January 07, 2014

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5030 – Ellie Williams

My first official coming out took place at age fourteen. I was lying in my bed in a dormitory at summer camp, texting my sister, clutching my cell phone like it was the only thing that would save me from my teenage anxiety. The exact words are irrelevant now, all that remains in my mind from the conversation four years ago is that she told me it didn't change who I was, and that she also liked girls. I was, to say the least, relieved.

As I had my first queer experience at summer camp, I wasn't exactly able to do the research that so many of my peers discuss when they first realized they were queer. Of course, I spent my fair share of time on the internet reading anything I could find about being gay, but for those few weeks I just struggled to keep up some façade of heterosexuality with a group of girls I barely knew. By the end of the summer, my friends at camp knew without me really telling them, and soon after we all returned home my best male friend also came out. (Let's be honest, I don't pass for heterosexual very well.)

Back at home, I was in a new school with new friends and I just decided to pretend there wasn't even a closet to come out of. I formally came out to my father following a visit to my grandmother, who was eighty-eight or so at the time. Everyone else in my life had either heard from another person or just figured it out on their own as I introduced both girlfriends and boyfriends to them in time. For me, being queer simply wasn't a big deal. This is in part a result of coming from a very diverse family, and also simply the fact that I live a half hour out of Manhattan in a liberal area of New Jersey. Growing up, my first set of next-door neighbors was a lesbian couple, and when we moved to the next town over, the neighbors were a gay couple who are now raising two lovely sons. My parents didn't seem fazed in the slightest when I nervously introduced them to my first real girlfriend, though in retrospect it turns out they didn't "approve of her lifestyle choices."

I understand, however, that I fall into a minority in the national scheme of things. And perhaps for the Human Rights Campaign, it looks better to hold up an LGBTQ poster child as someone who has struggled with his or her identity. I was lucky enough to have a supportive family and social circle, as well as a safe environment to be myself in. Or maybe I am part of the new queer generation, a generation that does not adhere to strict labels, that understands that sexuality is fluid and non-definitive. Perhaps coming out was not necessary because people are beginning to realize that not all people are heterosexual, and so my heterosexuality was not expected.

Or maybe I was just such a tomboy growing up that everyone could see the gay ten miles away. But hey, I'll take what I can get.

 
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