Coming Out Day happens every Oct. 11, and on Monday, people around the world celebrated the day by vocally supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people. A project by the Human Rights Campaign, the day is to encourage open and honest lives of LGBT people and to promote resources that are available for LGBT people and their families and friends.
The North Wind recently asked its own staff, members of NMU’s LGBT group OUTlook, and other LGBT people in the community to share their personal coming out stories.
Lucy Hough – Junior – Editor in Chief
In high school, I dated a guy for about four years, and I liked him a lot. Even when I was with him, though, I knew that I was interested in women, but I thought it was just a weird kink and that it would go away. It wasn’t until I came to college that being gay and dating women became a possibility and not something to be ashamed of. As soon as it was, I felt much more comfortable and sure of my sexuality.
When I was figuring all of this out my freshman year of college, my mom knew that something was up but I wasn’t letting her in. When I finally told her, she started crying. She said she was crying because she was so glad to know what was going on. Since then, she’s been incredibly understanding – I’m very lucky.
My extended family has not had such a good reaction. When I told my grandma, who is very religious, she said that she was very sorry, that she would always pray for me, but that I will never find lasting peace and joy. It saddens me that she won’t be able to share the happiness I have found and know that I will continue to find.
Scott Viau – Senior – Managing Editor
I came out to my sister and our close group of friends when I was 16. I was scared to tell them. Each one received a personalized note saying how I felt. I couldn’t even say it out loud. Their support for me was overwhelming. My friends did not treat me any differently for being gay, nor did my sister.
When I was 18, I finally came out to my parents. I had gone to see Judy Sheppard, mother of slain Matthew Sheppard, speak on campus about the importance of tolerance and acceptance. I told my mom I was working, but when I came home she questioned me about where I had been. I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. I told her I was gay and her response was a single word: “OK.” The first few days after, I felt as if I had done something wrong, but her treatment of me did not change at all. She accepted me completely. We talk about it and she has said on numerous occasions that she hopes I find someone. Majority of the response has been thoroughly positive; I could not have asked for a better family to come out to. When I hear stories of men and women who have been shunned or disowned from their families because of their sexual orientation, I feel even more grateful to have had the coming out experience that I did.
Meredith Gasco – Senior
I first had an inkling that I might like girls in my freshman year of high school, when I was about thirteen and noticed that I got a tingling feeling whenever I looked at pictures of half-naked women with my male friends. When I recovered from being shocked and realized that this might explain my lifelong tomboyishness, I felt pretty comfortable with letting my friends know.
The first family member I came out to was my mom. I had absolutely no intention of coming out to my family when I was in high school, but, at the age of fifteen, I started dating a girl who insisted that I tell my mom (but only after someone had outed her to her mom). I had relatively little access to queer media during the first half of high school; I had never even seen an episode of “Will and Grace.” So I wasn’t afraid of anything terrible or earth-shattering like being kicked out of the house or sent to reparative therapy. Still, I knew I had to time it just right. So I figured I’d tell her in the car on the way back from a guitar lesson. As my mom white-knuckled the steering wheel, the best she could do was advise me not to engage in too much PDA at school, so none of the local jocks would decide to play a rousing game of “Smear the Queer” with an actual queer. She waited until the next day, one desperate, advice-seeking phone call to an old friend later, to tell me that she accepted me.
Fast-forward to my junior year, one short, boyish haircut later. In the spirit of male bonding of the evening, my father decided to heckle me about my short haircut. “You don’t want some lesbian checking you out, do you?” he said. I froze. And that was how my father and my two grandmothers found out that I was a lesbian. My father was angry and unaccepting. One grandmother offered a shaky, preliminary acceptance. My other grandmother went into a state of immediate denial. Out came the phrase, “It’s just a phase!” When I tried to explain about my two previous girlfriends, she said, “Well, we all had girlfriends in high school, didn’t we?” To date, that’s been the best reaction I’ve gotten from coming out.
Martha Lundin – Freshman
I knew (I was gay) shortly before my 16th birthday and came out a month later to my friends at school. I hated feeling like I was living a lie. I came out because it was necessary. I couldn’t have kept living in the closet. I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. I told my friends almost as soon as I knew. I told my parents about four months later for the same reasons that I told my friends. My parents, of all people, deserved to know. They didn’t take it badly. In fact, they didn’t have much of a reaction at all, which for a long time made me angry. It felt like they didn’t care. But I know that they just needed time to adjust, the same as I did. Since coming out to my friends and family, I have been surrounded by significantly more support than dissent. That has been so encouraging for me, to know that the people I tell will still care.
