My Coming Out Story
I didn’t have one big “coming out.” Instead, I had multiple ones throughout the years, which I think is true for many LGBTQ+ people. The first—and most important one—was coming out to myself: understanding what I was and beginning to accept it.
For me, that happened in middle school. For years prior, I already had felt different but didn’t have a name for it. Long story short, it was a classic tale of, “Boy likes girl, boy asks girl to dance, girl tells boy she like girls, then boy realizes he just likes boys too.”
Around that time, I did not have a gay point of reference in my family or friend circles. I relied on the internet, which became an important tool for my self-discovery. I had a handful of online pen pals I’d talk to daily. (Note: This was in the mid-2000s before smartphones existed and no one texted because it cost too much). I always looked forward to coming home after school and diving back into my own gay online world. I met a lot of great people (and some not-so-great). That’s when I began living two lives, like Hannah Montana before she was cool.
Freshman year of high school, I came out to my best friend and two other close friends over instant messenger. I was comfortable enough writing about being gay but not saying it out loud. When I moved away for college, I promised myself I’d just be me and I stuck to that. There was still the slightly awkward coming-out moment, but I lived my four years there as myself, without judgment and fear. That life was going well, and I felt optimistic for the future.
My family life, however, was the opposite. I’ve always been super close to my family, which made staying closeted that much harder. Plus, being gay isn’t always the most accepted in the Latino culture, and coming from a big family made the thought of being the first openly out person even scarier.
I always dodged the inevitable, “Are you dating anyone?” question at family gatherings and got a knot in my throat whenever “something gay” popped up on TV, anxiously waiting to hear a derogatory comment from anyone in the room. There were some judge-y remarks here and there. Though never hateful, their words kept me in the closet longer.
For years, I played so many coming-out scenarios in my head. Nothing felt right. Somehow, planning it felt scarier. Finally, when I was 25, my mom used a suspicious choice of words, referring to a potential future partner as “he or she.” That sent me spiraling.
I knew she knew. Moms always know.
Freshman year of high school, I came out to my best friend and two other close friends over instant messenger. I was comfortable enough writing about being gay but not saying it out loud.
I paced in my room for an hour, texting my best friend. A couple of pep talks later, I went into my parents’ room and told them, “Soy gay.” I don’t remember saying anything else except those words. They’re the ones that carried the most weight. My mom cracked a smile, and my dad hugged me. I felt the biggest sigh of relief and their encouragement gave me the confidence to come out to the rest of my immediate family the next day.
It couldn’t have gone any better. Everyone was loving and accepting (and they still are). I always will be eternally grateful for having a positive experience. I know not everyone is that lucky.
The toughest part of coming out is knowing when to do so. I don’t think there’s ever a “right” time. You always have other factors to consider, but the most important one is how you feel and not to worry about what others may think, say or do. That’s easier said than done, given the fear of the reactions was the biggest reason I waited so long.
My advice for anyone struggling with coming out is to not rush. Do it when you’re ready and do it for yourself. Only you know what you’re comfortable with so don’t feel pressure to copy what you read online or see on TV or in the movies. I also would recommend having a point of emotional support. This can be a family member, friend, teacher, mentor or anyone you trust who can lend an ear or a hand. Worst-case scenario, you have someone to turn to if things don’t go well. Best case, you have someone to share your excitement with.
One thing I learned is that coming out is not the final step; it’s just another checkbox. I used to think that once I came out, everything else would fall into place. That hasn’t been the case.
I recently saw a Twitter thread by writer and activist Alexander Leon that summarized this sentiment perfectly: “Queer people don’t grow up as ourselves. We grow up playing a version of ourselves that sacrifices authenticity to minimize humiliation and prejudice. The massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we’ve created to protect us.”
Coming out allowed me to combine both lives I was living into one.
I’m 29 and still learning a lot about myself. However, coming out allowed me to combine both lives I was living into one. Being gay does not define me (or anyone), so as I grow more comfortable with that part of myself, I can shift my focus on other aspects of my life I want to work on to be truly happy.
* Jefferson student groups, such as JeffLGBTQ and the Queer Student Union
* The University’s Student Counseling Centers on Center City and East Falls Campus
* Jefferson LGBTQ+ Health Program
* Jefferson’s Faculty/Staff/Clinician Development Program for Sexual and Gender Minority Education and Training
* The William Way LGBT Community Center serves the LGBTQIA+ community of Philadelphia and its allies. The Center provides new and innovative programs, including social groups, networking events, counseling and support services, art exhibitions and cultural experiences.
* The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQIA+ youth.
* GLMA works toward health equity for LGBTQIA+ individuals and equality for LGBTQIA+ healthcare professionals.
Luis Quevedo is a senior graphic designer in Jefferson’s marketing and communications department and a 2021 graduate of the University’s innovation MBA program.