National Coming Out Day
October 11th is National Coming Out Day, and this year I decided that I was going to share my story and officially come out on my own terms.
Two years ago, when I was an undergraduate, I worked at this job on campus that I really loved. It was such a big part of my life and I wanted to go to school so that I could advance to the next part of this job. I had worked up to being in the highest position that I could do as an undergrad, and I felt so great. I felt like I was on top of the world and nothing could bring me down because I had finally dealt with all of the adversity I faced and developed this sense of confidence.
Halfway through my job, I found out that there was a rumor that was circulating regarding my sexuality and I was crushed. My whole life people were questioning my sexuality and making fun of me calling me names such as “gay”, “faggot” and “queer”. Someone even said to me one time “silly faggot dicks are for chicks”. It wasn’t the first time this happened in college either. In fact, two years in a row people defaced my door by writing “faggot” across it, they couldn’t identify the people so nothing was ever done. So because of how I found out about the rumors at work and the events that followed, I became really depressed and suffered from severe anxiety attacks. I eventually decided not to apply to work at my job for another year and I left an honors organization. I even wanted to leave my university.
It was the end of the Fall semester so somewhere around the end of November. I had this really good friend at the time and he was leaving to go on this trip where he would be gone for a whole semester and so he had wanted to talk to me before he left. I had no idea what he was going to say, all I knew is that he had wanted to meet up before he left. So I agreed to meet with him. It was late as I stood in the skybridge waiting for him to arrive I was watching the snow swirling chaotically through the wind. There was a certain intensity to it because the snow was highlighted by the court lights that were outside the building. When my friend arrived we caught up for a while. He seemed hesitant to tell me what he came to say but eventually, he said
“I kind of heard this rumor that you might be gay and I was hoping that it was true because I really like you”.
I didn’t respond well. I was trained in on how to handle diversity issues but it was so much harder being the person facing the situation. I remember saying something like
“That’s not true!….that’s not me!…that’s not who I am!… I’m not gay!…who said this?”
I handled it very poorly, to say the least. I eventually got him to reveal the identity of the person who told him. The individual was the president of an honors organization that I was apart of at the time. I didn’t know how to respond to the situation. I had probably the worst anxiety attack of my entire life. I was so hot, I couldn’t breathe, my face was getting red, and tears were building up in my eyes. I needed to get out of the building. I texted my best friend and co-worker at the time and told her I needed help, that I needed to talk, and I ran to her room with my friend running behind me apologizing and saying things. When I got to my friends’ room tears were rolling down my face.
“Someone from work is spreading a rumor about my sexuality, everyone knows. I didn’t want people to know. I’m not okay with who I am. Other people won’t be okay with who I am. What am I going to do? “
“I know. I cant tell you how I know but I know. Calm down, right now nobody knows anything because you haven’t you haven’t told them right now this is just a rumor and they are just assuming. besides there are people outside of our job and in your other honors organization that love and support you”
My best friend and I talked for what seemed to be hours. I had disclosed to her that I knew some of the people that were involved in the rumor and I decided that night that I needed to leave the honors organization because of the people that were involved. So that night with tears rolling down my face I wrote a one-page letter of resignation for my position and membership to the adviser of the organization. And I texted the person who my friend said was responsible for the rumors to meet. Two things happened that night. I scheduled the meeting with the girl who told my friend I was gay, and I got an email from the advisor of the honors group. He had wrote me concerned about how emotional I was from the situation and advised me to meet with him after the break to talk with him. I agreed to this because with the number of people involved from the organization at this point it was his job to do something.
The next day when I met with the girl who told my friend I was gay. I was nervous. I was scared. I was extremely bad at hard conversations but I knew that it had to be done. We met in a campus dining facility and discussed the situation. She had told me that someone else told her and that the only reason she disclosed the rumor to my friend was because he liked me. I later heard from multiple sources that this person (who was a coworker and in two other organizations with me) was the one who originated the rumor. It was confirmed by my second honors organization that he was indeed the one starting the rumors, as there was a situation that happened there as well. The only difference was that in this group I had supports who listened to me and tried to help.
