Culture  When I knew what to say

Stories from queer students about coming out at different ages

In first year, I took all the Women’s Studies classes I could. I rationalized it so easily with curiosity, with my politics. But there was something else – I knew that I would eventually have a revelation. One day, during WMST 303 (my Feminist Theory and Research class) the girl sitting next to me passed me a note. I’d had a “friend crush” on her, and she was adorable. She sparkled, she had a cool haircut, and she wore these cute thick-framed glasses. My God, the world fucking stopped when she smiled. Even though I haven’t had a real conversation with her in almost three years, I still get sweaty and nervous just thinking about her.

The note was totally platonic – it was about participating in some art show – but her hand brushed my thigh and it lit up as if on fire. I left that class crying and, on the way back to my room in the then all-female RVC, I called my friend. I was absolutely hysterical. It was one small movement after another toward an obvious conclusion. At 19, I was seeing The Vagina Monologues and my thighs were burning at passed notes and my time in my room was spent watching The L Word and researching how to make a girl have an orgasm. I masturbated for the first time that semester. I cried and cried and cried. But, sometimes I came too.

There were so many questions. “But if I like men and I like women, what does that mean?” “How could I have not known?” “Was I always queer or did I become queer?” “What do I call myself?”

I made cards for the girls on my floor out of acrylic paint that read “I’m queer!” in rainbow colours. I had long phone calls. My brother, my best friend, my future roommate, my ex-boyfriends. Then my best friend told some bro that I was “a lesbian,” and people were facebook chatting me and people that bullied me in high school were posting about it. In the hot suburbs of Atlanta, people were talking.

I deferred my exams. I spent the summer drinking beer and watching Gilmore Girls in my room, and – two years later – I’m still trying to negotiate my sexuality. My parents and I are still trying to figure out what we’re comfortable talking about. I’m still only writing this article because it’s pseudonymous. My extended family still doesn’t know. I’m still coming out.