By Lane Moore
Coming-out experiences are so much more varied than what you see (sparingly) in movies and TV, so we asked real-life lesbians to share their stories.
The first comes from YouTube stars Bria and Chrissy:
Chrissy: "I knew it was time to come out after I'd been in a relationship with my girlfriend Bria for a year and a half. We'd been documenting our relationship on YouTube for six months or so, and I felt like I couldn't tell people to be honest and accept themselves if I wasn't also doing the same. I had known I was gay for several months and it was during a visit home to Mississippi in April 2013 that I knew the time had come. I set up a camera and came out live to my family, then upon returning home I made a video coming out to the rest of the world. Bria didn't even know it had happened until the video was up. It was such a huge weight lifted off saying out loud how I really identified."
Bria: "I didn't decide to come out. I was forced out. When I was 16, I was dating a girl, and her dad grew suspicious of us after a few months. We were each other's first loves. He grabbed her one day and told her he wouldn't let his daughter live a lie and if she ever wanted to see me again, we both had to come out to our parents. I cried and told my brother first, who was amazing and as it turned out writing articles for marriage equality for his school, Emory University, right before I came out to him. He helped me tell my parents and luckily, both were supportive."
2. Cassidy, 23: "I realized I was gay three days into my freshman year of college. About a month later, I was on the phone with my mother, who was on the other side of the country, when I couldn't take any more 'So did you meet any cute boys yet?' questions, so in the spur of the moment I said, "Mom, I have something I need to tell you ... I'm gay." And all I heard on the other side was a deep sigh, and then my mother said, 'Well, you do own a lot of blazers...'"
3. Taylor, 24: "I was only 15 years old and was pretty sure the first girlfriend I ever had was the love of my life. She was out to her family and was constantly telling me I should come out to mine. I was afraid of rejection from my parents and two siblings. The terror of feeling like the outcast by the people who raised me was haunting until the moment I did it. I told them one by one with surprisingly positive results. My girlfriend at the time wrote me love letters and mailed them to my house, which gave me an idea on how I would come out to the last person in my family, my mother. I asked her to mail my letter for me knowing she worked next to a post office and would be a sneak to see what I was mailing. I hand wrote a letter exclaiming how in love I was with this girl and how being gay just feels so right to me, how when I was with her, I knew I was in my comfort zone. I went on and on, saying if I could not be gay then I could not be happy (no pun intended). At the bottom of the letter I wrote, 'P.S. Now you know I am gay, mom.' Her response was not as pleasant as my stepfather's or siblings'. Over time she has grown to appreciate me for who I am and not who I date. Being gay is not something I chose to be, but I did choose to be happy."
4. Ebony: "I was about 14 years old and with a great friend of mine in junior high school. We decided to go to gay pride. At gay pride, I asked a henna lady to put a symbol of two women together on my arm. That evening sitting across from my great aunt, I took my sweater off, forgetting about my tattoo. Two minutes later, my aunt fell off the couch and asked me if I knew what I had on my arm. Letting go of fear, I looked her in her eyes and said, "Yes, Aunt Mary, I am a lesbian." She told me I couldn't have girls over to spend the night, but she loves me."
5. K.L.: "I was in high school and had a friend who needed a 'cover,' someone she told her family she was always with when in reality she was with her girlfriend. I was the cover. My mom was even in on the cover. If her parents called my house, we had a story. This wasn't an issue for me because I wasn't gay. We were friends. I was cool with being the cover. But as time went on and we had phone conversations about the next lie she needed me to tell her parents, we established more than a friendship. Eventually she really was spending time at my house. We really were at the mall together. She really was staying over for the night. Then one evening, our house phone rang. This was during a time when cell phones were a luxury that my family couldn't afford. Of course, being a high school girl, the phone wasn't on the charger and just so happened to be in my room. My mom came in my room to answer the phone. There I was, cuddled up in bed with this girl. My mom got the phone and left. She never asked any questions. I never offered any answers. It just happened. I fell in love with this girl. I'm still in love with this girl."
6. Jenny, 44: "In some ways, I have two coming out stories. When I was 25, I finally confessed to my best friend that I was interested in her and we started dating. I called my parents. My mom answered and as soon as I told her, all I could hear was, "Ken, it's Jennifer on the phone." My dad got on the line and said, "Can she come for Thanksgiving?" At that point I considered myself bisexual and, although I didn't make any sort of grand pronouncement, I told anyone who would listen. But I don't identify as bi any more. I am a lesbian, and this time around, I felt a strong need to be very public about coming out. So I wrote an essay about it that was chosen to be a part of a storytelling series here in Dallas. And in front of a packed house at the Wyly Theater, including my girlfriend (who I had only been dating for about a month at that time), I said the words, "I am a lesbian." I could not have felt any more proud or empowered. Coming out is very personal. But I also consider it highly political and I wanted my coming out to not only say I am lesbian, but also that I am here and I am a force to be reckoned with and from now forward I will visible and I will say the words for those who can't."
7. Shay, 40: "I had given birth to my last beautiful son Joshua, living with my longtime boyfriend and my two other children from previous attempts of 'hetero-normality.' During most relationships with men, I had had secret mini affairs, never with men, but with women, and NO ... I felt no guilt for it. I had known since the days of 'you wanna play house,' posed by those older neighbor girls, who always designated me as 'daddy,' I loved women, but I knew I could never say that out loud. Fast-forward 18 years, when series like The L Word premiered on Showtime, Sunday night became my safe haven. I am sure that other mothers like me also lived vicariously through Beth and Tina. As I began to roller-skate three nights a week, I became friends with a group of girls who were all lesbians and I became happy. We would sneak away to parties in West Hollywood, I finally made out with my first girl since high school, and I also had to be honest and tell my sweet man, 'I am leaving and I just can't be who you and the world wants me to be anymore.' Finally, I was able to be who I was: happy, fun-loving, taking the world on by its ears, screaming out loud, at my first L.A. Pride, "I AM LESBIAN!" No matter how much I was scared or that I lost close friends or my family turned on me or PTA parents stop talking to me, I didn't care. My kids loved me and I was being who I have been since I was the 9-year-old girl in love with Amanda, with her red hair, green eyes, and freckles. Two years after that, in 2007, I met my amazing, funny, better half Yolanda, who legally married in 2013, and we have four amazing kids."
