On National Coming Out Day 2003, I made an announcement to my entire high school that I am a lesbian. For National Coming Out Day 2010, I returned to that school to talk to the students about how scary that was.
I was scheduled to read a statement at the daily morning meeting on the holiday itself (October 11), the same venue where I first came out publicly. Unfortunately, the school decided that it wasn’t appropriate content for a morning meeting on an open house day. They weren’t comfortable with it seven years ago either and reprimanded me after my announcement which I imagine wouldn’t have been pre-approved if I had asked for pre-approval. I wasn’t able to read my own statement because I couldn’t be there on the re-scheduled day, but a brave student I had never met before did read it for me.
On National Coming Out Day, I spoke with a class, met with the GSA members over lunch, and answered questions at a forum in the evening. Dozens of students attended the forum and asked some excellent questions. I spoke with them for almost two hours. I was acting locally and thinking globally, and it was an event unlike the school had had before. I’ll leave you with some excerpts from the statement that was read to the whole school on Friday:
Coming out is complicated. It’s so much more than simply telling someone you’re gay. It’s a long process that starts at different ages for different people. The first step is coming out to yourself, which can be confusing, scary, isolating, and can seem like it goes on forever. You wonder what being gay might mean for your day-to-day life and your future. During my time of questioning, I knew hardly anyone who was not straight, so I had no reference for what it meant to be gay. Did I have to try to act like “them”? Eventually I learned that being gay can’t be defined by a set of stereotypes, and that in the end all I have to be is me. It’s not about fitting in with gays or with straights, but about being true to yourself. [...]
Coming out is an extremely personal and individual choice. I would encourage anyone considering coming out to remember to do whatever is best for herself. If you don’t feel safe or ready, that’s OK, you don’t have to. You could tell one person you do feel safe with and build from there. Write out what you want to say, think about what time might be the best, mentally prepare for the possible reactions. Don’t feel like you need to rush to figure it out, because there is no such thing as having it all figured out. Coming out is a journey, not a destination.
For those of you listening right now who are going through the process of coming out to yourself or to others, please rest assured — every other lesbian, bisexual, and transgender person has gone through this process too, we’ve all wondered the same thoughts and worries, and it gets easier.