Coming Out & Going Back In Again

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I've decided to share my own coming out story.  If you don't care, don't want to know, or don't approve of my lifestyle, that's your own choice and you're welcome to your opinion.  I just don't care, want to know, or need your approval :)

I came out for the first time in about 5th grade. I was walking across the playground with my friend Leslie and I just kind of blurted it out. “I’m pretty sure I might be gay” is exactly what I said and then I explained that I liked girls but that I also liked boys and that I didn’t really know if that made me gay but I thought it did. It was the first time that I had ever said it out loud. I don’t think I would have done it if I hadn’t just watched an episode of the Real World in which the incredibly loud and out lesbian housemate Aneesa Ferreira went on a rampage about the importance of her rainbow necklace (which was strikingly similar to one I owned and then proceeded to wear constantly).

Fast forward 7 years and I was well on my way to being named “class flirt” with a list of boyfriends that I couldn’t fit on two hands and absolutely zero ability to even consider flirting with a girl in any space but my own imagination. What happened in those 7 years to shove me back into the closet so far that I wouldn’t be able to climb out until I turned twenty-four?

There are a million answers to that question and most of them probably require therapy but I think that there are two truly honest answers. One is that it was easier to be a straight girl who always had a boyfriend, than a lesbian in junior high, high school, and college. And the second is that the title “lesbian” never felt right. I liked boys, and girls, but also didn’t feel like “bisexual” really fit either. I simply loved who I loved…no matter what they identified as or who they were. It’s hard to come out when you don’t know what to call yourself or how to explain it. So until I was 24 and learned what “pansexual” was, I just kept my little secret to myself.

I should point out, that I grew up in a very accepting home where being gay was something that not only would have been no big deal, it would have been celebrated. The problem is that although my family and friends would have been amazing and supportive and wonderful, I didn’t (and still don't) see my sexuality as anything all that special. It’s a part of me that has always been there and I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal about it.

The second (much more public) time that I came out went a little differently. I made the choice to finally tell people because I had met a wonderful and amazing person that I couldn’t help but want everyone to meet and know was my girlfriend. I started by telling her (which was pretty important), and then my closest friends, and then my family. It is amazing how many people were shocked at first and then told me literally moments later that it “actually made a lot of sense,” or "I've been waiting 15 years for this" (thanks mom!). The thing that people couldn’t really grasp was the word that I had chosen to claim as my “identity.”

Pansexual is not something that most people have ever heard. They think that it means I’m attracted to little kids or animals or pans…all of which is completely untrue. Pansexual is defined in the dictionary as “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity;” what I define pansexual as is much more simple than that. I am attracted to a person first by their personality and the emotional connection we have and then by their physical appearance.

The person who put it best is another Leslie (apparently it’s a particularly important name for my life) who became one of my very best friends in college. The way she put it? “You’re a lover.” It is the most simplistic possible way to say something that I had struggled for years to express and the moment that I could finally express myself it was like a dam breaking. The anxiety and depression that had become an increasingly paralyzing part of my daily life started to get better. My tolerance for telling and receiving lies as a part of normal life pretty much evaporated and most importantly, for the first time in years, I felt like I was meant to be in my own skin.

Since coming out I know that I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Therapy and making choices based on keeping myself happy and healthy rather than making sure other people are happy and healthy first are two of the things that I’ve been working the hardest on but it’s helping me figure out just who I am. Plus, if I had everything figured out at age 25 what fun would there be left for me to have?

Happy Coming Out Day Joyflakes! And a special thank you to all of my amazing friends and family for being the supportive wonderful people you are.