Alivia Fergus, a freshman in biology.
Trigger warning: Mentions of suicidal thoughts/ideation
I had no plans of coming out to my parents until after I was out of college and living on my own, but life has a way of turning our plans on their head. I was out to peers in school from the moment I realized I was a lesbian, as most of my friend group was also queer, up until I moved to a new school sophomore year. Even there, though, I remained out to my peers. Home was the only place I ever really hid who I was because I was convinced that if my parents knew, I would get kicked out. In middle school, I asked my mother what she would think if one of her kids were gay.
"I would be very disappointed," was her only reply. I don't think she remembers that conversation, but it still sticks with me to this day. I was always the "golden child," the "overly mature" one that behaved and got good grades. My parents told me how proud they were of me constantly, but after hearing that, it felt like nothing I did would actually matter once they found out. Their disappointment was suddenly a guarantee instead of a threat. So I resolved to never tell them. I cried a lot about it over the years. There’s nothing a "gifted" kid hates more than failure, and I knew that was all I’d ever be to my parents if they knew. I didn’t make friends with straight peers very often. Mostly because I didn’t relate to them or trust them entirely like I did with my queer friends. However, I occasionally was friendly with some straight peers, and they knew I was a lesbian. I never hid it at school; if someone asked, I was honest. It was stupid, and I should’ve been more careful about who knew.
There was one friendly acquaintance (let’s call him D) I made while at school. We were a part of the same robotics club, and sometimes my mother would give him a ride home or to our robotics club if he asked. D was one of those people who didn’t know when to shut up and would talk on and on and on. Well, one day, it took me a little longer to meet up with them, and he was left alone with my mother while they waited for me. My mother didn’t say anything until she was driving me home from the robotics club that night. During the drive home, she told me that D had outed me. I had never experienced such intense fear in my life. I’ve walked through haunted houses and watched scary movies. I’d ridden scary rides at the fair and had a few near-death experiences from being a clumsy child. Nothing ever struck my core and made me shake with fear like hearing those words come from my mother. My first instinct was to deny it, but I could tell my mother didn’t believe me. I finally just admitted it.
The rest of the drive was kind of blurry, and I don’t remember everything she said. What I do remember, thoughm is my hand on the car door handle. It was dark, so my mother couldn’t see my hand. I wasn’t exactly sure how it ended up there, but I remember I had a strong urge to open the car door and throw myself into traffic. We were going about 50 or 60 mph, and I was ready to open the door. I had experienced suicidal ideation before. Lots of times that year, specifically, due to a variety of reasons (mostly centered around loneliness and isolation). But that was the first time I have ever had a serious suicidal thought and was close to actually acting on it.
But hey, good news! Didn’t do that (obviously)! I’m still here with fully functioning limbs. My mother didn’t tell my father and let me do it when I was ready (I came out to him the day before my 18th birthday because I’m a lover of metaphors.) More good news: I never got kicked out! My parents aren’t exactly the most accepting, but they’re tolerant, and that’s more than I expected.
My life got a lot better after high school (except for the pandemic and all the societal unrest, of course). At the unusual end of my senior year, I got a girlfriend, and we’ve been together for six very happy months (super cheesy, but she really is the best thing in my life.) I’m still not out to my extended family at my parents’ request, which I’m not super happy about, but I’m not about to risk the only safety net I have. It’s a constant balancing act when you’re half-in and half-out of the closet, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted by it every time the holidays come around. It kind of puts a damper on the holiday spirit, having to dance around, pretending to be someone you're not and making excuses for the lack of a boyfriend when your cousins are starting to bring their own partners to Christmas dinner. What keeps me going is that I know it’s not forever. One day, it’ll just be me and my girlfriend, and she’ll be my safety net, and I’ll be her’s.
My advice for anyone in the closet is this: do not come out until it is safe and you are ready. I know a lot of people talk about how nice it is to be out and proud, but don’t push yourself. It’s a very intense experience (even with accepting family and friends,) and you have to be emotionally prepared for it. I wasn’t.
I was robbed of something so personal, and to quote "Love, Simon" (I know, I know, it’s cliché, but after being outed, this scene made me cry every time I watched it,) “I don’t care that you think my coming out wasn’t going to be a big thing. You don’t get to decide that. I’m supposed to be the one that decides when and where and how and who knows and how I get to say it — that’s supposed to be my thing! And you took that away from me.”
And on that note, please don’t out people. Even if you think they’re fully out, don’t say anything unless they have given you explicit permission to do so. Even accidental outings can have very dangerous consequences.
These coming out stories were put together by the diversity news editor, Madison Mason. If you or someone you know would like to submit your coming out story, then reach out to Madison Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your story here.