In college, many freshmen struggle with discovering their own sexuality for the first time away from their parents. For kids who are currently struggling with this or have in the past, they've had to face coming out and telling people they are close to that they don't identify as straight. Here are six coming out stories from college freshmen.
1. Lydia Nielsen — Saint Paul College
"First, I told my mom and sister in [my] freshman year of high school. We were just messing around having a fun night and my sister told the story of 'her biggest secret' which was about her like peeing her pants or something. It wasn't very serious. Then she asked me what my biggest secret was so I thought it was a good time to tell them. I started crying and I told them I had a crush on my best friend at the time, a girl named Selena. They asked a bunch of questions and told me they loved me. My sister and I talked about it pretty normally right away because I don't think she was very surprised, but my mom and I didn't talk about it/acknowledge it again for a few years."
2. Maisie Mader — Columbia College Chicago
"Since I was in third grade, I knew I was different. I didn't just like girls or just like boys, I knew I liked people. I was attracted to peoples' minds and personalities. I never felt the need to come out, because straight people don't, so why should I if I was queer? Flash forward nine years and I'm 17. I was getting dressed up for a date, my mom asked me where I was going. I told her I was going on a date. When my mom asked about the person and their name, I said, 'Caitlin, she's into theater makeup.' My mom seemed a bit shocked — thus sparking the seven times I've tried to come out to my mom. My friends and family now know that I like people, not gender, not outward appearance. And while I live my life and have so many supportive people who just always kind of knew this is who I am, about every three months I try to come out to my mom again and again. She loves me, but I know she'll never understand. She'll never get it. In her eyes, it's okay to be queer, just as long as it's not her kid. Hopefully she'll understand one day if my partner whom I marry isn't as traditional as she had hoped. "
3. Jacob Thomas — University of Nebraska-Lincoln
"Over the course of my time at high school, I had begun to feel more comfortable with myself and who I was surrounded with. I found it easy to make friendships and was an extremely outgoing student. When I started coming to terms with my sexuality, it was a struggle for me to decide on who I should share my secret with and who could wait. I decided to start small by telling my closest friends and eventually became more confident and open with my sexuality. Over the course of a year I had gained a newfound self esteem as I realized that my sexuality didn't define my character, and it made the process of coming out easier for me. Towards the middle of my junior year I decided to take a 'leap of faith' and open myself up to my social media followers by coming out through Twitter. It was like a band aid that I had been waiting to rip off. After the initial tear I began to regret my decision of posting the tweet, but within minutes I began to receive several positive responses. I had never been more confident with myself and could not be more happy with coming out."
4. Owen Elizabeth Conley, UNC Chapel Hill
"I was a freshman in high school, it was the end of the year and I had been in the Gay-Straight Alliance all year, but I was the 'straight ally.' I was in love with this girl...anyways, I went on a walk with my mom and I'm really awkward and don't like confrontation, so I basically [said], 'I really like rainbows. LIKE A LOT.' She was obviously pretty confused, so I said, 'Mom, I like girls.' She didn't say anything, and we got home and she went to bed. She continued to not bring it up for pretty much the whole summer, other than the occasional hinting that I should date the boy down the street or that it was just a phase. Eventually, I learned that my mom had been trying to understand. She read books, articles, talked to psychologists. She was just trying to wrap her head around it and didn't really know what to say. I thought coming out was supposed to be this liberating, all-encompassing thing, but it wasn't. I thought if I actually said I was gay, it would solve all my problems, but I realized that coming out isn't just a simple, one-dimension thing. It's intersectional, and can get very complicated/exhausting. A lot of my issues stemmed from the intersections between gender identity and my gender presentation. Coming out kind of opened up this bag of worms that I wasn't sure how to deal with. I didn't know if I was a boy or a girl, honestly nobody did. Bathrooms because like war territory it was just a very...questionable time? I wasn't really sure of anything, I just wanted to be Owen. Looking back now, coming out was the best thing that happened to me. It truly allowed me to grow into myself, and that came with a lot of struggles, but it has also shaped who I am and what I aspire to me."
5. Zoe Plumb, Roger Williams University
"I came out in my junior year of high school, and coming out in college is something that I debated on a long time. However, several of my friends are bisexual, so they started talking about it, and I just agreed. That's kinda how I came out to my college friends. However, they don't care that much because it's not a big deal where I go to college. In high school, I came out to my friends and then just decided that I wouldn't bother with anyone else. They could either know or not, but I wasn't telling them to tell them. My parents are supporting, but don't really think that I'm bisexual, so that's starting a little bit of a riff."
6. Owen Rush, University of Nebraska-Omaha
"I have always known that I was gay. I had always told myself when I was young that I was going to tell my parents when I was fifteen. When I was thirteen, I was deciding on where to go to high school. I was considering going to the all boys high school in town and my mom was just not [supportive]. She told me that it was only for gay kids and other stuff like that. Then, I told my mom that I was gay and she was silent. She told me that I couldn't be gay and that I was too young to know. She then later told me to tell my dad. My dad was upset and for years tried to make me pray the gay away. Sometime during the summer of my junior year of high school, I just told myself that I can't keep letting my parents define me and live for me and so I slowly started telling my friends and eventually everyone knew. "
Coming out is something that can be emotionally taxing for everyone involved. If you or someone you know has gone through something similar or is considering coming out, know that there are many other people who have gone through similar situations. You aren't alone and hopefully there are people in your life who will support you no matter how you identify.
Lead Image Credit: Saksham Gangwar via Unsplash