Dear Ally: I Come Out on My Own
I came out in eighth grade, accidentally. My friends caught wind that I was going out with someone, but they didn’t know who. Because of this, they poked and prodded until I gave a name that sounded a lot like my girlfriend’s name at the time. One of them caught on really quickly, talked to me privately about it, and she left it alone.
After she found out, she didn’t tell anyone. I let my girlfriend know that my friend knew, and that was the end of it.
Later that year, I came out to my parents as bisexual. I was in a relationship with a girl, and they were okay with it. They knew who she was, thought she was a good person, and left it at that.
This past January, I came out as demisexual (which means that sexual attraction requires an emotional connection). I told certain members of family and most of my friends, and I wasn’t outed to anyone I didn’t tell. In May, I came out as non-binary (which means to identify outside the male-female gender binary) to certain friends, and in June I started writing a blog about it.
Someone close to me found my blog and told me that he supported me and that I could talk to him if I wanted to. I did and I still do. I thought he would at least tell my mother, but he never outed me to anyone.
On September 6, 2015, I finally came out to all of my friends and family as non-binary. I wrote a long post on Facebook and offered resources on learning more about gender identities. I had been trying to think of the perfect time and way to come out for months, and it ended up being slightly randomly on a night when I realized that I was tired of not saying anything. I came out on my own terms to those who I didn’t already tell.
What is the point of this story, you ask? I came out on my own. Every time I came out, it was on my own.
My friends and allies knew that it was something that I needed to say, not something that they should tell to anyone. They knew that I was concerned about bullies, that I was concerned about how teachers would treat me if they knew, and that there had to be a level of comfort I had with a person to tell them. They knew that I had to come out on my own terms.
I came out multiple times, and I am still coming out as I make new friends. I am also a lot more comfortable and confident in coming out, and I find that I’m getting better about it. While I am in a place where I can come out more easily, my allies still don’t out me. They use my pronouns when talking about me to someone else, but they won’t specifically say that I’m non-binary. They let me explain how I identify, but still encourage the use of my preferred pronouns to those I haven’t come out to yet.
As an ally, you should understand that outing your friend really isn’t something you should do. Unless they explicitly say that you can tell others, don’t. If you don’t know if you can, ask your friend! That is always the best way to find out if they are okay with others knowing. There are many reasons why your friend could be uncomfortable with people knowing their sexuality/gender identity, and it is always best to respect their wishes.
Thanks for being an ally. To learn more about being a better ally to LGBT youth, check out GLSEN’s Ally Week webpage.
Therynn Ibert is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.