Coming Out: My Journey to Find Who I Am
Written by: M. Bettencourt, 4th Year History
Photo by: M. Bettencourt
If you asked 10th grade-me what I thought life would look like entering my final year of university, I would have plastered a smile on my face and told you that I would be finishing up a criminology degree, applying to law schools, living with my parents, and would hopefully be in a serious committed relationship with a handsome boy. If you told 10th-grade-me what life was actually going to look like—that literally none of that would be the truth—I would likely burst out laughing and accuse you of lying to me. But somewhere deep within myself, I would feel the fluttering of astonished joy beating against my ribcage.
I have known that I am queer since the 10th grade, when my friend Jen* explained what bisexuality was, instead of listening to our math teacher. Jen was openly bi, even sporting a cute bi-flag bracelet on her wrist every day. I remember hearing her explanation and feeling so relieved to know that not only was I not abnormal or weird, but there was also a name for how I felt. I look back on my life now and recognize all the crushes I had on girls when I was growing up. There was Marie in elementary school; we spent every day together, and I used to go over to her house, and we would sing Taylor Swift and design clothes together. We haven’t seen each other since 9th grade, and she is off to medical school now. There was Nina—also in elementary school—and I remember thinking she was so cool and pretty, and always wanting to be around her. But there were also boys I found myself infatuated with. Elliot was the first crush I could remember. Then there was Jacob—another Portuguese kid like me. And then there was Sean in high school.
But knowing I was queer didn’t mean I was going to come out. I was grateful to Jen for explaining bisexuality; I told her how cool and brave it was for her to be out and open about her sexuality in a Catholic high school, and we parted ways when the bell signaled that class was over. The term ‘bisexual’ rattled about in my brain for a long time, but I refused to say the word or refer to myself as such. Jen was the only queer person my age that I knew, and we weren’t that close. I didn’t have anyone around to relate to.
Then I met Joel, a trans man in the grade above me, and Rowena, an ace girl also in the grade above me. I suddenly knew queer people and being around them loosened the constrictor-grip around my lungs when I thought about myself—but I was still shut in the closet, terrified to open the door.
Then I came to Western. I was still friends with Joel and Rowena—and I became fast friends with her partner, Ash. On the first day of O-Week, I met Vic, a pansexual girl who quickly became the sister I had always wanted. I found myself surrounded by a new kind of family—my own queer rendition of Lilo and Stitch—and at the tail end of my third year, in the middle of a pandemic, I opened the door and came out to my friends. (Technically, I wrote a note to Rowena and had her read it out loud for me because I still couldn’t say the words.)
As cliche as it sounds, coming out lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I no longer had to hide who I was in front of my friends—they even joked that I was no longer the token cis-het in our friend group anymore. Our ragtag group of funky queers expanded: there’s Dee, Nik, Aly, Avery, and Eli now too. I felt freedom like I never had before. But an obstacle remained.
I moved out of my mom and stepdad’s house in May 2020, right when my third year ended, and into a house with Rowena and 3 other students. I was able to be who I was all the time; I didn’t have to censor my thoughts or speech in fear that I would out myself. I couldn’t do that in my parents’ house; I wasn’t out to my family. To be perfectly honest, I’m still not. The first adult I came out to was Rowena’s mom, Penelope—she calls me her ‘adopted daughter’; Penelope hugged me and held me while I sobbed happy tears at being accepted by a mother figure. She told me how proud she was of me, and that she would always love me. I was still terrified to tell my real mom.
So, I stuck to living 2 lives. Queer at home and school, but hetero as heck around my family. I dated only men, talked about marrying a cute man and having babies with him and asked my mom for dating advice. I toned down my sense of humor—no jokes about being bisexual and living that funky queer life—and generally maintained the facade of heterosexuality. Then the facade cracked. This past June—conveniently Pride month—I came out to my mom. She was shocked, to say the least, and definitely had some confusion as to what bi meant (no, it does not mean that I am a lesbian or a furry), but told me what I needed to hear: “you’re still my daughter and I love you.” I cried, she cried—it was a life-changing moment for me.
It has been less than a month since coming out to my mom, and I am doing good. Mind you, I am still not out to my brother, dad, stepmom, stepbrother, or my extended family at all. I know, logically, that they will all accept me and continue loving me. But, as any closeted queer person knows, there is always an anxiety in deciding whether to come out. There are a million ‘what if...’s running around in my mind, but I choose to tell them to quiet down. Coming out is my decision, and it will happen when I decide it will. I have a life to live, and I am going to live it the way I see fit.
I wrote this blog post because I want other people like me to know that they are okay. Being bi doesn’t make you different or odd. Being bi does not invalidate you as a person. And if you are scared to come out, know that there is no rush. How and when you come out is up to you. Know that when you do choose to come out, you will not be alone—there are millions of queer people on this planet, and though we may not know you personally, we all love who you are. I don’t know you, but I am proud of who you are.
I look in the mirror and am happy with myself. I see my purple hair, my tattoos, my black clothes, and my general goth style. I see the bisexual flag embroidered on my patch-covered Levi’s jacket. I see myself and smile, and I know the smile is genuine. I think back to 10th grade-me—shielding herself in her uniform and denying who she really is—and I tell myself that she would be proud of me.
So, that is my story. I’m 22, Portuguese, specializing in history, and am bisexual. My sexuality doesn’t define who I am, but my coming out journey allows me to truly live as who I am. Yes, I will still date men—and maybe I will still ask my mom for dating advice—but I will also date women. I will build a life where happiness is my priority because I deserve nothing less than that. We all do—regardless of sexuality.
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
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