With Pride month here in Toronto coming to a close (or maybe it’s just beginning where you are), I’ve been thinking a lot about coming out and what that means.
At 15, I knew I was bisexual. However, I didn’t fully admit it to myself until I was 20.
I grew up in a Christian household that was fairly judgmental of “otherness.” That includes the LGBTQ community, those with mental illnesses, and even other cultures. Even the concept of feminism was somewhat scandalous. In my family, there was a weird kind of stigma around it, and when I proudly declared myself a feminist, I was told that it “wasn’t something to advertise.” Later on, I was told that I wasn’t allowed to go to Pride in my hometown because it “wasn’t something our family should support.” My queer and non-binary friends weren’t even allowed inside our home because they made my stepfather uncomfortable. Even my depression and suicidal thoughts as a teenager were chalked up to simply a “bad attitude.” There was never any explanation as to why these things were “wrong,” only that they were, for some reason – and it was an unspoken rule that I wasn’t to speak of them again.
All of this made me angry. And incredibly ashamed. I feared acknowledging my true self because I feared rejection from my family. I feared speaking out due to the backlash I would inevitably receive from my loved ones – people who were supposed to support and accept me no matter what. I didn’t want to be judged or hated for things I couldn’t control. And so, I never told them outright who I really was, or what I was feeling. I couldn’t find the words to explain it in the “right” way. I think a lot of folks out there may be able to relate to that as well; I know I’m not alone in fearing that kind of rejection. I have friends who won’t ever return to our hometown for that very same reason. It was because of that fear that I never explicitly came out to my family.
For me, there was no big announcement. No party. No social media post. All of those things are amazing, fun, and can be really empowering, but they weren’t what I wanted for myself. I simply allowed myself to admit what I had been suppressing for so long. I practiced saying the words “I am bisexual” in the mirror to my own reflection. I told my friends and started going out on dates with girls I wanted to get to know. I went to Pride for the first time in 2017 and had an absolute blast. It was incredible being in a space surrounded by people that were supportive and accepting. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
It’s different for everyone. Everyone deserves to come out in a way that feels most right to them, and that makes them the most comfortable, whatever time, place, or manner that may be. But one thing is universally true, and it’s that each new person we tell – that’s coming out all over again. And I’ve realized that I don’t only come out every time I tell someone new that I’m bisexual. I come out every time I remind myself of who I am. I come out when I acknowledge all the ups and downs; everything that’s made me who I am today. I come out in my writing, in my art. I’m even coming out in this post. The thing is, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to come out – just as there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to be.
It took me a while to unlearn the judgment that was instilled in my household. I’m admittedly still learning not to judge myself for my shortcomings and flaws, and the fear of rejection is definitely still there most of the time. But I want to live in a world where that kind of fear no longer exists. I want to live in a world where people are accepted no matter their sexuality, gender, race, or class. I want to live in a world where love truly is love.
And I believe that kind of world can exist, with understanding and compassion.
Written by: Adeah-Isabella Reitsma