Coming out of the closet

Students share their journeys


My coming out story is hard to tell, because I didn’t have a typical coming out at all. For one thing, I didn’t really tell anyone in person. Over text, I can type out the message and then decide whether or not to press send, a process which takes only a couple of seconds. In person, it’s incredibly nerve wracking to have to actually say “I’m bisexual.”

Of course, once it’s over, it’s over. People rarely ask further questions (though I have had a friend of mine once ask if I had a crush on her after I told her), and the conversation moves on. In person, it’s not that fast; some people want to ask questions and learn more about my experience, which is not something that is easy to discuss. Questions like, “How did you know you were bisexual?” are not easily answered.

The simple truth is I did not have a typical, or a linear, path to discovery at all. I remember knowing I had crushes on girls since I was a little girl, around sixth grade, but going from “I think Emma Watson is really pretty” to a mature, serious realization takes a lot of introspection. Truthfully, I was almost in denial about it and was always unsure if I was correct. The problem with being different is that you never realize you aren’t “normal” until you compare yourself to others.

Of course, in middle school I realized that it truly was something that is different about me. The benefit of the Internet is that it allowed me to search various terms and read other people’s experiences so I never felt lost or alone. From the moment I read the definition, which is ironically different depending on where you search it, I knew “bisexuality” was what described me.

I can also credit the books I read during this time for helping me to accept myself. Young Adult books have much more diverse protagonists now than they did 10 years ago, and the variety of experiences I read about helped me understand myself and my life so much better.

The first time I told someone was in the eighth grade — a middle school friend of mine who I still text often. She was fairly accepting of me, though it did get slightly awkward when she asked me if I had a crush on her. Afterwards, I told a few of my other friends.

Once I reached high school, it essentially became an open secret among my friend group for my first two years. A lot of my friends are gay, bisexual, or pansexual themselves, so we would joke around with each other while hanging out. I told a few people personally, but it spread almost as if by itself for a while, which I did not particularly mind. I prefer that to an awkward conversation.

Recently, I have decided to tell a couple of my siblings. I know no one in my immediate family is homophobic, but I was still extremely nervous. Thankfully, they both responded warmly, reassuring me that they still support me and making sure I am okay and happy.

I am not sure when I will tell my parents, or what I will do when I graduate and have to go to college. Some people may find it easier to come out to their parents, but I almost see it as a final enemy in a video game — once I reach there, I will be done, but I still have a way to go before then.


LGBTQ allies are like dogs; they’re our best friends not because they’re loyal, but because they don’t judge us.

However, not every gay person is free to outwardly express their sexuality due to the risk of discrimination not just from outsiders but also from friends and family.

For those not familiar with the wide variety of queer folk, it can be difficult accepting someone unlike themselves. Thus the action of coming out to family and friends is almost never simple and from it stems issues that can last a lifetime.

That isn’t to say that all LGBTQ people will have difficulty with expressing who they are. In fact, my friends and family have been mostly supportive of me being bisexual.

Still, I find myself worrying about who I should share my sexual identity with and when.

I came out to my parents on October 14, 2014, and it was the night before when I decided to do so.

In the morning I woke up earlier than usual to cut up different colored scraps of construction paper and appropriate banners. Pink, purple, and blue: the colors of the bisexual flag.

Our black, worn leather couch consoled me while I waited for my parents to awaken from their nearby bedrooms. There were neither lights nor electronics turned on yet; just me waiting in the sun-lit living room.

My mother arrived nonchalantly at first, giving no indication of noticing the crudely made-decorations I had put up.

Finally I got her attention to point out what she had so blatantly missed.

“I’m bisexual” I confessed with a forced, lighthearted smile.

My mother embraced me and confirmed her never-ending love for me. When my dad later strolled into the room he joined in affirming my acceptance and saying that nothing had to change.

I wanted things to change.

I wanted to be asked about my troubles, about my fears for the trust that I give, about the secrecy that I have to maintain with certain disapproving people.

Some of my closest cousins and their immediate family still don’t know that I’m bisexual. Their viewpoints have been made clear before I even thought about my sexual attraction, and I’d rather not lose my connections with them.

It’s a pain to gauge the tolerance of strangers or even tight-knit friends to determine how much to play up or play down my personality. Any nonconforming orientation can seem threatening to those not accustomed to the entire queer spectrum.

On car rides, where I seem to converse the most with my parents or siblings, I tend to keep my mouth shut about the controversial issue of transgender people or ambiguous sexualities since I know that my opinion on them differs from others.

Therein lies the truth about coming out; there seems to be no end to the process of revealing yourself to the rest of the world.

As pessimistic as that may appear to be, there are better experiences that occur, but only for the lucky few.

I’m lucky that I grew up in a caring environment. I’m lucky that most of my friends could not care less what labels I gave myself. I’m lucky that I can voice my story to a variety of attentive students.

Following my actions on that October morning, I continued to carry my burden of lies and deception. Although it’s a heavy weight on my soul, I can’t help but feel lifted from the darker reaches that other LGBTQ people remain in to this day.

Journeying forth I am certain that the decision to out myself will be ongoing, but I will never regret the times that I disclose my genuine self.


