National Coming Out Day: 4 Couples Share Their Stories
In honor of National Coming Out Day 2016, we asked four couples featured on GayWeddings to tell their coming out stories. With a range of identities and stories, we salute the bravery of these individuals.
[Richard in 2010, the year he came out.]
Richard, who married Michael in November 2015, wrote about how he came out:
I came out 5 years ago when I was 28 years old. Being raised Catholic and by two Italian parents, I was afraid of rejection. As a teenager I made a pact to myself that I would take this ‘secret’ to the grave. I tried so hard to convince myself that I wasn’t gay and that I was going through a stage.
I started telling my friends before I told my family. I will never forget when I told my parents, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I thought my dad was going to take it worse, but I was wrong. When I told my mom she immediately started crying. We argued many times following this conversation and even stopped talking to each other for a bit. This was the hardest part because I am so close to my mom. I had to let it go and let her accept the news in her own time.
I told my dad separately from my mom. He didn’t say a word and just looked at me with a stoic expression. It wasn’t until I was finished talking that he looked at me and said, “I don’t understand this, but I understand you. You are my son and there is nothing that could make me stop talking to or love you.”
My friends reacted positively and supported me during this process. My family overall was supportive as well. It really started to change when I started bringing Michael home. We both lived in DC at the time and would visit my family in Rhode Island together every couple of months. Over the years, my mom especially, saw our relationship grow.
I have learned this is a process and that being gay doesn’t define who you are. I am not Rich, the gay guy. My name is Rich. I have brown hair, brown eyes, I like to run, have a great career, and am married to a remarkable man. Being gay is just one piece of who I am. Growing up, I didn’t understand that.
[Michael in 2010, the year he came out.]
Michael also talked about when he came out:
It wasn’t until around Thanksgiving 2010 that I finally felt comfortable enough to come out to my mother. Because of the close nature of our relationship, I decided she would be the best, and easiest person to start with. I was 26—a so called “late bloomer.” After I told my mother, over the following months, I slowly told my siblings and finally my father, who I was most concerned with telling. My coming out to him was an absolute non-issue. He was completely understanding and accepting.
The process of coming out is not easy, and is always going to be scary, but keep in mind the bigger picture of your happiness. There is never going to be a greater gift than letting yourself be free and honest to yourself and those around you.
[Donna in 2013, the year she came out.]
Donna, who married Valerie in Virginia in June 2016, wrote about coming out:
I didn’t realize I had an attraction to women until a year or so before I came out, on May 28, 2013. I was 38 years old. Even then, it was a sporadic attraction here or there: three women over the course of about a year-and-a-half. Once I understood what was happening, I wasn’t afraid. I was confused, but not really afraid.
I hesitate to say I “came out” though because it was more me telling one of my sisters something that had occurred rather than me recognizing I was a lesbian and coming out to her about it. It was 2012 and I’d attended a party and, among the people there, was a lesbian couple. One of the ladies was chatting with me about growing up in NY, as I had, and in the middle of the conversation, I realized I was attracted to her – in a way that, prior to that, I’d only been attracted to men.
I went back to where I was staying at the time and called my sister and said, “You won’t believe what just happened.” So I told her and we spent the next hour-and-a-half on the phone discussing it. She asked if I’d ever felt that way before and I said no and then we had an extended conversation about whether someone could “become” gay. I didn’t think so, so, even though it was clear what had happened, I just kind of chalked it up to an odd occurrence. When I formally came out to my family, friends and colleagues in May 2013, I did it all on one day, throughout the day, and it was fabulous. I fully understood who I was and what was happening so it was very liberating.
It’s alright to be afraid. One of the reasons that I didn’t really experience fear prior to coming out is that I was independent, living on my own and had developed decades of confidence in myself by the time I realized my attraction to women and came out about it. If you are financially dependent on your family, rely on others for basic things such as shelter or food or education, or if you’re young and are still developing an understanding of who you are as a whole person even besides your sexual or gender identity, coming out can be legitimately scary. It’s okay to recognize and acknowledge that. Your journey is different from that of others.
[Valerie, the year she came out.]
Valerie also shared her coming out story:
I officially came out when I was 24. My mother was distraught and very upset. Everyone except my mother was understanding and supportive, and to this day, everyone except my mother is understanding and supportive. My mother was so upset she threatened to have me excommunicated from the Church of Christ. I was afraid of losing my family and my job. I was still in the military when I came out ,but I was also very active on campus in LGBTQ events and programs. I threw lesbian parties with my girlfriend at the time, and was always a little afraid someone would see me out at an event or with my girlfriend and turn me into the military. In fact, my mother who was also military was so upset at my lifestyle threatened to turn me in.
