Cat shares her journey of discovering her sexual orientation, coming out to her friends and family,
and the benefits of having a supportive community.
queer·to·pi·a /kwir tōpēə/ noun / a place or state of things in which there is a strong LGBT+ community surrounded by allies [2016, Cat]
I am infinitely thankful that I never had the traumatizing homophobic experiences that so many people faced, or continue to endure, in high school. I went to a state-funded boarding school in central Louisiana and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever why this school is so incredibly tolerant and welcoming towards the LGBT+ community. Through the magic of higher learning, this institution, originally designed to provide Louisiana high school students with a more individualized and advanced education, had become a breeding ground for acceptance and tolerance. Despite our conservative state legislators, this school had (unintentionally) become one of the safest and most nurturing places for LGBT+ teens in the south, and I will never be able to thank the faculty and staff enough for fostering such an incredible environment.
Coming Out To Myself (and friends)
I grew up in a suburb just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. My parents dragged me to Rock Springs Baptist Church every week and passively impressed upon me the conservative values of our people. My Sunday school teacher told me not to watch Glee because it “made being gay seem normal.” My parents never said anything about gender, homosexuality, or sexuality in general, at all. So, it was largely left up to me to figure out that the LGBT community existed and whether or not I identified with any of those labels. Of course, once I figured out that the gays were real, and not at all immoral or wrong, I settled myself comfortably into the label of ally. Then, sometime in middle school, as I noticed how beautiful girls were, I progressed to considering myself bisexual, but of course, ignorant as I was, I figured if I like both boys and girls then it should be relatively easy for me to choose the socially acceptable option and carry on like normal. (Spoiler alert: it was not, in fact, easy to choose the socially acceptable option and carry on like normal.) I learned this quickly when I tried to “date” a few guys in the 8th and 9th grade, breaking up with them after just a few weeks because “I wasn’t feeling it.” That probably should’ve been a tip-off for me.
After going to my high school and making new friends who were gay, pan, bi, trans, trans and gay, trans and pan, etc. I became a more outspoken ally, but still hadn’t quite identified the fact that I too was a gay. Junior year it hit me out of nowhere, girls were really, really, really, impossibly beautiful, and suddenly “I’m not feeling it” started to make some sense. I finally admitted this to one of my friends, to which they replied, “Yeah, I know.”
Coming Out to Everyone Else
At home, I had always been quite outspoken in support of LGBT rights, and quite outspoken about the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend, didn’t want a boyfriend, and didn’t like boys. Of course, this being conservative south Louisiana, family members often replied, “Good, don’t date until after college, focus on school.” Then when I got older, the reply changed to, “you’re a pretty girl, I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding a boyfriend.” I continued to make passive comments and telling puns until one day in the heat of an argument about LGBT rights my Granny said, “the only reason why you would care this much is if you were one [a gay].” The idea of being outed in front of my mother, siblings, and grandparents all at the same time before I had even thought about coming out to them was positively mortifying, so I shut up and stayed quiet. I stayed quiet in the car when my brother started asking if I was gay. I stayed quiet when he accused me of being gay. I was quiet when we got home and sat at the dinner table and he continued to pester me until, finally, I said, “yes I like girls, are you happy now?” My mother, who was doing the dishes, said nothing, and then I went to the bathroom and cried for an hour because, even though I was comfortable with my identity, being outed majorly sucks. 0/10 do not recommend.
Thankfully, I went to a boarding school so my visit ended quickly and I was able to escape back into that magical place where I could just be myself without feeling judged or deal with the aftermath. Not everyone is so fortunate to have somewhere else to go or so many incredible friends to support them. I am so extraordinarily grateful that I had both.
My coming out was ultimately easy and only a little traumatizing. I didn’t feel that I was unsafe at any point, I wasn’t attacked, verbally or physically, and honestly no one had a particularly strong reaction to my coming out at all. Having LGBT friends who understood what I was going through was amazingly helpful, and hopefully through communities like the one at my high school and through blogs like Pride Talks we can all help to foster a more tolerant and accepting environment for new LGBT people to join.