Many people’s coming out stories have tales of shame, guilt, and lack of self-acceptance. For my personal coming to terms with my sexual orientation story, none of that showed up. I sort of just one day said to myself, “Wait a minute” and realized that this feeling of infatuation towards women and those female-presenting alike was not jealousy or admiration, it was attraction. I didn’t feel any shame, even though a couple years prior same-sex couples really freaked me out. Sure, it was unfamiliar and strange to imagine my future with a woman having never considered it before, but it didn’t scare me or make me feel bad about myself. I figured, similarly to Ellen DeGeneres’ coming out experience, “Oh well.” In an interview with Time Magazine, she demonstrates an underlying acceptance that some LGBTQ people carry within themselves. It’s a concise statement in its nature, but a self-affirming phrase that allows LGBTQ people like me to move forward with their lives and keep moving regardless of struggles that may arise out of realizations about sexual orientation.
I wasn’t always so accepting. As a kid, although I had a gay father figure, gay teachers, gay family members whom I all loved, (and was a soon-to-realize queer person myself), I had a hard time being comfortable with queerness.
My family and I were meant to be meeting up with my godmother, Kim, and her fiancée for lunch. I was sat in a booth squished between my parents in a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that white college boys went to for Margaritas every Monday night. Needless to say, I was already fed up. But nothing could have prepared me for when Kim and Sophia walked in.
My parents had already told me that Kim was marrying a woman, but I still squirmed in my seat upon glancing at Sophia’s hand around my godmother’s waist. They said their hellos to my parents and to me. I smiled awkwardly, trying my best not to show how uncomfortable I was.
The meal was frankly unbearable. I picked through the mountain of chicken and various toppings on my plate and tried my hardest not to stare as Sophia rubbed her partner’s shoulder. I felt as though I was watching a scary movie - it was awful but I couldn’t help but keep watching. I watched, and watched, and watched.
Contrary to popular belief, I personally think a lot of your acceptance level comes from how you self-identify. When I thought that I was straight, same-sex couples were hard to swallow. Although not immediately afterward, I began to realize I wasn’t as straight as I thought, my capacity for tolerance began to shift. That’s in no way to say that straight people aren’t capable of being accepting of different sexualities, just that in my experience my queer identity had a direct correlation to my acceptance.
That being said, if being LGBT causes you to broaden your horizons when it comes to tolerance, why do so many queer people struggle with accepting their identities? I think this is where your background, culture, and upbringing come into play. I’d like to quote a TEDx Talk by a stand-up comedian, Mike King: “How we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” As I mentioned earlier, I was surrounded by LGBT people and their allies alike all of the time growing up. I had no reason to think that my identity was wrong once I realized I wasn’t straight. I figured, “If I’m queer, then maybe people like that aren’t scary and gross, they’re exactly who I was raised to think they are.” I finally began to see LGBT people in the light that I was raised to see them in.