I was not ready to tell my mother, but was put in an awkward position and felt pressured into doing so by the girl I was dating at the time. I ended up calling my mother’s cell and leaving a voicemail while she was in church because I knew she would not answer. I felt horrible and it really put a strain on our relationship. It was extremely hard for me to deal with at the time. Everyone has to be comfortable coming out when they feel comfortable doing so. Everyone deserves the right to be able to express themselves about their lives in a way that isn’t coerced or pressured.
[Kady, in 2005, the year she came out.]
Kadey, who married Jen in April 2016 in Florida, shared her coming out story:
I came out to a close friend first in 2005, and I came out to my mom on April 17, 2005. By the end of that year, I was out to almost everyone except my dad and his side of the family. By the end of the next year, everyone knew. I first started coming out when I was 17, during my senior year of high school. As crazy as it sounds, I was afraid that the close girl friends that I had would somehow think that I had been hitting on them, crushing on them or liked them in some way other than friendship. While I may have been afraid of my family disowning me or cutting me off, it was what my girl friends would think that still sticks out to me the most.
Coming out made me more confident in who I am. It was such a tremendous journey to take by myself, from realizing I’m gay to coming out, that I gained confidence to discover other interests, talents or goals.
[Jen in 2013, the year she came out.]
Jen also shared her coming out story:
I first told a few close friends my sophomore year of high school. It wasn’t until I started dating my now wife in 2013 that I came out to my family, at age 26. Coming from a traditional Korean family, I wanted nothing more than to fulfill my parents’ dreams and expectations for my life. I was afraid that I would disappoint them by not having a traditional lifestyle. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that finding someone who made me truly happy is what they wanted all along.
I kept waiting for things to be different from before I came out, but it never was. The only difference is now people know I like women. My friends all treat me the same, and my nieces and nephews still look up to me. Sometimes you think you’re going to find yourself a Prince Charming, but you end up finding a princess. Either way, you’ll never know unless you go to the ball.
Kristen, who married Elizabeth in Michigan in February 2016, wrote about coming out:
I came out on Coming Out Day in 1997. Working at the University of South Florida campus, if you wore jeans, it meant you were gay, so I put on my best pair of Guess jeans and came out! I was 22. I was afraid of people finding out and not accepting me. Since coming out, am more comfortable and confident in myself, and that makes me a better person and spouse. It’s so much better when you are true to yourself.
Elizabeth, also wrote about her coming out:
I came out as soon as I realized I had feelings for Kristen. I was very up front with myself and everyone else about how I was feeling and who I was feeling it about. It was less about fear and more about anxiety about the unknown of how others would react. I wasn’t concerned about losing friends or family, or anyone’s potential disapproval.
Kristen was the first girl I ever had feelings for. Kind of a surprise at 31 to realize I was having romantic attraction to someone of the same gender, after only having opposite-sex attraction my entire life. I never felt like in my “straight” life that I was suppressing anything, or not being true to myself. It took me a while to figure out which letter in the LGBTQIA family I most identified with. I didn’t think I was gay because I knew my previous attractions to men were authentic, so I settled on “B” for a while, but after realizing within the last couple of years that the spectrum of people that I find physically attractive extended outside of binary genders, I have made pansexual my final answer. It feels great to have had this epiphany about myself, it makes me feel grounded and confident. I never questioned the way I was feeling about Kristen; I had felt these feelings enough times before in my life to recognize them. I made peace with the fact that this time it was with a girl very quickly. Kristen will tell you that I am very stubborn, and once my mind is made up about something, get out of my way! This was no different, I knew that what I felt for her was real, and I moved forward immediately.
Although I've spent the last decade riffing on everything from suburban politics to race in media, documenting love stories as content manager of GayWeddings.com definitely takes the cake. A proud alumna of Howard University's journalism program, I've written for Parents.com, The Huffington Post, xoJane and Essence magazine. When I'm not writing, I'm debating the merits of Drake, obsessing over frozen yogurt or plotting my next international adventure. I want to feature you on GayWeddings.com! Always feel free to drop me a line at community [at] gayweddings.com to share your engagement, wedding and love stories.