What’s it like to come out as an LGBT teen? We caught up with three teenagers to hear their coming out stories.
The Coming Out Process: Coming Out Stories From Gay Teens
TEEN 1 | Dana Buzzelli
I came out at 16, shortly after I discovered I was gay. To me, coming out was all about being true to myself. I totally rejected the idea that I should hide how I felt, as if it was wrong or horrible. I also wasn’t comfortable with lying about who I was or who I loved. However, my strong feelings on the subject didn’t exactly prepare me for how difficult stepping out of “the closet” into the big, bright world would be or how deeply it would affect me and those around me.
I came out to three distinct groups: my friends, my school and lastly, my family. I told my friends individually, and their responses varied from confused to unsurprised. Regardless of their initial reaction, all my friends eventually accepted me. They all became completely comfortable with it; in their eyes it was just part of who I was. My honesty really strengthened our friendships, and their support became an invaluable resource for me for years to come. Coming out to my friends was one thing; coming out to the rest of my high school was another.
My girlfriend and I decided that while we wouldn’t shout from the rooftops, we also wouldn’t hide that we were dating.
Unfortunately, my high school is rather conservative, and being the first openly gay couple wasn’t very easy. My girlfriend and I faced discrimination and harassment from both students and faculty. We got detentions for hugging and homophobic comments hissed at us behind our backs. I remember the helpless anger I felt when I realized that my school wasn’t going to do much to help us. The frustrating thing was that we weren’t trying to make a splash or a sensation; we just wanted to be treated like any other people and any other couple. Fortunately, after a few months, things started getting better, and slowly, people became more tolerant.
Once I had come out to my friends and my school, I started feeling more and more uncomfortable that I had not yet told my family. The main thing holding me back was fear of my parents’ reaction. They were open and accepting people, but I still doubted they’d be thrilled that I wasn’t “normal.” I prepared many different speeches in my head and was waiting for the right opportunity.
Unfortunately, my school administration eliminated that opportunity by informing my mother after a parent wrote a letter to the school, complaining that her child had to be “exposed” to my girlfriend and me. When I got home that day, my mom met me at the door, looking concerned. I braced myself, but she sat me down and told me she loved me no matter what and that while she wasn’t happy with the way she had to find out, she wanted me to know she would support me. I was overwhelmed by my mom’s reaction, and it brought us closer than ever.
While coming out at such a young age was difficult, I have no regrets.
I can be myself, knowing that the people I love support and accept me. I also became closer with my family, especially with my mom. The most gratifying aspect, however, was seeing the positive impact on others. During high school, many students, some of whom I had never before met, thanked me for giving them the courage to come out and showing them that it was possible to persevere.
Now that I’m out of high school and looking back, I’m glad I came out when I did. It helped me see the world a little differently and made my skin a little thicker. And, I can only hope that it has helped my friends, family, school and community become a little more tolerant and aware.
TEEN 2 | Elizabeth Perts
When I was 14 years old, I came out to my family and friends. My decision came from a desire not to hide part of my life, and an awareness that if I didn’t do it soon, I never would.
At the time, I was writing a report for school, with gay adoption as the subject. After my brother stated his position against it on our ride home from the library, I decided to talk with my mom. She told me that she would love me, even if I was gay. I had to try my hardest not to cry, and I forced myself to bite my tongue until I could think more about that statement.
I kept to myself for the rest of the day. When everyone else was asleep, I snuck downstairs and typed an email to my mom, telling her that I was gay and that I hoped she meant what she had said earlier. It was the scariest thing I had ever done, and I lay awake all night wondering if there was any way I could take it back.
My mom took three days to talk to me about it.
The conversation was awful and did not go the way I had hoped. She told me that she loved me no matter what, but that it was probably just a phase and not to tell my friends or anyone in our religious organization. I spent the entire conversation trying my best not to cry. When my dad came home, all he did was walk into my room and ask if it was a choice or not. I said no, it wasn’t, and he nodded, said he loved me and left me alone.
For several weeks, my mom acted like I would grow out of it. I felt worse than I had before, knowing my sexual orientation was now out there and not knowing what to do. When I told my dad that I would be coming out to my religious organization with or without their support, he took care of it for me. He called the organization leader and talked to her about it. She set up a meeting with me.
I was told that I could not remain in the organization if I was gay.
If I wanted to stay in the assembly, I would have to hide my sexuality and never talk about it. Or I would be forced to leave. For a 14-year-old girl, this was extremely hard to handle. For the next two years, after I got home from events, I hated myself for following their rules. I felt like they were making me ashamed of myself, and I had almost no confidence.
When I was 15, my dad and I convinced my mom to go to a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting with us. When I was 16, I finally worked up the courage to come out to my friends in the organization, but it took me until I was 18 to actually discuss how difficult it was for me and for people to realize that I was still me, even if I was in a relationship with a girl.
TEEN 3 | Anonymous
My first mistake was coming out to my mother. Now, this is a woman who doesn’t handle change well. She thinks being open-minded is eating baked chicken instead of fried. I first came out to her when I was 12. Through her overly-dramatic tears, she basically told me that she didn’t believe me. So I came out at 13… and again at 14. This time, she FINALLY removed the veil of doubt that she’d been married to and listened to me. We argued for about a month, and then she kicked me out.
Taking care of myself at 14 was probably one of the hardest things I had to do…that and pass physical science.
I left her house and went where ever bouncy balls go when they get lost; to a friend’s, a cousin’s, another friend’s, a boyfriend’s, and foster care. Now I’m back with my mom. All in all, taking care of myself made me much stronger, which, now in hindsight, is a good thing.
I also came out to my best, straight male friend, of whom I had absolutely no physical attraction to, whatsoever. He looked me in my eyes, in front the apartment building he lived in, both of our twelve-year-old brains at full attention and said, “You still my boy. I don’t care.” So, we walked to the playground and talked about Tekken 3. I’m sure he was more interested in my fighting skills with Nina and Xiayou than the boys I liked.
There’s no surefire way of knowing who will feel what when you come out. And there’s no way to know what they will do with those feelings. But I do know this; it will be the best load off of your back. I definitely felt better afterward.