I know that some people have mixed feelings about National Coming Out Day. I get it—the encouragement and celebration of one’s coming-out shouldn’t be restricted to one day. On the other hand, the day itself has become such an important marker, emboldening people who otherwise may not have found the courage, or just needed the support of a community, or those who still aren’t ready to come out, but find comfort in watching other people take that step. Still, deciding when and how to come out, not to mention who to come out to, is a big deal.
The truth is, for most people under the LGBT+ umbrella, coming out is something that happens constantly—every job interview, every time you introduce your partner to someone new, every time you hold hands in public. Of course, the very first time you come out, it’s to yourself. Some people come out of the womb as gay as a women’s football team during a pride parade. They just know from a very young age. Others like me, have to be slapped over the head with the queer stick a few times before they go, “Oh! That’s why I liked Xena so much as a kid!”
Coming Out for the First Time
For me, it was truly the power of lesbian fiction that helped me go from awkward straight girl to raging bisexual. I was 19, first year of uni, and fresh off the heartbreak of having to leave my first real crush behind at high school. Said crush also happened to be a girl. Of course, at this point, I was telling myself, it isn’t about the gender, it’s the person. She’s an exception. I’ll probably never like another girl again (ha!).
I’m Coming Out…for Carol!
Then I met Patricia. I suppose I wasn’t the first person to fall in love with Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt. But at the time it felt like this weird, intense love-story was written just for me. Therese was nineteen, just like me. I could relate to her strange, idealistic, obsessive personality. She was a fantasist. She was an artist. She was in love with a woman. I don’t think the book would have resonated quite as much if I hadn’t read it at that particular time in my life, but it remains one of my favourites. Reading about Therese falling in love with this sophisticated older woman made me feel not only seen, but also valid. As if, yeah, I could be into girls too. A decade later and now married to a woman, I’m profoundly grateful to Patricia Highsmith for this revelation. I have no doubt that I would have found my way to the fairer sex eventually, but for me, reading that novel remains a turning point. And that’s how lesbian fiction helped me come out.
The Importance of Stories for Coming Out Day
As we celebrate this Coming Out Day, share some of your stories. Were you twelve and reading Anne of Green Gables, sweating as you imagined her cute freckled nose? Did you stare into Radclyffe’s Well of Loneliness and discover your love of lady bits? Or perhaps it was somthing more recent. Ylva has a closet full of gateway books hat might have sparked the flame.
Whatever your story, whether you’ve been out for years, or months, or even if you’re not quite ready to take that plunge, National Coming Out Day is for you.
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Alex K. Thorne graduated from university in Cape Town, South Africa with a healthy love of the classics and a degree in English Literature. She spent the next few years, teaching across the globe, from Serbia to South Korea, also writing fanfiction, and developing a kimchi addiction. When she’s not picking away at her latest writing project, she’s immersing herself in geek culture, taking too many pictures of cats, and dreaming about where next to travel. Alex published Chasing Stars as part of Ylva’s Superheroine Collection.
It was 1975. I was in college and I met the first lesbians ever. They took to to a drive-in movie. I have no idea what was playing but I remember my first time.