Joshua Garnett – Biochemistry Major
In seventh grade I came out to my best friend at the time and my mom. I told my friend one morning while waiting for school to start. She did not take it well. She ran to the bathroom crying, and refused to talk to me for a while. This was rather unfortunate. We were not very close friends after that. I thought it would be important to tell her because it was something that I thought was important at the time, and thought that as my friend, she should know. She went home and told her mom, who called my mom. Her mom insisted that I needed counseling. Later, when I went to tell my mom, she already knew. Her reaction was good, saying that she will always love me. She has always been supportive. For most of the people I tell, their reactions are generally positive and supportive. I am out, and try not to hide the fact that I am gay. It’s just part of who I am.
I guess I would call myself queer. I have taken on the label of bisexual, lesbian, dyke, and pansexual in the past. Even as a child when playing “house,” I was always the husband or something to a similar effect. I first had a crush on a girl in eighth grade, not long after my first big crush on a boy. I look back and laugh, and feel even awful. I was proud of this, I even bragged about my sexuality at the time and in high school. I dropped hints to good ol’ ma and pa throughout those years, but it wasn’t until my first serious girlfriend that we had “the talk.” Nothing really happened because of it. My parents didn’t like it, but nothing happened. From my extended family, on the other hand, I got a lot of bashing, harsh reactions and ridicule. I am no longer dating a woman, so the issue was dropped, it seems. I don’t mind saying I once dated girls, but I no longer consider myself a lesbian. I love my man, but that also doesn’t make me straight. The line is too blurry for even me to understand fully.
Michael Carroll – Junior – Resident Advisor
The beginning of my coming-out experience is kind of a blur to me now. I remember, though, the first time I told anyone I was gay was in my sophomore year of high school. My best friend and I were hanging out and studying when it just kind of happened. I said it without hardly thinking about it. He stopped reading and looked up from his book. I remember him not saying anything for a while, then slowly, as if carefully choosing his words, he said that we were best friends and that he was there for me. It was one of the most uplifting feelings, knowing that it didn’t make a difference. After that, it became easier and easier to tell my other friends, my family and acquaintances.
Coming out is a life-long process. Whenever I meet someone new, that’s one more potential person I may have to tell one day. I don’t necessarily come out to every person I meet. Being gay is just one aspect of my life. It’s not even one that I find very important. But the truth is, every gay person who comes out faces the pressure of how the people if their life will react.
Kelsey – Fourth-year Student
I knew ever since I was about 11 that I was a lesbian, but did not say anything to anyone. I actually didn’t say anything to my parents until about two years ago when I was 20, when I was home on Christmas break. Around that time, I really started to feel like I needed to be honest with myself and my family and accept who I am. So I decided that now was the time to tell my parents (since I had already told my sister and brother the year prior).
The day I decided to tell them, I actually met up with an aunt of mine and told her first, hoping she could help me tell my parents. She acted just as I thought she would and was not surprised at all by it. So we went and told my mom. I was scared to death to tell her, but I knew I had to. So finally I just threw it out there that I liked girls and not guys and at the time I was dating a girl. My mom just kind of looked at me and after a few seconds said, “We already knew, we’re not dumb and still love you anyway.”
I never actually told my dad, but he overheard the conversation I had with my mom, and he knows. He called me upstairs to tell me that as long as I respect myself and do the right thing, he still loves me. To this day, their opinion of me has not changed, they still love me and accept me exactly for who I am. I felt so much better after I told them. I have never once regretted telling my parents or anyone that I am gay. It is who I am and I’m so happy that I can finally be happy with myself and love someone freely and not feel as though I’m keeping a secret from everyone. I don’t have to hide someone from people or be ashamed or feel as though I’m doing something wrong by being with them. To this day, all of my friends and family know, and none of them have changed their mind about being my friend because of it.
Shane – Freshman
I am a 19 year old freshman, and I am a bisexual. I officially came out to the world on Oct. 11, 2010 (Coming Out Day). I told the people close to me about a year ago and everyone was super cool about it. Monday, I thought it would be a good idea to make it “Facebook official” so I updated my status and let the whole world know. I was tired of hiding part of who I am. So far, I haven’t had a single negative comment. Everybody is really accepting and supportive, and I feel great. It is a huge sense of relief that comes over you when you realize that the only person who made a big deal out of it was you. I can’t believe I was ever ashamed or scared to be the person I was meant to be. Etta Turner once said, “In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.”
I am currently in the military. I’m an active duty soldier and find it hard to be away from my significant other, just as it is for any soldier. The only difference is that I am not allowed to talk to others about my partner. As everyone else talks about their husband/wife, fiance, or girlfriend/boyfriend, I cannot say a word because if I do I could lose my job.
Then I first came out just after high school to my mother, she was apprehensive at first, but then we talked about it and she accepted me. One thing I find being gay is that you are constantly coming out to people. Most of my family knows, and all are OK with it. But you are never done coming out to people. Especially in a huge family, constantly running into people and they ask because they heard through the grapevine. But one place I cannot come out is the work place. When I have come out to my family I was pretty scared at first being raised Catholic, but everyone was very accepting and it felt really great to have this off my chest. I just wish that DADT would finally be repealed so that at least I can talk about my partner like everyone else.