By ANNA DILLANE
Too many people regard “coming out” as a one-time event. It just simply isn’t.
My junior year of high school I started dating a girl. We held hands in the hall but never kissed, and other students started asking my best friend questions.
“Is she dating a girl?” “Is she a lesbian?” “Are the two of YOU involved?”
Then, I didn’t care what the people in my tiny, religious town thought of me. I knew I was leaving after high school and would never see any of them again. And thankfully, I was right.
But I moved to another small, religious town to go to college. I didn’t really mean to, I was just chasing my preferred bachelor’s degrees: aerospace engineering and astrophysics. Getting the two of them together required me to end up in another small place, where everyone knows everyone.
Additionally, my school is 75 percent male. Same-sex dating wasn’t really an option for me considering there were simply no women. So in college, I was back in the closet. I maneuvered my first year using either neutral pronouns about my dating history or blatantly lying, calling my exes “he” instead of “she.”
I started dating a boy halfway through my freshman year and we were together until halfway through my junior year. He knew the truth about my past, as did my friends at that point. I didn’t hide who I was from those who asked, but I did not declare myself to the campus.
When I broke up with him, I dated a girl who left for the Peace Corps that summer. I knew it wouldn’t last, but being with her helped give me the confidence to embrace myself again. Concealing such a large part of me for so long had made me realize that it was exhausting to be so out of touch with myself. I ran for student government (SGA) president that semester. I won: with everyone knowing exactly who I was. I was crowned the “head gay” by my school’s Diversity Center, where I’d worked for three years.
I started my fourth year of college confident and happy. Everyone knew there were a mix of genders in my past, and it no longer mattered. I presented to my school’s Board of Trustees, as required since I was SGA president. I applied to be the project manager for my senior capstone project and I won. I sang in the choir. I played in the drumline.
Now, entering my fifth year of undergrad, I am SGA president again. I ran unopposed. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Europe next summer. My friends poke me on campus when a pretty girl walks past, and when a pretty boy does as well. I am happy and normal and surrounded by good.
This of course glosses over the hardships I endured. It was a long road to where I am today. It’s exhausting to hear “women are ugly with short hair. You need to grow yours out,” and “Man you really look like a lesbian. Are you sure you aren’t one?” and “Wait, you like girls? But you’re dating a guy.”
I have no obligation to explain myself. I have no obligation to be “loud and proud” about who I am: should I choose to, I can simply sit back and live my life and not answer to anyone.
But I don’t want to do that. I explain myself in case there’s someone like me who overhears the conversation. I am loud and proud about my past and my sexuality because I want to help someone be themselves the way people in my life have done for me.
Sometimes it seems like there’s no hope. Like the whole world is against us and we have no place. I won’t lie: it is like that in some places. But if you hold out for universal acceptance and kindness, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Still, good exists in the world. And one day you will find something that keeps you going. Sometimes that’s a person, sometimes that’s a pet. Sometimes it’s a group of people, sometimes it’s a hobby, and sometimes it’s a really good book. But I implore you, hold on to those little moments. They make it worth it in the end. And if you need someone to talk to, come find me at the Pride festival this Friday. I’m running the float booth.