Tales From the Closet: West Valley’s Coming Out Stories
By Avi Vieira
With Diana Ross’ hit song “I’m Coming Out” as the soundtrack for the evening; West Valley one n ten youth and volunteers shared their experiences growing up gay, bi, transgender, pansexual, or just different, and how and when they finally told others. Group members shared personal stories that were sometimes poignant, often funny, and all meaningful that many discovered were similar to their own experiences.
Common stories were of family reactions to individuals coming out ranging from positive acknowledgement such as “Oh, we’ve known for years,” to questioning “Are you sure? How do you know?” to the dismissive “It’s just a phase you’re going through.” Many of the stories were of funny situations such as wanting to tell one’s parents, but kept forgetting to do so. Other stories were more poignant such as tales of losing friends after revealing one’s sexuality or identity, or another common theme: praying to be “normal” as they came to grips with their attractions. One of the other common themes was the age the youth reported coming out: 12-14, MUCH younger than the average of 17-19 in 2003.
The stories were both entertaining and informative, allowing everyone to share their experiences and feelings of deeply personal moments, and realize that everyone else had a very similar story of their own. It also allowed them to reflect, perhaps with rose tinted glasses, and laugh at their own feelings of anxiety before coming out, as well as the reactions of others who were either shocked or in denial at the time and eventually came around. While there is hope that one day social acceptance will be such as to render coming out unnecessary, for now it remains an important milestone in LGBT identity; and if the stories shared tonight are any indication, we are slowly moving toward that goal.