One misconception about the whole coming out process is that it’s “one and done”.You say it once and you’ll never feel that rushing anxiety flow through your veins, or the fear tightening your throat, leaving you incapable of speaking. You say it once and it won’t be difficult saying it ever again. The weight on your shoulders will cease to exist.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the first time I came out will always be something I cherish. It was one of those moments in life where I was in my most vulnerable state while my thoughts were clouded with the fear of being rejected, excluded, and disappointed.
Growing up, you’re encouraged to be different, to assert your individuality, and to express your uniqueness. But the moment one person actually does stray away from the ideal standard of conformity, they’re ostracized. Living contradictions, people are complex.
I had always been apprehensive of isolation. There’s something unbearably haunting about the silence that comes with solitude, that rings through your ears and throughout your thoughts, leaving an impression engraved into your mind and feelings. I wanted the distracting noise that came with being surrounded by people.
What I had learned quickly as a child, was that people tend to stay away from the unfamiliar, from the foreign. I had already been rejected because of the color of my skin, being rejected for who I could love was an unfathomable concept I would not be prepared for.
But we can only move forward once we realize our own self-worth.
So the first time I came out will always be a night I remember.
My cousin and I were on her roof, talking about school, friends, and boys. I am terrified of heights so why I agreed to go on the roof is beyond me. But my fear of heights was incomparable to the fear I felt during the conversation we had that night.
“So any new boyfriends, Mitz? Anyone you like?” Coming out had always been more of an internal conflict, rather than one between myself and other people. I had always believed adding someone else to the equation would only add complications, but she was the closest person to me.
“Well, I think I’m bisexual.” I remember the eerie silence that followed. What felt like hours was really only a few seconds, but time had been playing a cruel joke on me.
“So any new boyfriends or girlfriends?”
It was with those words that I knew I had her acceptance. For years, I had suffered silently, the feeling of liberation and empowerment I had felt in that moment was unfamiliar.
I was lucky enough that the first time I came out to someone had been that successful. But it doesn’t stop there, next were my friends, then my family. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was more difficult than the first time, but each time was terrifying.
It almost felt like it was more trouble than it’s worth.
This year, I went to the Pride Festival in New Jersey. Before then, I had only told people I was pansexual if they asked; it wasn’t because I wanted to hide my sexuality, but because it had always been something personal to me, so I was only slowly becoming more open about it.
But the festival was an important moment in my journey of self-discovery. Every negative reaction to my sexuality and every moment I felt less than whole, less than a person, didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was among other people who had also come a long way, and the thought was comforting.
Self-discovery is a complex, never-ending process that everyone struggles through. Creating and establishing your identity is terrifying and difficult, as well as inconsistent. Coming out over and over again to different people is nerve-wracking and enervating.
But it’s all worth it.