Love is Love: Coming Out
By: Estrella Ramirez-Robles, LMFT
Pride month, a month many of us in the LGBTQI+ community look for. A month where we feel we can be ourselves, love freely, and not be afraid; key words, not be afraid. But why do we need a month? Why not experience all those things every day of the year? Well, like you might have guessed, because not everyone is on the same page. Not everyone is accepting, not everyone wants to accept, and sometimes, not everyone knows how to. So what can you do if you are trying to come out or if someone has come out to you? Well, in this blog, my hope is to help you understand this process through my own experience, and maybe shed some light to how you can come out or, how you can help someone else feel accepted.
My coming out story is broken up in 2 sections: 1) Figuring out who I am; and 2) Coming out
1) Figuring out who I am began when I was 6yrs old. There was a girl in my class I always wanted to be around; and no matter what class activities we engaged in, I would always pick her group. There was something about her that I did not feel about or see in any other kid in my class, butterflies in a way. I did not know what that was until I was older and we were in middle school together. Again, she was the only one I wanted to be around and when this concept of boyfriend girlfriend became the topic of conversation, she was the one I wanted to be that; my girlfriend.
Mind you, in middle school I still did not know what I was. Gay? Lesbian? Bisexual? Those terms were non-existent in my vocabulary. I had no idea about those words until one of my friends asked me if I was a lesbian. I took offense but I did not know why. The word was offensive to me, the concept was confusing, and those kids that were gay, were getting bulled for being out. So I was stuck. I was stuck because the more I looked into it the definition felt right, but the way society was treating those in the community did not. So I hid and I pretended, as much as I could, to be someone I was not; I was simply trying to survive.
1) Coming out was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was scared, still confused, and part of me felt alone. I went through a faze where I decided to try and talk to a male. Yes you read right, a faze where I decided to talk to a male. I did this because I wanted to confirm that what I felt for other women were real and long behold, they were. The butterflies I had for my middle school crush were not there for him and so I knew, I was gay.
When I officially came out, I was 18yrs old and a senior in high school. I came out to a group of 5 of my closest friends and I came out to them first because I felt safe with them. They helped me feel accepted, secure of myself, and like I belonged. They did not judge me, they did not belittle me, and most importantly, did not ask me “Are you sure?” They were there for me through my process and ensured that I was okay; this is was vital for the rest of my coming out story.
Then, I came out to my parents; man was that an interesting day. I had worked myself up for a week to come out to them and told myself that I could not wait any longer. So, I told my mother first. She was accepting, said she already knew, but warned me not to tell my father. Told me to wait and that she was going to “prepare him” for me to tell him, but I could not wait. So I told him right after. He cursed me out in every bad word he knew, said I needed to go to church and see a priest, and said I needed therapy. It took him a while to come around. For two weeks we did not talk and eventually became a subject of “Don’t ask don’t tell”. He slowly began to accept me but always had concerns.
Coming out was never a question of “If” or “How” but simply of “When”. I knew who I was, I was accepting of me being gay, I just needed everyone who played an important part of my life to be on the same page. I made sure that those who I came out to first were going to have my back and not question. I ensured that my circle were people who I could rely on if I needed anything.
Coming out to my parents, I had to make sure I understood where they came from in order not to be so affected by their words and/or rejection. I had to understand their culture (Mexican), their religion (Catholic), and views they grew up with regarding those in the LGBTQI+ community. My approach with them was preparing for the worst while hoping for the best and that meant being realistic of any and all possible outcomes coming out of this situation.
So, when it is all said and done and you are planning to come out as being part of the community, prepare yourselves. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Do not expect people to be open 100% because that will be unfair to you and them. Allow them time to process what you have told them and allow yourself that peace of mind of coming out to them. Have realistic expectations of possible outcomes and remember, you cannot control someone else’s reactions you can only control your actions. Be you, love freely, and live life fully.
Written by: Estrella Ramirez-Robles, M.S., LMFT