For many people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), coming out of the closet is a huge moment in their lives — and also sometimes one of the most nerve-wracking. It can be so tough and scary that it’s easy to forget that it gets better.
In honor of Pride month, some of our app users and staff wanted to share their own coming out stories. You can read Josh's story here.
My name is Katie, but it wasn't always such. See, I was born male. I'm a woman of trans experience and I changed my name to reflect who I really am. I've been asked things like, “When did you become transgender?” or, “Why did you want to be transgender?” I'm always surprised that people seem so confused when I tell them that I've always been transgender and believe me, it's not something that anyone chooses. Cause let's face it — it's not an easy road to travel.
I knew something was different about me by the time I was 7 years old. I didn't know what it was for many years, but I knew I wasn't like all the other boys. I liked “girl things,” and I didn't know why. All I knew was that no one could ever know. I feared being rejected by all the other kids and shunned by society. My greatest fear was being disowned by my family. I came from a very strict Christian, southern family, so I buried my inner feelings as deeply as I could. It wasn’t easy. It raged inside me like a rabid beast, scratching and clawing to come out.
For years I kept my secret closely guarded as though my life depended on it — because in my mind, it did. I did everything to play the part and searched for a way to kill the feelings inside of me. I went to church and tried to pray it away, I hung out with the most masculine guys, I even got married and had children. But no matter what I did, no matter how I tried to kill it, the beast still raged. I tried to talk to my pastor for his help once and you could see the discomfort in his eyes as he squirmed in his seat. He never looked at me the same afterward so I quit going. I never tried to talk about it again.
Everything looked perfect
On the outside, I had a near perfect life, a wonderful wife that loved me dearly, three healthy kids, my own land, and a house. Everything was great, yet I was miserable. I struggled with the depression I had endured all my life, and the suicidal feelings that accompanied…and the older I got, the worse it got.
After forty years of carrying my secret, I was as close to taking my life as I had ever been. A good friend could see the grief on my face and tried to convince me to get therapy — the clinic I went to just hired a therapist, and he said she was really good. At first, I was extremely reluctant, but I knew I was desperate. Nothing else had ever worked and I knew this was my final hope so I had to at least give it a shot.
The therapist was amazing — I was able to talk to her better than any friend I had ever known and without judgment. I grew to trust her very quickly. Over time, she helped me realize that my happiness and peace were in my hands alone and they probably wouldn't come by trying to make everyone else happy while neglecting my own needs.
At this point in my life, I knew I had only two options: to come out of the closet regardless of the consequences and live or die because I couldn't continue shoulder the weight of my misery any longer. So I came out, not all at once (coming out is a process that takes time), but I did it.
The consequences were as steep as I had expected when it comes to my family, and I won't lie, it was a painful process and a high price to pay. But for the first time in my life, I was truly inwardly happy and at peace with myself. The beast no longer raged inside, and once I set it free, it became the most beautiful part of my life. It became the source of my peace and happiness. I felt as though an entire mountain had been lifted from my shoulders. I finally felt free.
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Becoming an advocate
With my depression and anxiety finally lifted, I was able to focus on something other than myself for once. I chose to become an advocate for people like me, who suffer through the same things I once endured. I want them to know they're not alone and someone is fighting for them to help change policies and laws that discriminate against them.
I want to help make the world a safer, more hospitable place for them to be their true, authentic selves, fearless and without shame. But something surprised me about that world around me after I came out; I came to learn that most people aren't that bad. Most people can either be accepting or at least respectful enough to say nothing. I've learned that those who hate are actually the minority, desperately clinging to views that are quickly dying out (and I'm happy to help speed along that process). The world is changing, even here in the Deep South.
As I look back, the only thing I regret about coming out is that I didn't do it sooner, but I'm so happy that I finally did. I'm proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community; I call them family because they became my family when I had none. The community largely sticks together (as a family should) because we understand one another’s struggles.
If I were to offer anyone my advice about coming out, I would say don’t let your fear decide your fate, because it will rob you of a beautiful destiny. Don’t seek to please everyone because it’s not possible — they have to be responsible for their own happiness and you have to be responsible for yours. So do it sooner rather than later, you’ll thank yourself for it.