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What It’s Like To Come Out In Post-Secondary School

Written by Mikael Melo

“I’m coming out, I want the world to know, I got to let it show.”

Christina Aguilera Madonna GIF

Although, Diana Ross made “coming out” seem like a timeless BOP that’s catchy, upbeat and super easy to sing along to. Actually coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not as easy.

If you’ve ever seen any teen angst movie or show that has a queer protagonist such as: Love Simon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Faking It, Calling Me By Your Name, One Day At A Time, Moonlight, GBF, etc. You know the character is either well received and comforted for coming out, or they’re completely shut out. Coming out can be extremely difficult at any age, but studies show that a large amount of queer students end up coming out in post-secondary school (check out the study here).

Why you may ask? That’s a good question.

So I’ve decided to interview several students who came out in university / college to find out the reason they came out in post secondary, rather than in high school.

NOTE: SOME NAMES HAVE BEEN ALTERED IN THE REQUEST TO KEEP SUBMISSIONS ANONYMOUS. Subjects in these interviews range from ages 18 – 25.

When did you know you were not straight / queer?

“I knew something was maybe a little “off in the sauce” right after my first year of university. I started working back home at a police organization as a summer student and met my first ever openly gay woman who was super loud and proud and I was just in such awe over her. I wanted to know everything; her dating history, when she knew she was lesbian, how dating a girl was compared to dating a guy, etc. But more than anything, I was in such awe over how she was gay and that wasn’t the biggest focus. She was just such an amazing individual who liked girls and was so comfortable and confident with that. That’s what started to get my wheels turning. Now a days I find myself telling people “no I don’t have a boyfriend, I have a girlfriend”, but it feels empowering to correct people and remind them that queer people do exist. Hopefully, next time they ask someone if they are in a relationship they can word it differently and not make assumptions about people’s sexuality because I think that’s the end goal. Coming out wouldn’t feel so scary if it wasn’t something that felt like it needed to happen cause everyone was just aware that you can be queer or straight and no one owes anyone a conversation about it. One day gaybies one day!” 

– Justine R.

Why did you wait till University / College to come out?

“I first realized I was queer back home in Jamaica, but I only came out in university as it was  a safer option for me. I had always told myself that I needed a few things secured before I could come out with confidence in order to survive. Growing up in Jamaica, a beyond homophobic and violent country towards homosexuals, I never wanted to end up like most Jamacian gays: on the streets, disowned by their familes, unable to fend for themselves. As such, being in Canada and coming out in University allowed me to use the happiness and pride my mother would feel from my graduating with a degree to help to soften the blow of what she now sees as the biggest disappointment of her life (A.K.A me being gay). The absolute fear of loosing a parents love is crippling and for years it prevented me to live an authentic life that I could without doubt live to the fullest. If someone wants to be apart of your life, your sexuality won’t and shouldn’t matter! A good friend or a real family member will only ask and care for one thing. Your HAPPINESS. If they see that you’re happy, they will encourage and support you on whatever life journey you take on.” 

– Alex Y.

Kurt Hummel Gay GIF

What prevented you from coming out earlier than you did?

“What prevented me from coming out was probably the lack of community, it was pretty cis-white where I’m from and a lot of deeply routed homophobia and racism. Also, I was very confused trying to fit in, by conforming to social norms. Also the lack of representation in the media and going to a Catholic school really perpetuated the heteronormative narrative. I remember someone accusing me of being gay in grade 9 and it emotionally and psychologically destroyed me. I was terrified and had really low self-esteem. BUT LOOK AT ME NOW, I’m a drag queen!!! Who would have thought a very closeted gay in high school, dealing with intense internalized racism and homophobia due to toxic masculinity would EVER do drag. I’m so happy that I am now more confident. Drag gives me a whole new perspective in the LGBTQ+ community because it makes me appreciate and respect the activism that was built before us in the times of stonewall. I feel like toxic masculinity stems from insecurities that is perpetuated through heteronormative narratives which contributes to the idea of being masc. Also, don’t get me started on the discrimination against trans individuals within our community, that is an issue that we still need to get over.” 

– Andrew N.

If you could go back in time would you have liked to come out sooner? Why or why not?

“If I could go back in time, I would have come out earlier. I think it’s a beautiful thing to be open and honest with oneself and I think it would have saved me a lot of inner turmoil that I experienced without even knowing it. I prevented myself from coming out earlier due to the fact that I didn’t want to create any friction. I didn’t want to have to explain to my parents things I didn’t even know for myself yet. And I didn’t want to have to prove anything. It was hard because everyone is default straight until proven gay and I didn’t want to have to explain my sexual history for people to take me seriously. I also couldn’t even say it to myself, let alone others. In society, women are given permission to get close with one another, it’s even joked about in movies that we spend time “experimenting” but are ultimately straight. That’s a very difficult thing to hear because it devalues the bi experience and also made me question everything. Am I just experimenting? Are people laughing at me because I’ll end up with a guy anyway? Am I even serious? I now identify with being bi/queer/pan or whatever label best represents fluidity. I’m no longer picky about the label. Because I know who I am and who I like, the label is just a way for other people to understand me too.” 

