Why I’m in the closet

February 12, 2019 — by Anonymous Author

Editor’s Note: The author of this column wishes to remain anonymous to protect her identity in light of the deeply personal issues concerning her family she discusses in this story.

 

My first experience talking about sexuality with my traditionally Asian parents was in middle school. We were on the reproductive/sex education unit in science, and I had come home curious as to why my parents hadn’t given me the birds and the bees talk yet. In fact, I was curious as to why my parents hadn’t given me any talks broaching topics such as puberty, intercourse and sexuality when I had already been having regular periods for a while. Even that subject was taboo; my mother had been scandalized beyond belief when I asked her to take me to CVS for tampons.

During one particular science class, I remember briefly brushing over the topic of relationships. We touched on same-sex couples and orientation, but my questions were left unanswered. It was that afternoon that I asked my parents what they would think if I came out as lesbian.

See, I’d been hearing clues about their stance on LGBTQA+ issues for a while. When we still watched TV shows together, my father had voiced his disapproval after finding out the lead of their favorite show was gay, while my mother had actually stopped watching. Every time I would ask them about their thoughts on current events in the news concerning LGBTQA+ issues, they would shy away from the topic, mumbling muttered excuses. I think they suspected from the beginning that their daughter had wildly liberal views compared to themselves.

That was why, when I began questioning my own sexuality during sophomore year, I was extremely hesitant to tell anyone — most of all my family.

Just as I had been navigating puberty by myself, I had to do it once again with my sexual orientation.

In the beginning, I was confused and more than a little scared. I knew — well, I thought I knew — that my parents would not accept me for being anything other than heterosexual. I wondered if they hoped that I would skip through that hormonal stage of adolescence and emerge from high school completely pure and untouched, like the miracle of a lone white T-shirt coming out of the washer from a batch of colored laundry undyed.

I had no relatives I could talk to who had gone through the same experiences; in fact, many of them were even more disapproving than my parents of same-sex relationships. So, I turned to the internet.

Authority figures often warn kids of dangerous strangers online, and I have to agree that I’ve encountered my fair share of creeps on surprisingly innocuous websites. In the end, I turned to one of the most infamously creepy websites for advice: Omegle.

I’d heard stories of classmates encountering explicit photographs, sleazy predators and random people who wanted to meet up on sites like Omegle. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any results or positive advice from my venture into the unknown. The actual outcome turned out to be much different.

Talking to people about my fears and concerns regarding my sexuality was a welcome release of all the pent-up questions and emotions I continuously repressed. It was only natural for me to want to find out more about myself, and I did that by discussing my predicament with random strangers on the internet. I received mixed advice.

Some people told me not to come out to my parents — it could become a dangerous living situation for me, a minor, and it would be safer to wait until I was older and more financially stable. Others encouraged me to open up to my family and hope that they would be accepting. Still more people questioned my questioning, asking things like “Are you sure you’re bisexual?” and “What if this is just a phase?” The confusing part was that I wasn’t completely sure about my orientation.

Regardless of their opinions, there was always one common thing that accompanied all of their replies — sympathy and stories about friends or family who had gone through the same thing I had.

It was a bubble-bursting moment for me; I’d lived my whole life in small communities like Saratoga and confined myself to the views of my parents. The number of stories I heard online about people in the same situations as me were a jarring glimpse into a world outside of my small comfort bubble. I started wondering if there were more students here who I could relate to.

My experience with talking to strangers gave me the confidence I needed to confide in a few close friends, but only after a whole year of continuously questioning myself. To add to the confusion, I had begun a heterosexual relationship with a close friend who I hadn’t even confessed my sexuality to yet. Even though I knew he would be supportive and loving no matter who I was, I was still hesitant to admit to him and myself that I was different than I had seemingly advertised myself to be. I was scared that if I came out, it would imply that I had somehow lied to him — that I didn’t trust him enough to tell him about who I was.

In the end, the conversation went exactly how I hoped it would. So well, in fact, that I felt encouraged to come out to a few of my closest friends. Those conversations also turned out perfectly — a miracle that I hadn’t expected.

Now, it was just a matter of deciding whether or not to publicly come out of the closet.

This, I was particularly hesitant about. I had overheard conversations between my classmates before about how a certain student who had publicly come out was only attention-seeking, and I feared that I would be labeled similarly. I also didn’t want to influence the opinions of people who didn’t already know me without the label of my sexuality.

The truth is, I’m still undecided. A part of me wants to be able to reveal who I am to the classmates who I’ve spent four years of my life with, while a different part of me thinks that the trouble that might come with it just isn’t worth it, especially since I’m already well into my last semester of high school.

Most of all, I’m worried that I won’t be met with the same acceptance that my closest friends have afforded me. I’m afraid of being judged as someone I’m not, that assumptions will be made about the kind of person I am. I’m afraid that I’ll come to regret my decision to come out, and that I’ll begin to dislike myself for who I am simply because of the opinions of others.

It’s this same fear that has thwarted me from coming out to my parents. I don’t know what their reaction will be: “will” because I know that there will come a time in the future where I’ll be forced to tell them. I don’t know how I’ll navigate that conversation, or if I’ll be met with disgust, disbelief or even acceptance.

See, that day in middle school when I asked my parents what they would do if I came out, they looked up at me, my mother setting down her reading glasses and my father muting the game on the TV. I had been prepared for them to scold me for saying something so outrageous — to laugh incredulously at the outlandish notion. What I hadn’t expected was an uncertain silence.

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