I TECHNICALLY have two coming out stories: coming out at school and coming out to my family. I’m grateful that I have more than one, because the former is a bitter memory.
When I was seventeen, I ended up drunkenly sleeping with one of my guy friends on a Saturday night after partying. The guy I hooked up with didn’t want me to tell anyone about it, but it was something that was so big to me that I had to share it. I only told one person, someone I considered to be one of my closest friends.
My secondary school had fewer than 500 students, so everyone knew everyone. By the time we went back to school on Monday, word had gotten around about what happened between us over the weekend. This coming out was completely out of my hands and left me at the mercy of my less than compassionate peers.
Having been outed publicly is a part of my personal history, but I never think of it as my true coming out experience. It’s a nasty memory that I rarely revisit, even though it taught me a valuable lesson regarding trust. Luckily, I also have the memory of what it was like coming out to my family.
On an otherwise average weekend, we all went out to lunch at one of the local restaurants. My mum and sister chatted about something I don’t remember; my dad quietly enjoyed his meal. I was in a world of my own. It would still be a couple of months before the school incident, so no one knew I was questioning my sexuality at the time. I wanted my family to be the first to know. I thought if I couldn’t come out to my family, then who else could I come out to?
I distinctly remember my mum turning to me as if to say something, but I cut her off before she could open her mouth.
“Mum, there’s something I want to tell you.”
“Of course, what is it?” she asked.
“I think I might be bi.”
Now before I tell you how they reacted, there are a few things you need to understand about my parents. My mum is a loving and joyful person, the kind of woman who can bring happiness to a room just by her presence. I don’t have many memories of her where she isn’t smiling and often think of her singing and dancing around the kitchen. She has always made a point to shower my sister and I with love and affection.
My dad is no longer with us – he tragically died in February 2019. Although I know my dad loved me in his own way, he wasn’t as open about it. I remember him as a serious man who preferred his own company. I found myself butting heads with him frequently when I was younger. This changed with age, but the relationship I had with my dad would best be described as a bumpy one.
Back to my coming out moment.
Right after I told my mother I thought I was bisexual, she replied, “Would you like some chicken with that?”
I usually tell that story to new friends to get a laugh. It always elicits at least a sharp exhale of amusement, which reinforces how fondly I feel about the memory. The outlandishness of her response stands out to me more than anything. Of course, being my mum, she made a point to follow that up by telling me that she loved me and would support me to matter what.
Then there was my dad’s reaction. At first, I was genuinely scared of what he might say.
“I don’t care what you are, you’re still my son,” he simply replied.
If you don’t know my dad, this could sound insincere. But to me, to hear this from the man with whom I had a bumpy relationship, who mostly kept to himself and rarely said anything, it felt like the most heart-warming confirmation of his love toward me. It still feels like that when I think about it. In fact, my coming out story is one of my fonder memories of my father.
Some of my friends are married now and have kids. Something I’ve been told about parenthood is that there is no such thing as being properly ready to have your own children. You just have to hit the ground running and take it as it comes. When I think of my own experiences, that seems a lot like coming out. It’s one of those things that you can plan for, but you have to take it as it comes and be prepared for the unexpected—as I learned twice over. You never know if you’ll get outed at school or offered chicken when you come out, but hopefully most people will be as lucky as me and get at least one positive coming out story. Mine is both a funny story to tell and a nice memento of my dearly departed father.
Charlie Ceates grew up in Girvan, a small town on the west coast of Scotland. He now lives in Paisley with his best friend and his cat. He has written for publications such as Cultured Vultures, Anime Herald, Fortitude Magazine, and Siren’s Call.
This is a thoughtful, important story.
One thing I would add is that one soon discovers, as we grow older and circumstances change, that the challenge of coming out is never finished. There will be many new “coming out stories” in our life. With every move to a new city, every job change, each new circle of friends one has to “come out” yet again, sometimes from the ground up.
I once had a discussion about this with some thoughtful and sensitive straight friends. They were shocked to think that one couldn’t just “come out once and be done with it.” The presumption of universal heterosexuality means that straight couples never face this burden and gay people will never find it “finished,” although it becomes easier for us with each iteration.
Well said Douglas