide [link].
Coming out as a lesbian was a weird one. It took years for this label to be something that I was comfortable with, and what’s more, for it to become something I am proud of.
Like most LGBT+ people, I do not have one singular coming out experience. It has been a long, incredibly messy and at times painful process. At high school I knew I liked girls and I made the all too well-known mistake of telling people I thought cared about me, leading to a few, rather horrible, public outings. The label of “lesbian” was something that was thrust upon me before I even knew it was something that I actually am. I spent years trying to figure out what label worked for me, some people do not like, nor want a label, I did and still do. Labels, for me at least, provide a sense of security, but what’s more a sense of community- people like me who had similar experiences that could reply on. I flitted between the usual ones- bi, gay, queer- over and over again before I accepted lesbian.
Even when I knew I was not attracted to men, being a lesbian seemed so incredibly scary and seemed like something to distance myself from. Lesbians, as I knew it, were all scary and shouty, and at worst predatory- things I always feared about myself. Lesbians were something to distance yourself from- mainstream feminist rhetoric telling me that being a feminist was good and cool now (as long as you weren’t one of those Lesbians). As it turns out- lesbians are lovely and some of the most beautiful people I know and sometimes they are scary and shouty but also brave and protecting. It’s easy, as a lesbian, to fear you are a predator- to think your attraction to women is something nasty and something, fundamentally, to be afraid of. Fear of being a predator was something that was deeply ingrained- I felt weirdly ashamed and Unfeminist when I found women attractive- even though now, the idea that lesbians are patriarchal shills is something I can acknowledge as ridiculous.
Over a year ago now, I was applying for college accommodation and there was a box. The box asked if there was any reason I wouldn’t wish to share a room in college, it listed sexuality as a potential reason. Initially, I wrote “Lesbian”. After staring at this piece of paper for about ten minutes I scribbled out the word, and wrote “I am gay”. It seemed softer and easier. Lesbian felt radical, like I was really committing myself. In the same vein ‘lesbian’ felt divisive- like I was making a big fuss over nothing and trying to seem edgy and cool.
So a year on, here I am, writing this for National Coming Out Day, which seems strange as most people will testify- I have been ‘out’ for years. Most people presumed I was out as a lesbian too- which might be true now, but it definitely was not something I was willing to admit. Since starting uni and finding, in Durham of all places, some of the most beautiful LGBT+ people I could ever hope to and surrounding myself with supportive networks both in real life and online- I can safely say I am lesbian and a happy one too.
Coming out stories are sometimes not uplifting. Sometimes they are messy and sad and painful. Coming out is a constant process- it is not just the sitting your parents down for The Chat™, or announcing yourself through a facebook status- it is correcting people when they presume the gender of your partner, it is quietly mentioning that you are going to an LGBT+ social. There is no one Coming Out story, sometimes you’ll come out time and time again as your understanding of your identity evolves, and that is perfectly valid.
These things take time, you’ll get there.