Anna Leach, 20, She/her
How long have you been out?
Being out means many things to many different folks. Personally, I think the idea of a single coming out is really layered and complicated. It assumes identity-building is linear, that we only every come out once, that there’s only one thing to come out about. It also can be seen as validating other identities as being more “acceptable” or less problematic identities, and a whole lot more!
But my first “coming out,” outside of my own head, was five years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school.
Was it a positive or negative experience?
That experience in particular happened concurrently with a friend’s coming out, and so that incidence and coming out to my friends happened in a community of love, inclusion and support.
Also, it’s important to note here, though, that as straight-passing, my queerness was not assumed or impressed upon me by others expectations or ideas of what certain expressions of marginalized identities look like. This greatly affects my experiences and choices in coming out.
How do you feel being out now vs. not being out before?
In spaces where I am out, which is most spaces nowadays, I feel more authentic, like me. Being out sometimes feels like having outward ownership of my sexuality and being able to embody it in the ways which fit me.
Because I came out to others relatively early into my own, personal and internal coming out process, I didn’t experience a whole lof of “stifling” feelings to a lot of my immediate communities before. When I was younger, I would feel a lot of pressure to come out to other people, to reaffirm my identity in a very direct way.
That time where I would know people and not be explicit about my sexuality could be a little loaded, especially when talking about crushes, relationships, et cetera. Nowadays though, most of that “pressure” to come out has melted away. I don’t feel as responsible for telling people what my sexuality is immediately.
Do you think coming out stories and practices are different for queer people of color individuals than for white LGBT people?
It can be. Coming out in different communities means different things and is coded with a variety of implications. As an adopted Chinese queer person who was raised in a predominately white community, my perspective on coming out is and was framed by experiences of white people. The older I’ve grown though, the more I’ve realized that the whole “coming out” process, story, ritual, is a somewhat white, constructed experience.
That said, I think representation — or, the lack thereof — for queer people of color can greatly influence the coming out process and our experience of our genders and sexualities. There are so few public, “out” QPOCs in the media, so I think it can be hard to recognize that other QPOCs exist, or that you’re not the only one! This seems especially true when you’re younger or live in a more isolated area. The internet has been hugely helpful with helping QPOCs make space for themselves.
What advice would you give to someone looking to come out?
Make your coming out(s) on your own terms, in your own time. There’s not one or even one type of “right” experience. It’s your process, it’s your space, it’s your identities. Plus, nothing’s set in stone: it’s all fluid and that’s okay, too. Be safe and know folks support you.