The date was April 7, 2013. I was uneasy as I walked into my parents’ room. My heart beat rapidly, and a million tiny butterflies awoke in my stomach to attempt an escape with considerable vigor. The wall to my right held a large mirror, and within it I saw a boy whom I did not recognize. He was a veteran, the only veteran, of war with himself.

I had spent the last several weeks brooding about my homosexuality, ever since the thoughts first entered my mind as the topic began to gain traction in the media. At night, I stared up at my white ceiling. I stood in the shower and let the warm water cascade around my body. I was constantly in thought, and constantly in denial. “I think I’m gay,” I would tell myself, as if I hadn’t done enough thinking at that point to either confirm or deny the strange feelings.

I was never very good at keeping secrets, mostly because I didn’t like to. So hiding something as big as this was killing me. I advanced farther into my parents’ room until I stood beside my mother. I dismissed my father. I couldn’t even imagine revealing this to him yet. Once he was gone I was alone with my mother. I realized then that I still could not say the words out loud. I leaned in close and spoke in a low whisper. I began, “I think I’m,” and for the first time I spoke the taboo word aloud,“gay.”

In the moment that followed I felt almost every emotion at once. Entirely overwhelmed, I began to cry. I cried because I was so scared, having heard too many coming out horror stories on the internet. I cried because I feared that being gay would make me a disappointment. I cried because it was the only thing I could do in that moment, similar to the way that one screams when they are startled. Yet it was the most relieving moment of my entire life, and as I sat in my mother’s tight embrace, doubt, fear, and self-consciousness flooded from my body along with my tears.

Probably the most surprising of all things to occur in the following days, weeks, months, and years was…nothing. Technically, much has changed since that night. I’ve grown taller, I’ve matured, I’ve changed my hair, and started high school. What I mean is, the next day I woke up and I was still Ryan. My parents were still my parents. I went to the same school, and played with the same friends. Being gay does not define me, it is neither my best nor my worst quality. It is simply one of the many qualities that makes me unique. People are more than their labels.

I am gay, but also much more.

I am Ryan Duff.


There’s never really just one coming out story. I am constantly coming out and have received various reactions over the years.

When I was younger, I was pretty terrified of confronting this part of myself. I was aware that my attraction was not exclusively set on boys.
As I grew older, I decided to finally identify myself as bisexual.

The first time I came out was in eighth grade to three of my best friends. I had been contemplating the idea for a long time but was unsure how to go about it.

I found refuge in the comfort of my cellphone and the emotional protection the screen provided. I didn’t have to deal with the confrontation of a face-to-face confession.

I had nothing to be ashamed about. I wasn’t weird or confused and I knew they would be accepting.

I finally gathered the courage to press send and I felt instant relief. In gaining acceptance from my friends, I had also found acceptance from myself.

But later that year, I began to stumble upon a new variety of sexual orientations. Through the internet I learned about various sexual orientations that I was not even aware existed, such as asexuality, demisexuality, polysexuality and pansexuality.

I learned that a pansexual person can love people who identify not only with the male and female genders, but also with every type of gender identity such as transgender, agender, bigender, demigender, gender neutral, and gender fluid.

It was then that I realized I wasn’t bisexual. Yes, I possessed the desire to like two genders, but it was more than that: I possessed the ability to like any gender, making me pansexual.

I was amazed at how accurately this sexuality summed up exactly how I felt. A person’s gender and physical appearance is completely irrelevant to me; instead, my focus is directed toward their personality.

The majority of people I tell have no idea what pansexuality is. Today’s progressive society has become more conditioned to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, but the majority are typically limited in their knowledge to just those three labels. Being on different areas of the spectrum, pansexuals are often ignored.

Even if I am confident in the acceptance I will receive from coming out, there is still a certain hesitancy towards revealing this part of myself.
Coming out isn’t as simple as just saying, “I’m pansexual.” I must not only confess my pansexuality, but also address what exactly that entails.

The complexity of my sexuality ultimately leads to a rather uncomfortable conversation on my end. The discomfort is not because I am ashamed, but because it sparks a long and personal discussion about the details of my sexual orientation.

For this reason, I have yet to reveal this part of myself to my family. It’s not because of fear of rejection, but because of my awkwardness when it comes to articulating personal information about myself.

Because pansexuality is something many people are unaware of, it is very common for the definition to be misunderstood. Pansexuality is often confused with bisexuality.

In order to understand the meaning of pansexuality, it is important to understand that there are gender identities that exist beyond the traditional male and female.

Bisexuality is the attraction to two genders, most commonly, male and female. Pansexuality is the attraction to all genders.

However, this does not mean that I am attracted to everyone. It means that I am capable of finding love in anyone, regardless of gender or reproductive organs. Just because I am capable of loving anyone does not mean I love everyone.

Pansexuality is often brushed off as being nonexistent or fake, but we’re not just bisexuals that are confused, seeking attention, or labeling ourselves in an effort to present our uniqueness or individuality.

In truth, I don’t care if people don’t believe my sexuality is real. I know how I feel and who I am and I am comfortable with that.

I am grateful to not be limited to seeking specific genders or categories of people when it comes to attraction.

It’s all about their hearts, not about their parts.