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What I Wish I Knew Before Coming Out

By Zane Landin

Coming out was a difficult process that took me a long time to understand. There were many challenging moments, but I am here today, living openly as a queer person. I appreciate my identity even more after what it took to get here.

“I want you to know I am bisexual” is what I said the first time I came out to a close family member. Those words are some of the most intricate, sensitive words a queer person can say. I wasn’t confident in expressing myself, but I felt inspired to be honest and speak my truth. After my loved one processed what I had shared, they launched into the typical invalidating responses, including, “You’ve always liked girls,” and,“Bisexuality doesn’t exist.” I frequently heard those dismissive phrases as I expanded the circle of people I came out to. I loved the people around me, but their denial left me isolated. I felt unseen and unable to be emotionally honest.

I felt worse than I did before.

Early on, I realized I was attracted to more than one gender. I only knew about being straight or gay, which is an arbitrary view of sexuality. That binary framework made me feel confused and ostracized. I heard horrible phrases and antigay rhetoric, especially from other students. They bullied me for being gay before I knew how I identified.

Bisexual people are commonly inundated with attitudes and messages of identity erasure — even from other queer people. Already feeling like a pariah for being queer, it hurts even more when it comes from your community. As a queer, big person of color, I felt the emotional need to unpack what “intersectionality” means. The process can be laborious.

Queer media normalized the experience for me. I didn’t know any queer people, so I was drawn to characters such as Riley Stavros from “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” Mitchell Pritchett from “Modern Family,” and Tobias Beecher from “Oz.” Those characters weren’t role models, but their queer expressions comforted me. 

I discovered online communities about sexuality, and I learned the definition of “bisexuality.” I finally had the words to describe how I felt, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Sexuality is a spectrum, and that realization helped me move from a place of shameful silence toward acceptance.

I’ve also struggled with debilitating depression, anger, and anxiety. Confusion about my sexuality resulted in a further decline in my mental health. Throughout my life, I wanted to end everything, and I engaged in self-harm at the darkest time in my life. My family was aware of the importance of mental health and regularly affirmed, “If you can take medication for your heart, you can take medication for your mind.” 

I saw a psychologist from the beginning of middle school until the end of high school. I could share my life comfortably and communicate how I felt. The psychologist taught me to cope positively with my emotions and encouraged me to be more authentic. Having that supportive, confidential space saved my life, which is why I advocate for seeking professional mental health support. I regularly see a psychiatrist, and I was recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder.

I made progress, but I still couldn’t be myself publicly. Everything changed after I was accepted to Cal Poly Pomona, a California university. It was the first time I heard people proudly proclaiming they were queer. It was a brand-new, shocking revelation for me. I felt like I was in a different country. I was seen and heard as a queer person in this accepting culture, and, shortly, I was openly out. 

I wanted to extend that liberation at home, my most important place. After two years at Cal Poly, it was the right time. I didn’t have the words, so I sent a text message to someone close to me. We were in the same room, sitting on opposite sides of the couch. They looked at me without judgment and said, “I understand, and I know you’ve been feeling that way.” I was initially shocked and in denial. I was finally out to the one person I love more than anyone. Sitting together silently was uncomfortable, but it was a much-needed moment of reflection. Sometimes stillness is necessary on the brink of transformation.

That day taught me many valuable lessons. It’s tough when someone you love doesn’t accept you, but sometimes they aren’t ready to welcome you at that moment. Acceptance may not come when you think it will, and some people will never have that opportunity — some are even disowned for coming out. If you aren’t accepted, spend your energy finding people who will respect and cherish you. 

The media, online communities, my college, professional mental health services, and my family brought everything together in my fight against adversity. Looking back on my journey, I can share one lesson I learned: If you aren’t being accepted or loved, search for a community that will. It has always been hard for me to make friends with other queer people, but lately I’ve made many meaningful connections by being more vulnerable. The validating guidance from my new community gives me the clarity I need. 

I now understand the significance of having the patience to find myself on my terms. Despite the many bumps, each obstacle strengthened my family. It isn’t always easy, but I’m happily secure in my identity and have found the solace I need to move forward.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741 or The Trevor Project, a leading national organization providing crisis intervention services for LGBTQIA+ youth, by texting START to 678-678 or calling 1-866-488-7386.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis. 

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.