Was I queer before “coming out?”
This is a coming out story of how I fucking hate societally forced coming out stories.
My sexuality was never clear to me. From the moment I first started to come into my sexuality, I was ridiculed and undermined by society’s expectations of womanhood.
When I was four, I happened to see my aunt make out with her girlfriend. After, I exclaimed, “When I get older, I’m going to marry a girl! They smell better!” It was the first time I had seen intimacy between women, and little me was amazed.
I came out when I was four, and my family just didn’t realize it.
Flash-forward 10 years later to my first time making out with a girl. I was hanging out with a group of my friends from high school at a bonfire. When the boys realized what was happening, they both stared and exclaimed, “That’s so hot!” The entire time, they were watching and wouldn’t leave us alone. Rather than it being an intimate moment, I felt like an object of entertainment and a spectacle for male desire.
I thought that this incident would be the last time I would be hypersexualized for my intimacy with women and dismissed for my sexuality, but high school proved me wrong.
Growing up in Orange County is the opposite of the stereotypical “progressive California experience.” Our high school’s behavior and events were dictated by the local surrounding churches, which openly preached anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. The hellbound notion of homosexuality as a sin embedded itself into my school’s culture.
Even my friends who hypothetically believed in equality would make jokes and remarks against gay women. Some girls felt uncomfortable being around gay women — they were afraid that because these girls were gay, they would inappropriately hit on them or assault them, as if there was a correlation between being gay and not understanding consent.
The issue of gay marriage was even introduced as a debate topic for one of the AP English classes. While I understand the importance of dialogue, imagine sitting in a room while people debate the validity of your existence.
How do you exist in a space that even questions your humanity?
I didn’t have the language and understanding to describe how I felt — I couldn’t conceptualize it. So I remained silent and repressed my attraction to women, and I tried to convince myself that my feelings were only a phase — a momentary exploration after which I would come back to exclusively liking men.
It wasn’t until I found myself in safe spaces in which people openly talked about LGBTQ+ experiences and reaffirmed their humanity that I realized I had repressed my sexuality. When I got involved in sexual and reproductive health advocacy, I was surrounded by people who were unapologetically themselves.
These experiences influenced me to openly tell my friends about my sexual orientation — to no longer live in denial and fear. Even though I felt comfortable and had come into my queerness, people still constantly questioned it because I hadn’t publicly “come out.”
In no way am I trying to belittle, diminish or silence the brave history of LGBTQ+ folks coming out. I am purposefully criticizing a culture that assumes everyone is straight, therefore forcing folks to come out in a way that’s deemed appropriate by straight people as a requirement for being queer.
On the one hand, coming out publicly creates visibility, awareness and representation. On the other, it forces folks to put on a performance and reaffirm their humanity to straight folks. For a long time, I also didn’t feel safe coming out to my family. But after much contemplation, and for fear of being erased by a culture in which heterosexuality is the norm, I decided to “come out.”
I made a short post and published it to Facebook. Then it was done. I was officially gay — hooray?
But I felt as though I wrote this post for the sake of my straight friends and family, not for me. I had to try to humanize and justify myself on a public platform, announcing my sexual attraction to the world. And when you really think about it … that’s fucking weird.
Forcing folks to come out in this public way creates a notion of validating and invalidating queerness.
I shouldn’t have to justify my worth, rights and humanity to you. My attraction to people is not confined to one gender. Growing up, when I showed interest in men, society supported it. When I showed interest in women, I was infantilized, sexualized and ridiculed. I internalized this and repressed my sexuality — my attraction to women and nonbinary folks.
Even in my short time here at the stereotypically most liberal and progressive university in the country, this is still an issue. I constantly find myself having to come out to the people around me and check them for their homophobic stereotyping of queer femmes.
So dear straight people: Stop invalidating the exploration and questioning of sexuality. It is not your job to dictate something as personal as sexual experiences between consenting adults. Most importantly, stop assuming everyone is straight.
My queerness always existed before my public debut.