Winter break was the hardest for me. I was home and I grew up in a place where being gay wasn’t okay. There were certain individuals around me that didn’t like individuals that were gay. They made this very clear through their diction and use of slurs and jokes. So the whole time I was home I had panic attack after panic attack. I was worried that somehow something would get back home and they would find out and that was it. At this time I drafted my resignation letter. When I got back to campus to start my job back up, I was supposed to do a presentation on a movie that directly related to what I was going through and I froze. I had a panic attack and when I was supposed to help facilitate I couldn’t move. It was clear at that point that the toxic shame I was feeling, the guilt that I was feeling, and the pain that I had in relation to the issue at hand was going to begin to impact my work. So I really wasn’t looking forward to the meeting with the advisor of my honors organization.
When I met with him I was nervous because I knew how he was as he was also a previous supervisor. I explained the situation how members of the executive board were the ones who were spreading the rumors about my sexuality. I explained the situation in the sky bridge, and even how the same person who originated the rumors also would undermine all of my projects that I did in my position. I was clearly being targeted by this individual. What the adviser said next, I to this day will never forget. He told me that I had identity issues and that I needed to go to counseling. He also told me that my supervisors revealed things to him from private meetings (a lie) and named my friend saying that she had said something she didn’t say (also a lie). So I pushed to be removed as a member of this organization. I drafted this account of what had happened in detail it was 3 pages. I was told that I couldn’t really report these things because they weren’t directly related to the honor organization. They submitted a completely diluted application to assure that we weren’t “airing our dirty laundry” and this is when the national president emailed me concerned about why I wanted to leave. She didn’t understand because of my service to this job. I sent her my actual account of what happened. After that, I was no longer a member and had to remove all mentioning of this honor organization from my professional development materials.
After this, it was meeting after meeting of meeting with my supervisors to tell them what had happened in this meeting and how I was so offended. I told them about the professional and ethical boundaries that were breached. Everyone I told my story too said that this was just heresy. I’m a sociologist and I wasn’t about to let this go I was being discriminated against, the people who were supposed to help me didn’t, they didn’t even give me resources, or direct me to people who were better versed in LGBT relations. In fact, In one of my meetings with someone much higher than the honor organization advisor, I told them my story all the way through and their first question was weren’t you dating your friend who said he liked you anyway? I never lost respect for someone so fast. How do you ask someone being discriminated against a question like that? Sadly I decided not to go for rehire, I left one of my honors organizations, I changed my career path and my graduate program of study. The people who spread the rumors about me and who broke the ethical guidelines got away with everything and I was left to pick up the pieces.
One thing that really helped me though is I found a few things. Two of my favorite YouTube stars (Joey Graceffa and Tyler Oakley) both published books about their lives that covered how they felt about their sexuality and how people should embrace who they are. I was broken at best before I read these books and hearing their stories really resonated with me. Reading these and then watching them talk about coming out really helped me. Joey released a song that I have linked below that I listened to over and over again to convince myself that it was okay to be who I was. Tyler, on the other hand, offered a lot of great resources. He is an amazing advocate for LGBT+ individuals and I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without his YouTube videos
I eventually also landed on the It Gets Better Project which is an organization that has people come together and talk about how eventually in life things get better for individuals who are LGBT+. They also share some of their stories and things like that. Hearing all of those accounts really encouraged me.
It wasn’t until much later after I first seriously went on a date with someone (this really intellectual artist) that I told my mom, my brother and my aunt about who I was, that I identified as being bisexual. I didn’t tell anyone else in my family but my guess is that they will eventually see this. Which scares me. A lot. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do and its just as hard months later writing this blog post about it. So even though I was outted and I lost a part of who I was, and I had this awful experience, I found it important to find the courage to express who I was and share it today. This is my first official time putting this out there for really everyone. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes that really just sums up all of this.
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” ― Stephen Chbosky,