A blow-by-blow of the complicated, wonderful, terrifying process of how I came (and come) out.
I always knew I wasn't like other girls. Dramatic cliché, yes, but true. Growing up, I felt drastically out of place when it came to crushes and relationships. But ever the actor, I unknowingly created a world in which I was like everyone else. Early on, I *decided* to have crushes on boys. I got "married" to a really sweet boy in second grade. It was a 1st/2nd grade combo class, and when I moved on to third grade (leaving him in 2nd), I decided I was too old for him and we broke up. Our families are still good friends!
What followed was a slew of boys - signing my name with their last names in the back pages of notebooks, trying to impress them, creating little relationships in my head. Of course, I didn't actually tell any of them I liked them. Whenever I got close, I'd start to feel sick and anxious and distance myself.
Once in elementary school, I thought I might like a girl and I cried at the thought of being a lesbian. I convinced myself I wasn't - I'd had so many one-sided "relationships" with boys!
Then there was a boy I went out with for two weeks when I was in late elementary school. He came to my house to hang out, and asked (yay consent!) if he could kiss me on the cheek. I panicked and said no. Fun fact: both of us ended up coming out down the road, and we went to prom together!
High school was more of the same. Choosing boys to like, making little doodles of us together, going in for the extra hug after a performance. I would feel sick, and I told myself that those were butterflies. As soon as it got anywhere close to dating, I'd backpedal and abandon the situation.
I really liked my first girl mid high school. We were, of course, in a show together. We went to a movie as a "test date" to see if there was chemistry, and afterward she said she wasn't feeling it. I agreed, playing off how defeated I felt.
I took so many "am I gay/bisexual/queer/etc" quizzes online. SO MANY. I learned about some of the different spectrums of identity, and the difference between romantic attraction and sexual attraction. After that, I figured it would be most accurate to call myself bisexual. I brought it up with a couple of my closest friends, and they were very supportive.
I wrote a SIX PAGE (!!!) letter to my parents my senior year of high school. I explained with logic, graphs, and metaphors everything I had learned and how it applied to me. I held onto it for about six months. I played out every possible way it could go in my head. My worries built and built until I couldn't take it anymore. I handed them the letter, and (not shockingly) they were totally fine with it. I am incredibly fortunate that I never had to worry about being disowned or having someone try to "fix" me, but even in the safest environments it can be terrifying to come out.
I had a boyfriend at the beginning of college. I won't go into detail, but it was a crash course in many of the ways relationships (and people) can be awful, toxic, and mentally/emotionally abusive. But I'm grateful, because it taught me something important: in the midst of all of that, I still felt those sick, anxious "butterflies". I had assumed that I just needed to be in a real, relatively serious relationship and I'd magically become comfortable, but that clearly wasn't the case. I would imagine my relationship with him as if it was everything I had waited for all those years, and even in that hypothetical I was still incredibly uncomfortable.
Once we finally broke up, I re-came out to my parents every year or so, readjusting my definition of myself. I played more and more for the other team. Yes, this is one of those stories where bisexuality is a bridge to being gay. But bisexuality is a real, valid label, and is absolutely how some people identify their entire lives. It just wasn't right for me.
Then came my That's So Raven moment. One night, I was trying to sort all of this out. Instead of Raven's visions of the future, a montage of past events played in my head. Crying as a child when I thought I might be a lesbian. The way I made myself look at and talk about guys, especially when I was with my friends. That wonderful movie date. The awful "butterflies". Lightbulb after lightbulb went off, and suddenly I realized why I was so uncomfortable every time I dated (or got anywhere close to dating) a guy. It wasn't me, having some weird reaction to dating in general. It was because they were guys.
My last year of college, I was able to really live with myself in my new discovery. I picked love songs about girls to sing and work on in my musical theatre classes. When asked by a new professor where we wanted to be in 5-10 years, I casually mentioned to my classmates I hoped to have a wife. Emerson was a safe place for me to explore my new self.
My parents were - of course - fine with my ultimate definition of myself. I'd been coming out to them for years at that point, and I'm sure they saw where it was going. But there was a change: I didn't want it to be secret, for only select people to know.
I met Ali on Her, an app for queer women to make friends, hook up, and date. I knew immediately that it was right. This was how people had been feeling in relationships all along! I felt normal. Ultimately, it was my relationship with her that helped me come out to my extended family. I made a video and sent it out to them. There were some questions, of course, but those were just part of what was an overall positive reaction. I felt truly seen and loved at our family reunion a few months later.
Finally being able to be fully open on social media and in my life was a huge weight off my shoulders. Keeping track of this secret for all those years was honestly exhausting.
I come out nearly every day. It happens when I hold hands with Ali in public, when I mention her in conversation, and when I post pictures of us. It's a process that doesn't have an end. But I wouldn't trade being out for anything. Knowing that I am now myself is absolutely invaluable. 10/10 would recommend coming out!
Note: I'm not endorsing coming out regardless of your situation. Please do not come out if your circumstances are not safe! Your health and wellbeing is always the most important thing.