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Coming Out Journeys -- Three People Share Their Story

“So, when did you know you were gay?”

Two people hold hands in front of a rainbow pride flag.
Photo courtesy of Freepik.com

In a society where cisgender heterosexuals are seen as the “default,” this question is incredibly common. Most LGBTQ+ people have heard it dozens of times, and answered in just as many different ways. But for most of us, the process of discovery isn’t as cut and dry as straight people might think.


German writer and pioneer of the modern gay rights movement Karl Heinrich Ulrichs once said of his decision to come out despite immense backlash and prejudice, “I am proud, that I found the courage to deal the initial blow to the hydra of public contempt.”


As a society, we’ve come a long way in our quest for freedom and equality for all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We have people like Ulrichs to thank for this, but we still have a long way to go before we see true equality and understanding. This equality and understanding can only be achieved through shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ identity and experiences like mine, and like those below.


From a very young age, it was pretty clear to my parents and the people around me that I wasn’t exactly straight. This isn’t to say that I was going around professing my love of women as a four-year-old girl, it was more subtle than that. I think my mother put it best; one day I had asked her when she suspected that I might be gay, and she said to me, “well… you were really obsessed with Amanda Marshall. You would talk about her constantly as if she was your best friend or something, you would demand we listen to her CDs every chance you got. So, that was probably when I started to think that you were probably going to like girls.”


Of course, I found this hilarious. I had completely forgotten about that phase in my life, and so to be reminded of it felt… almost like coming home, in a way. Naturally, I wanted to know the stories of other LGBTQ+ people, from one queer person to another. And so, I reached out to three individuals with unique identities who were willing to do just that.


 

Sandi Liske, identifies as a Queer, They/Them Lesbian


“I’ve known that I was queer since I was about four-years-old, after I had a crush on a girl named Darling. I grew up many, many years ago in a very tiny town of 250 people in Northern Manitoba, in a very religious family as the ninth of ten children. It was a vastly different society, because people did not openly want to support anyone who was considered a ‘deviant,’ because I grew up during the time of ‘sexual deviants.’


So, I didn’t come out until I was away from home, because I didn’t feel safe. I came out in Brandon, MB, after doing a series of courses on ethics… because I thought I wanted to be a Lutheran Church minister. I had joined the student newspaper, The Quill, and as a part of one of my assignments I went to seven churches in 1982 and asked which of them would ordain me. And none would ordain me, because no one recognized queer individuals as an “okay part” of the community and society. It was really a matter of intolerance. And so I changed my degree to sociology and I went from there.


When I moved to Toronto, it was the first time that I felt I could walk down the street and not have someone… throw something at me, whether it was verbal or physical. Because, I mean, there were many, many cases of gay bashing in Brandon when I was in university. I knew people who were gay bashed in Winnipeg, but I also did know people who were gay bashed in Toronto. But it was the ‘80s, so that’s kind of where my perspective comes from.


But now here I am almost 40 years later, identifying with the LGBTQIA+ community. It binds us together, it helps us support each other… it doesn’t point out our differences, it points out the unique things we bring to every encounter we have.”

 

Drina Healy, identifies as a Bisexual Woman


“For the majority of my life, I considered myself to be straight, which is how I think a lot of people’s journeys start out. I don’t think it had to do with any stigma or anything, I just don’t think I had put two and two together yet, or even really thought about there being any other option. I just hadn’t realized that the way I was attracted to girls was any different from how straight girls saw each other. But I do remember, from a very young age, thinking that girls were really pretty. And it wasn’t in the way that I now realize that straight girls perceive other girls, it was a different type of pretty.


I probably started suspecting that I wasn’t straight when I was about 15, when I became really hyper-fixated on Natalie Portman. Then I kept noticing all of these ‘girl crushes,’ and it became, ‘oh… well, I’m straight but if I had to be with a girl it would be her… or maybe her… or her.’ And then it finally clicked that this was a lot of girl crushes to be considered strictly straight. This was in Tumblr’s hey-day, maybe 2012 or 2013, and I just remember seeing a lot of posts that were basically saying, ‘hey… if you experience these things, have you considered that you might not be straight?’


I started to actually identify as bi when I was about 19, or at least that was when I properly welcomed the identity and accepted it as part of who I am.


There’s definitely just a lot of biphobia, even in the LGBTQ+ community. People think we’re greedy or that we should ‘just pick a side,’ or they completely erase our identities the moment we get into a relationship. Even in the media, there are so few real, accurate representations of bisexual people; a character has dated only the opposite sex, but then suddenly they’re dating someone of the same sex and it’s, ‘oh, they’re gay now!” It’s a serious problem that needs to be changed. I’m still a bisexual woman if I’m married to a man; I’m still attracted to women.”

 

Lucas Nicolaides, identifies as a Gay Man


“I definitely had gay emotions, from a very young age. I remember in kindergarten there was this one boy, who I was friends with at the time, that I always wanted to hang out with. And I would actually get jealous if I wasn’t able to hang out with him for everything. Like, if I couldn’t bring the attendance to the office with him I would get really upset.


At the time, it didn’t really seem like romance to me, it was more like, ‘that’s my friend,’ you know? Then as I aged more, I decided to try to get a girlfriend because that’s what all the guys thought was ‘cool’ and stuff. So, while I’d brag about maybe having a girl who was a friend that I could frame as being my girlfriend, it was never romantic; it was just bragging rights, not something that sparked a real desire or emotion.


At the time, though, it wasn’t ‘gay’ or ‘straight.’ It was just who I wanted to be around and associate with. Then later on, it sort of developed more into the concept that, ‘oh, I don’t actually like girls; I like guys.’


It shocked my family, to say the least. None of them took it particularly negatively, but it definitely came as a shock. One of the main reasons why I came out in the first place was that I got caught kissing my ex in my driveway after he dropped me off after a date, and I noticed one of my relatives on the porch watching us. So, then the cat was out of the bag and I really just had to push through with it, and tell my parents and everyone else.


Everyone else that I ended up telling over the years has kind of just been like, ‘oh, cool.’ And I kind of enjoy that reaction, because it’s normalizing that fact that gay people, or just people who aren’t straight, are normal.”

 

As a society, we’ve come a long way in our quest for freedom and equality for all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We have people like Ulrichs to thank for this, but we still have a long way to go before we see true equality and understanding. This equality and understanding can only be achieved through shining a spotlight on LGBTQ+ identity and experiences like those described above.


All photos courtesy of their respective source.

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