– Maxine G.

Who did you first come out too? What was the experience like?

“I grew up in a very conservative town, went to a catholic school and was raised by very traditional European parents. I made so many incredible friendships during my 18 years of life that I was terrified I would loose it all once people found out I was gay. I was especially scared of losing my male friends. We would hangout daily, play videos, sports, have sleepovers, etc and I didn’t want that to change.  Every once in a while someone would make a gay joke and my closeted self would feel so small, my heart hoped they’d still be my friends after I came out, but my mind went a stray. It’s funny in an odd way because I got the sense my female friends already knew I was gay, but no one ever pressed the question. I knew once I came out to female friends things wouldn’t change, but for some reason the portrayal of the hyper masculine man scared me into believe all my straight male friends wouldn’t want to be friends with a gay guy. I came out the summer of first year of University. I invited all my high school friends to meet up at a local park in my hometown. I gave this HUGE speech about self love and living life to the fullest. Eventually after what felt like an hour-long rant I finally uttered the words “I’m gay.” All I remember from there on was my guy friends rushing towards me and hugging me, I starting uncontrollably sobbing. My female friends followed suit and I just kept hearing the words “We love you”. That day will forever be one happiest days of my life, the day I knew my friends loved me for me regardless of my sexuality.” 

– Markus M.

What impact has coming out had on your life personally?

“Well, I got married, so I guess that?! But in all seriousness, coming out was a great experience. My biggest piece of advice is to come out when you’re ready. Everyone’s timing is different. I learned that all of the “fears” I had were all in my head. You will ALWAYS have people who support you, whether they are blood or not. You will not be alone. If someone has something negative to say about you, f*** them. You are you and that’s all that matters. Find what works best for you. Be you, don’t be who others want you to be. There isn’t a pause button on life, so come out as soon as you’re able to and life your life to the fullest. I am happily married and I can proudly say “go out and be gay!!!””

– Noah S.

youtube gay GIF

Is there anything that surprised you about your life after coming out versus before?

“The most surprising part was how much stronger my relationship with some of my friends got. I told them this intimate secret about me and they suddenly would go to the world and back for me. Honestly, it was the most liberating experience. We were in a hot tub in Iceland, under the stars, when I just blurted out that I was gay. Everyone started crying. The amount of love I got was incredible! My one friend was bawling and he later told me that he hadn’t cried since he was 14. It was a beautiful moment I will remember forever. Most of my friends are straight, but they love talking about guys with me, they love going to the Pride Parade, and most importantly they love me.”

– Austin V.

Black Eyed Peas Bff GIF

Are there any negative aspects too coming out?

“We’re still in an era where acceptance of the queer community is new – and older generations still have outdated views. It’s scary to think some people you grew up with, the people you love, and are related to, might not understand something about you that has taken you years to understand. I grew up in the Catholic school system and sex education was pretty non-existent (especially for queer people). So it wasn’t until I left that system and learned more about the queer community and different identities that people can have did I realize I was bisexual. I still haven’t fully come out of the closet (if someone can please give me some advice, that would be great!) All I know is it takes one breath, and one sentence to come out. Yet those words have taken years to learn, realize, come to terms with, and be comfortable with. I think it’s worth it to wait until nothing anyone can say about your identity can make you feel inferior or question your decision to come out before you take that step.”

– Larissa L.

Pretty Little Liars GIF

What advice do you have for people who are struggling to come out / still in the closet? Or for someone who has had someone recently come out to them?

“If you have a friend or family, or you yourself are coming out, my biggest piece of advice is communicating with the people you love is the best step. It can be hard, and sometimes there are gaps in understanding, but when you communicate with the people you love you will push through those gaps. Coming out is hard, and I was very lucky. Sadly not everyone is and if you feel that it would impact your safety or life, then find trusted friends or seek out resources. Pride can be a hard time for those in the closet but know this celebration is welcoming to you, and the community has a spot for you in our family. “

– Will F.

Lady Gaga Pop GIF

So it goes without saying that being queer has his high points and its low points. But the one constant thing that rang through with each interview is the amount of pride the LGBTQ+ community has. A lot of people always question why queer people need a pride parade and why there’s no “straight pride”. The Pride Parade was founded and tied to political activism and protests. It was created as a means of necessity, to showcase that our love and our identities are valid. Queer people have had to constantly fight for the right to be seen. Although we’ve certainly come along way, the fact that in some parts of the world being gay could lead to death or the fact that conversion therapy is still legal in certain areas, just proves we have so much process to still make. We all have such a small fraction of time on this planet, why show hate when you can just so love, acceptance and compassion. At the end of the day, remember this: love is love.

HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

Episode 4 Pride GIF by Will & Grace

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.