Lawrentians’ Coming Out Stories

in Features | October 14, 2022

In honor of National Coming Out Day, observed every October 11, The Lawrence is publishing several Lawrenceville students’ coming out stories, some named and others anonymous. While we typically do not publish from anonymous sources and quoted material, we want students to feel comfortable sharing their stories with the greater Lawrenceville community. 
National Coming Out Day was first observed in 1988. Inspired by the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987, the day supports individuals of the LGBTQI+ community and their decisions to share their identity.

Anonymous :
I don't remember the day I came out well. My sister remembers the exact date better than I do, and she wishes me well on the anniversary, but it is a day that I would prefer to forget. It was the year before I came to Lawrenceville, while I was arguing with my mother. The topic is not important—it was something inane.
My mother brought up boys. Something about how they would never be attracted to my behavior, if I remember correctly. Then, I made a stupid decision in my anger.
"Well, what if I like girls?"
There was a lot of crying that night. I got the cliché response of how my parents would love me but would never be able to accept me. I remember one sentence very clearly:
"You are breaking our hearts."
Suddenly, my most vulnerable moment became a moment of sadness for them, like they were baring a part of themselves and were rejected, like they were told that they could never be happy without making everyone else in the family feel miserable.
I don't think my parents remember what they said to me. If they do, they don't regret it. Although I don't regret being out, I wish I hadn't come out like that. Ignorance is bliss, you know? I wish I was still ignorant of what my parents thought of me.

Eric Frankel ’23 
Have you ever tasted a word? Words? The first time I said the words “I’m gay” in succession, my mouth tasted like rotten fish and moldy limes. I was already crying, and the words made my face twist and scrunch inwards. I’ve said that phrase an infinite amount since then, and I’m happy to report that with each utterance, the intense flavor lessened until it started tasting like any other sound that comes from my mouth. There are five parts of any coming out/letting in experience. I don’t claim that my list is all encompassing or representative of everyone’s experience—just my own. 
 Since I had made the connection between my feelings and the word “gay” in May of sixth grade, I thought about telling someone every night before I went to bed. I’m not known to keep to myself under any circumstance, let alone when it’s something as huge as realizing my sexuality. Lying on my side, staring at my pillow, I’d think about it until my heart rate rose into my ears. The anticipation. I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself for long; I didn’t want to. It just felt so disgusting and gross and frightening to actually say the words to another person. In my dreams, I’d see the faces of my family contort into sneers of fright, disgust, and every single shade of disdain after I’d say, “I’m Gay.” The word was capitalized. A diagnosis. Bobbing my knee up and down and knowing that there was an ice cube lodged in my throat, I was, at any moment, seconds away from vomiting it up.
 Eventually I made the choice to overcome that anticipation and say the words; thus started the skittishness. I’ve become familiar enough with the feeling that it feels null now. But my body can easily remember how it felt. Tense, unusual, evolutionary. When using language to convey an idea about whom I loved, my body felt like it was being stalked by a predator and needed to play dead or run in the span of a second. Maneuvering this way or that, rubbing my hands on my pants because they felt so wet, noticing the way my hair felt on my ears, swiveling my head just a little bit—I would skirt around anything except the actual act of coming out. If there was a proverbial bush, I was beating around it. I felt this huge wave foaming and curtling; I was in that limbo where you keep on marching towards the shore disregarding the ocean behind, because regardless of the  waves, I had to keep walking.
 I study their face. Incredibly closely. It’s the observation. Do their eyebrows raise? Does their face relax? Does their mouth open? Do they move away? I could write an infinite list of all the things not to say to someone after they’ve come out to you. The best things to say are the ones that make me feel most loved and least alien. Say, “awesome!” or better yet, say “okay.” I like to be a whole person who’s more than the gender I love. 
 In my experience (knock on wood), after every time I come out to someone, I experience some sort of anti-climactic relief. The Come Down. When I came out to my parents, I thought “Born This Way (Acoustic)” by Lady Gaga would start playing, and the camera would pan to us hugging and my dog would, perfectly timed, hop into my bed. Instead, they were kind and treated my coming out as another piece of information. From the very big to the very small, every time I come out, I re-enter my body, and my heart stops beating out of my chest.

Camille Trench ’23 
My coming out story, like so many others, is complicated, messy, and confusing. Every gay person wants to have a magical, fairy tale kind of story where they finally tell everybody their true identity and are celebrated, while this incredibly heavy weight liftsoff of their shoulders at last—however, this is rarely a reality. Much of my story consists of years of repressing and hiding my identity, not just from other people but from myself. Sometimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night so overwhelmed with the thought that I might actually be gay that I might really have to deal with a life so different than what I had imagined. People don’t realize how much work it is to be closeted. You have to watch the way you dress: nothing too masculine, or there might be a rumor at school. You have to keep up the front that you like the opposite sex, telling your friends about whatever made-up crush you picked that month. You have to  convince other people so much that you sometimes feel like you might just be able to convince yourself.
I wish that the moment I came to terms with myself and my sexuality was more eventful. I wish it was a first love, a conversation with a friend that made me feel comfortable enough to confide in them, or some other heartwarming story, but the truth is that I got sick and tired of lying to everyone in my life, especially myself. How does a straight person realize they are straight? The same way a gay person realizes they are gay: You just know. The difference is that gay people are expected to have some crazy story with plot twists and turns and intense moments. That’s not my story. My story is as simple and embarrassing as my mom reading through texts on my phone and figuring out herself, then prompting me to tell the rest of my family, which I did. This led to a period of time where my sexuality was never acknowledged or spoken about, but was at the very least known. There was no weight lifted off of my shoulders, no beautiful moment, no magical pride parade that carried me off into the sunset. 
When I came to Lawrenceville, I was done with my act. I had a plan of action to enter this school as myself, sexuality and all, and use this upfrontness and honesty to weed out the people I truly wanted to be friends with from the ones whom I did not. This was when the weight, or at least some of it, was lifted from my shoulders—when I was finally in a place where I could dress however I wanted, like whomever I wanted, and talk honestly about all parts of myself. I think that this is a better fit description of what “coming out” truly is. It’s not a declaration to the world or one specific moment. The majority of coming out is really just self-acceptance, although that usually isn’t the story people want to hear. Coming out is a process that often happens in painful and long phases, but more than anything, coming out is about finding a place where you feel supported and people who you feel loved by.

