In and Out of the Closet
By Bethan Noorwood
Questioning sexuality is something that every LGBTQ+ person goes through. Equally, coming out is also a rite of passage that most of us have been through, will go through or continually go through if you’re straight passing! I have been proudly out of the closet for about five years, though that sounds simpler than it is. Throughout this time, I have repeatedly come out as many different labels trying to find one that fits (there’s probably about four or five different ones I’ve once identified with.) The main message I would like to give is that this is okay, our coming out is our own, there are no rules of how best to do it, do what you want to do – if and when it’s safe to do so.
The pandemic and lockdown has treated people very differently. For some, the last few months have been a time of personal growth, self-care and learning to be a better person, but others have felt uprooted and ripped people from their chosen families and forced back to living with parents who aren’t accepting or other unhealthy home environments. This would understandably have different impacts on our own coming out journeys but, more generally, our mental health and I hope that anyone in the second situation gets any help they need. Personally, lockdown has come largely in the shape of my own internalised biphobia and a struggle that I’m not “gay” enough so I realise how lucky I am for this to be one of my only issues.
As someone who’s been questioning for the entirety of my time out of the closet and naturally a bit before too, I want to stress that there really is no rush to find a label that suits best. Teenage years are hard enough, let alone struggling with your identity on top of secondary school dramas, though I appreciate if you’re reading this you are long past year 11. There is a definite pressure to realise that you are part of the LGBTQ+ community and then know your label straight away. But it shouldn’t be that way, many people see sexuality as a spectrum and it takes time to realise where we fit in and come to terms with different labels and educate ourselves.
Once the decision has been made to try out a label then the next step (if you’re ready) is to tell someone, a close friend or a family member maybe. Everyone has a coming out story, some happier than others, but even with the most accepting families it can be a very uncomfortable conversation to have. This complicates things further if you then have to come out multiple times if you discover a label that’s better suited. While uncomfortable, it is entirely ok to come out a few different times, there should be no pressure or judgement and it’s normal to try out a couple different labels. It’s worth remembering that labels can be unspecific and fluid, for example there is an “unlabelled” community. I have found myself returning a few times to Queer and while it still jars me and hurts on a straight person’s tongue, it’s what makes most sense for me and no longer should we let it be used against us. These types of labels I have found comfort in over my journey, as not everything is so black and white as straight or lesbian/gay.
If there’s any advice I have is to explore and take time learning about labels, to consume LGBTQ+ media/literature and find others in our community (if you need a hand with this I am also the Treasurer for the LGBT+ Society, we’d gladly welcome new members.) But most importantly, it’s your own journey, no one else gets a say in how you explore it, it’s up to you.