I’m trapped all up in dis closet.

The absolute last scenario I would have imagined as the “perfect moment” to tell my parents I was gay was exactly the way it happened. When I came out it wasn’t at the Thanksgiving table, I wasn’t kicked out of the house, and there were no awkward walk-ins. I mean, sure, it was awkward — but there was nothing dramatic about it. That’s because when I was 15, my mom told me I was gay. She had been snooping around in my room while I was out and had read my journal. Of course my parents thought it was “just a phase” and asked me if I was sure. I told them until I was blue in the face that “No, this isn’t a phase” and “Yes, I’m sure”, but they insisted that I go to New Life Christian Counseling Center once a week in order to get me back on the straight and narrow (pun definitely intended). They wanted to Jesus the gay out of me.

So that others can avoid an unpleasant coming out experience, I’d like to give some words of advice. The first thing to do when you think about coming out is have a little chat with yourself (just make sure you’re not doing it out loud). Ask yourself, “Am I gay?” This might seem scary, especially if you’ve been confused about your sexuality recently. If you start to feel a little frightened when you put the “gay” label on your sexual feelings, it might be comforting to remember that sexuality occurs along a spectrum and you don’t really have to label yourself one way or another.

However, if you do identify as something other than completely heterosexual it will be helpful to seek out others who are going through the same thing. One of the things that saved me after my parents found out I was gay was an accepting, open-minded circle of friends who would let me vent as much as I needed. Try to meet other queers ( a.k.a. lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender, or “LGBT” for short ) or allies (a.k.a. straight folks who support queers) with whom you can share your coming out experiences. Throughout your life-long coming out journey, this will make the process a lot easier. As a bonus, if you can’t count on at least one of your parents to be supportive when you come out you’ll at least know some folks who will have your back if you encounter any negative reactions. Look up LGBTQ resource centers in your area. They frequently offer support groups for LGBTQ individuals who are coming out. If you don’t have a resource center in your region, you can find support online.

While my mother may have committed an epic invasion of privacy by reading my private journal, I’m actually glad she did. This event forced me to come out to myself. I always felt a little tingly when I thought of that boy in geometry class and I had never heard the phrase, “coming out” except as in, “Your aunt is coming out to visit us.” This whole situation forced me to be honest with myself and then begin the process of being honest with other people in my life. Today, while my parents might not necessarily approve of my “lifestyle choice”, they love me all the same. And I love me. And that’s the real goal of coming out: so that you can be accepted just as you are.

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