Senior Spring is a weird time. Around April, I started spending a lot of extra time with one of the girls in my friend group. For weeks, I could tell that she liked me in a way that was more than platonic, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this idea. One thing led to another, and suddenly my mind was telling me I was straight, but my heart was telling me that this girl and I were definitely more than friends. I’d never truly felt this way about a girl before, and suddenly there was one asking me to be more than just a friend, and a part of me didn’t hate that idea. 
 For weeks, she was at the top of my mind. It was less about her and more about everyone else. My biggest worry was what everyone else would think. I think it’s great to love whomever you want to love, but this was no longer a concept or idea I was supporting; it was about me. What would our friend group think? Would they be awkward when we all hung out together? What about my parents; I didn’t even know how they felt about this. And my friends from home, how were they going to treat me when they found out? None of my concerns were unfounded. I’d heard those friends and their parents make some inappropriate jokes about the LGBTQ+ community, but would that change when it became more personal? I had one month of high school left, and the last thing I wanted to do was “come out” to my friends and family when I wasn’t even really sure whether this situationship would last.
 So I asked the girl who started as my friend—and was suddenly my girlfriend if we could keep it between us. Our secret. In order to not complicate things further, I did everything in my power to keep this between us. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, I just wasn’t ready. Going into it, we knew the distance between our colleges was going to end this relationship by August. So for me at least, it wasn’t worth making a fuss over when we knew the end was so near.   
 This girl and I spent our last month of high school together. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned more about myself than I learned in the past four years and found out that I could actually open my heart to someone. We spent our days pretending to just be friends and our nights together without worrying about anyone questioning anything. I’m not going to lie, it was stressful— constantly making up cover stories for where we were and resisting the urge in group settings to tell everyone how we felt. Personally, I loved having something that was private and just ours. It was definitely hard sometimes not having anyone to confide in or talk to when she and Ifought or needed help navigating a situation that wasn’t easy. In every relationship, both people need an outside party to talk through milestones and situations. My fear kept us from having that.
 Along the way, I made some huge steps in my journey identifying as bisexual. By the beginning of July, I made the decision to tell one of my best friends. While I was telling her, I felt like my heart was thumping out of my chest, and I could pass out at any moment; when it was finally over, I did feel a lot more free. Having someone to confide in made a huge difference. However, just because I told one person who I knew would support me still didn’t mean I was ready to tell the rest. We only had a month and a half of our relationship left before we packed up for college, and I wanted to keep it personal. 
 I think one of the scariest days of my life was when her family found out. After they found out, I avoided her house for a while. There was no reason for me to do this; they were nothing but excited. I was just scared. The final days were hard. A huge hug from her father and a day out together holding hands in front of her sister was not easy for me. No matter how much I loved her, there was something about being together out in the open that still scared me. It still made me nervous, even when I subconsciously knew there was nothing to be nervous about.
 At the end of August, we broke up. Was it hard? Yes. But day by day, I’m moving on. About two weeks into college, our mutual best friend called my ex-girlfriend to confront her about whether or not we were dating. In the back of my mind, I knew she would figure it out sooner or later. Although it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, two weeks after the relationship ended, I told my ex she could tell our friend everything. I was scared out of my mind. To my surprise, our friend was thrilled for us. After months of fighting to tell her, I never expected how much I would love the fact that she knew. Every time I have a dilemma or want to talk about the relationship, she is there for me. She even makes jokes about my relationship with my ex like any other—not one between her two best friends—and that has actually made me feel more comfortable. 
 Although I felt a little more open to telling the rest of our friends about my sexuality, I was still scared. Then I had an academic setback. Recently, I’ve been having trouble with my short-term working memory. My doctor thinks it has to do with stressors and anxiety behind being closeted. Some of my grades started slipping, so I decided to talk to my ex-girlfriend about coming out to the rest of our friends to hopefully help my memory a little. One by one, we told our friends the secret we were keeping. A part of me was still scared every time one of them picked up the phone. I still don’t have the exact science of coming out. I mean, it’s kind of a big deal, and honestly I’m not 100 percent sure what I am yet. Do I like guys? Yes. Do I like girls? Yes. Am I bisexual? I guess?
 So where am I now? Our best friends and her family know about the relationship. We’re both moving on from it. It was probably four of the best months of my life. I never knew how much I could love a single person, and I feel stronger and more in touch with my emotions than ever. I owe so much to her for taking the first step and initiating the relationship, because I would have never done it myself. I’m not the same person I used to be, and that's more than okay. I can't say that I’m going to tell my family anytime soon. I also can’t say that my friends at home will ever know about this relationship. But I’m more open to the possibility now. When people at college ask me about my sexuality, I tell them I’m bisexual. I’m not afraid to admit that I just got out of a relationship with a girl. Honestly, I’m proud of it and how far I’ve come. This has been the most eventful six months of my life, and I owe so much to that girl whom I met less than a year ago today and who has absolutely changed my life.