Coming out for me was a 5 year process. Good things take time, right?
My experience of coming out was two different journeys; one that occurred with my social circles and one, much slower, with my family. I grew up out west in Melbourne, with a caring family - although we didn’t speak much about our feelings, enjoyed school classes like drama (while also being equally dramatic) and had a group of close friends (all girls, of course). All signals were already flashing this boy was maybe queer!
When I was 15, I thought maybe I might’ve been bisexual/pansexual, but when hormones started fuelling attractions, it was clear this queer boy only had eyes for other boys. I didn’t embrace or accept this fact for years though, since being gay at school made you a target for bullying - I’d see others who were open about their sexuality, targeted by their peers, with no positive visibility about anything LGBTIQ+ from our school.
Things began to change when I was 17, as I started a job in retail, where for the first time I openly accepted my identity and could openly discuss my feelings and attractions. Why? The feeling of stepping into this job was a huge shift, this new chapter allowed me to meet new people and speak to them about their own experiences - many who were queer themselves. Openly talking about this began to normalise what was always reserved to secret googling or meeting people online. There was an immense feeling of release, for the first time I could finally start talking to these new friends about cute boys and crushes.
Around the same time, I started at university - fresh faced and a little out of my depth - I entered another community of diverse backgrounds, ages and personalities. I made new friends, who were accepting and celebrated the parts of my identity which I felt I had hid for years! Within a year, all my friends knew my sexuality and embraced me wholeheartedly, which allowed me to dabble in the ideas of dating and before I knew it, I had started my first serious relationship - but also still hadn’t told my parents. Oops.
I introduced my family to my boyfriend at the time as a friend… who would also sometimes sleepover and I’d stay at his, so it didn’t take long for them to connect the dots, they quickly began referring to him as my boyfriend and he’d be invited to family dinners and events without a second thought. Why, even at this point, could I not talk to them about it or say the words that yes, I was gay, and that was okay? It wasn’t until we broke up around a year later, that in a flood tears I ran up to my mum’s room sharing my heartache - and in that moment I could finally express myself and own my sexuality. After 5 years, at 21, the different aspects of my life began to align and I could openly embrace myself. Since that night, I talk freely with my mum about my relationships, dates and misadventures - it's wonderful.
Now nearly 5 years later, when I look back, it makes me realise the impact of representation from things as simple as more conversations about the LGBTIQ community from our teachers. It’s so timely that the discussion of the Religious Freedom Act seeks to discriminate against gay teachers and students - ultimately rejecting youth and perpetuating a culture of people staying in the closet in fear of being exposed and singled out in front of their peers. Something that we at Minus18 stand against, petitioning to the government to understand the implications this would have on the health and welfare of young people.
Being in my 20s and reflecting on my coming out story, I wouldn’t change it - I think for every person it happens as it needs to, step-by-step, building your support network to help you embrace what can become some of the best parts of yourself.
You can read more here on tips for coming out and ways to explore your gender and expression, or even if you aren’t ready, It’s OK to not come out. Or if you know someone who is coming to terms with the process of coming out, you can read about how to be supportive.