A personal coming out story by Adrianna Gutierrez
There's nothing I appreciate more than having a supportive family, especially a supportive mom.
The kind of supportive mom who, even though she may not understand everything, goes out of her way to buy all the rainbow trinkets she can for you. I've also been lucky enough in my lifetime to surround myself with people that support me as well, ranging from close friends to acquaintances and even strangers.
However, as grateful as I am to be supported, a lot of that support has come at the risk of my boundaries being disrespected and walked on.
When I came out socially, I was in the 6th grade, and I had friends who accepted me for who I was.
The only people I hadn't come out to were my family. I knew I had queer cousins who frequently interacted with my family and one whose wife we treated like family. So there was no issue, right? It was clear I had a supportive family, right?
But it was still hard.
Coming out was a very big step for me. Supportive family or not, I didn't want their opinions of me to change. What if me coming out specifically wasn't a good move? What if it was only a problem if I wasn't straight? So, in order to prepare myself before spilling all of these feelings, I put them in a journal that was given to me by my best friend.
I learned very quickly that was a mistake.
A couple of days later, my mom picked me up from school. When I got in the car, she said four words I'll never forget:
"We need to talk."
The whole ride home my heart was racing. What did I do? Did I say something? Did I forget something? I couldn't figure it out. We got home and she told me that she found my journal, and I had no choice but to come out to her at that moment.
I cried for a couple of reasons then. I was relieved I'd done nothing wrong and was coming down from a rush of anxiety. I was relieved she accepted me, but there was one other thing. She had gone through my journal and breached my privacy.
I stowed the journal away and feared using it, or any journal for that matter, ever again. I feared her breaking that boundary again, and I feared having to cry to her on our living room couch again. I feared being publicly out in my household, and I feared another family member would sit me down and make me come out again and relive the same feelings.
Soon enough, to my surprise, I figured out my mom had gone on to tell my sister...
and my dad...
and my aunt…
All without consulting me first or even telling me afterward.
Do you see the pattern here?
Finding out I was queer led to a blatant disregard for any privacy regarding my identity, twice. But even when my brother and sister got into their first straight relationship, they didn’t get the same treatment I did. Some might say my mom was just going to others in order to figure out what to do because she’s never had a queer child before. Nevertheless, it didn't excuse the fact that I wasn’t even told before or after.
Having my boundaries overstepped led to a significant amount of discomfort and fear when it came to opening up to my family. It made me grow distant from the idea of telling them any personal feelings I was experiencing out of the same fear that someone else would be made aware without my consent.
Since coming out, I’ve even had people I’ve never spoken to come up and ask me things like “How do lesbians ‘do it’?” and other blatantly sexual questions, diminishing my orientation to merely sex. Not only is being sexualized an entirely separate issue, these questions violated my privacy. People that ask me these questions tend to be straight and supportive but coat their questions with “I’m just curious!” or “I just want to learn!”
Asking intrusive questions like these makes queer people very uncomfortable, puts them on the spot, and forces them to answer questions they might not even want to discuss with close friends. Queer folx may fear situations like these, which could lead them to hide information about being queer from the public. For those who are closeted, it may lead them to fear coming out at all.
Dear straight people:
While I and many other queer people do appreciate the straight community’s willingness to learn, there are two important questions to keep in mind in order to respect the privacy of LGBTQ+ individuals:
Would you ask a straight person this?
Would you appreciate it if someone asked you the same question?
If your answer to either of these questions is no: then don’t ask.
If you wouldn’t ask a straight person, or you’d be upset if someone asked you, why ask a queer person? While your support is appreciated, it’s no excuse to completely ignore and disrespect the privacy of someone else, especially if it’s someone you don’t know.
Part of allyship is ensuring that queer individuals don’t feel alienated in any context, which gives full meaning to the phrase “treat others the way you want to be treated."
It means treating queer folks as equals and not talking to them or treating them any differently than you would a straight person. If you have a question and feel it may be inappropriate to ask a queer person, look it up! The internet is a vast and easily accessible resource, equipped with all the resources necessary to help you find the answers to any questions you may have.