8. Alisha, 31: "Growing up in a strict Hispanic home where the word lesbian was never used was going to be tough to break it to the padres. During a family gathering with everyone there, I figured, what better time to break it to them? I knew that this was my moment. I sat them down and said, 'Look, are you proud of me?' and they said, 'Yes,' and I asked them if they were happy with me and they said, 'Yes,' and I said, "Well, I am not keeping you in suspense anymore. I am a lesbian and nothing is going to change.' My mom started to cry but knowing she was in public, she tried to contain herself. Perfect, right ? My father had a statue face but he got up hugged me and said he loved me. It was no fairy tale, of course. I got some biblical lectures, but after that day, I didn't care what was said about me because I came out directly to them and that's all that mattered. Coming out will never be easy but just make sure you don't regret it because it will never be like the movies."
9. Emelina: "It was Dec. 25, 2006. I was home for winter break from my first year at college, and I had made a pact with some of my friends that we would each come out to our families. Going to the movies on Christmas night is one of my family's traditions. At the movie theater, two rows below me to the left was a gay couple, and I remember my brother cracking a joke about them. A switch went off in my brain, and anger filled my body. I was fed up with hearing remarks like that for the past 14 years and saying nothing. On the drive back home, with tears in my eyes, I was fuming and overwhelmed. In that moment, I knew I had to come out. When we got home, I went straight to my room. I closed the door, sat on the floor in the corner by my bed, and I started crying. My anger switched to fear. I started calling different friends, hoping I'd hear something that would give me the courage to come out to my family. One of my friends had come out a few months prior, and her family disowned her. I was on the phone with her, trying to keep my voice together, and she told me it would be OK. As I heard my siblings getting ready to leave for their friends' houses, I knew my window of opportunity was closing. That was the moment. I hung up the phone, opened my bedroom door, walked down the hallway into the kitchen with my head down, and started crying. All my anger left. All my fear left. I felt exhausted, defeated, and vulnerable. In between sobs, I said, 'I'm gay.' The aftermath: I had more support than I realized, which included a coming-out party, rainbow-painted wine glasses, rainbow cake, and a coming-out CD with Diana Ross' 'I'm Coming Out.'"
10. Carissa, 31: "Unfortunately for me, I was outed to my mom by a disgruntled ex. My mom wasn't thrilled at the moment and it took her some time to come around. I knew I eventually needed to tell my dad. I went to my parents one night and was talking with them. My mom asked me if I had anything to say to them. My response was, 'Oh, you mean that I'm gay?' My dad asked me a few questions and that was it. He later walked me to my car, gave me a hug, and said, 'Sweetheart, no matter what, you'll always be my little girl.' Ten years later, my parents are both very involved in my life and are helping my future wife and I plan our wedding this August in Indianapolis."
11. Annie, 32: "Life always seems to throw curveballs and that is exactly what happened in my life that helped me decide that it was time for me to come out and be truly happy. My curveball came in the form of a diving accident 10 years ago that resulted in me being confined to a wheelchair. I was a woman in my early 20s faced with all sorts of decisions on how I was going to live my life, which in itself was a heavy load to take on. Then, throwing a wheelchair in the mix and trying to face the fact that I was going to have to take on this life of mine as a quadriplegic made me dig down deep for strength and purpose. I wanted to be happy, and I knew that started with not being ashamed of who I was. About two years after my accident, I met Carissa, a woman who was a driving force behind my decision to come out. She opened my eyes and helped me find the courage I had been trying to grasp for years. I fell for her and I knew there was no turning back. The moment I decided to come out, I called my best friend, Stacy, and I cried. I cried because I was scared and relieved all at once. In between the sobs and sniffling I told her about Carissa, and I told her I could not keep it a secret anymore. It was a big, hot mess of emotions, but it felt so freeing. Curveball no. 1 was rough, but I think I handled it pretty well. Curveball no. 2 came shortly after I met Carissa. I had not yet come out to anyone but Stacy, but I wanted Carissa to meet my friends and family … especially my best friend Stacy. Carissa did come and visit, and of course everyone loved her! While Carissa was visiting me, she fell in love … just not with me. Stacy and Carissa were in love the minute their eyes met; I just was not aware of it. When my intuition kicked in, I asked Stacy about it and she told me everything. I was heartbroken, and that curveball felt like it hit me right in the gut. We talked about everything that night I found out, and that led to how I came out to my parents. My mom and dad overheard my conversation with Stacy, because of an intercom that is in my room for safety reasons due to my paralysis. I knew the intercom was on, and I knew they could hear everything I was saying. Something clicked that night and I no longer had any fear of coming out. I knew my parents would understand, and they did. The next morning, I woke up to my mom hugging me and simply saying, 'I love you and all I want is for you to be happy.' I came to the decision that I was not going to lose my best friend over this, and Stacy refused to let our friendship fall through the cracks too. Stacy and Carissa have been together now for seven years, and they are getting married in a couple months. I am also in love with an amazing woman, and doing my maid of honor duties for Stacy and Carissa … Two of my best friends and two beautiful women who belong together. Life worked out. Curveball no. 2 was a bit tricky, but I smashed that one out of the park!"
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