As National Coming Out Day approaches, I’ve realized that not only was there not just one coming out moment for me, I never really stopped coming out. Much of it is because I present as femme. People that know me only on the surface or not at all have no idea that I am queer. My appearance doesn’t really fit into the boxes that both straight and queer people have in mind when they picture a gay person. I wear feminine clothes, sometimes heels, always makeup, and I usually wear my hair long. Just listing these things as supposedly “not gay” makes me feel foolish, but unfortunately, that’s the reality of a lot of people’s perceptions.
My first and most significant coming out moment was when I came out to myself. It was when I decided to live unapologetically that I really embraced my queerness. It was more natural for me to simply live openly than to shout out my queerness on the rooftops. If anyone asked me what my sexual orientation was I would confidently tell them, whether it was in person or on one of those notorious dating apps. But I didn’t make a big announcement about it the way many people feel is necessary for a gay rite-of-passage. The most important people in my life, my closest friends and my sister, knew that I was gay and that was all that mattered to me. At the same time, I told myself that when I found a woman that I wanted to date seriously, I would announce it to everyone. Back then, I didn’t realize that this was more about other people than it was for myself. To me, I was already out and I was queer with or without a girlfriend.
I did eventually start dating someone seriously but having an “I’m gay” proclamation still seemed a bit weird and unnecessary. What felt more authentic to me was introducing my girlfriend to people, being affectionate with her in public, and posting pictures of us on Instagram. I assumed that when the people who didn’t know I was queer saw what I considered to be clear indications of my gayness, they would automatically know. As it turns out, many people were still clueless. So, whether I liked it or not, I had to figure out a way to do the big “coming out” without sacrificing who I was because of pressure to conform to the status quo.
Despite everyone else being oblivious to my increasingly gay social media, it was a Facebook picture that outed me to my very Christian, Jamaican mother. Since then, she and I have had several uncomfortable, often tearful and angry, conversations about me being gay. To this day, because I am closer to her when I don’t have a girlfriend, I feel like I’m still in the closet when it comes to her, despite our many conversations.
It’s so disappointing that in the same way a girlfriend reminds my mom how gay I am, a partner is often the only thing that validates my queerness to others. Unless I have a girl on my arm, my queerness is completely invisible to people, whether they are straight or gay, accepting or not accepting.
Nevertheless, having gone through my journey of constantly coming out, I have a different perspective on things. Now that I am single again, whenever I meet new people, I wonder if I should say something about my queer identity or if I should wait until they find out organically. But even knowing that my appearance doesn’t fit their assumptions, I no longer feel pressured to succumb to anyone else’s standards of gayness, even if that means having to come out every day of my life.
I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t come out with a big parade because I know that it doesn’t make me any less proud of who I am. Living this way allows me the opportunity to defy people’s expectations and forces people to confront the stereotypes they hold while dispelling them. I now know that coming out on my terms was brave and I own who I am, despite how I’m perceived by others.