WHAT I’VE LEARNT ONE YEAR AFTER COMING OUT
By Kahlei Rogers
One year after coming out, Kahlei reflects on her first crush, her first kiss and what coming out as bisexual has meant to her.
Seven years ago, I developed my first proper crush.
I was in the eighth grade, and she was in my homeroom class. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I had never felt this way about a guy before, so I wondered if I was gay. She ended up becoming a part of my friendship group, so I never told her I had feelings for her.
Six years ago, I had my first kiss.
It was with a guy, we had been friends for years, and it was okay. But I didn’t understand why everyone wanted to do it so badly. Was it a bad kiss, or was it because I didn’t like guys? I was only thirteen years old at the time, and it was the first time I questioned my sexuality.
Five years ago, I went to a house party.
That night, I made out with a guy. I enjoyed it more than the last time, but I still kept wondering what it would feel like to kiss a girl instead. Two weeks later, I went to another house party. I hung out with a girl all night, and I told her that I felt lost and confused about my sexuality. She told me that she identified as bisexual, and it was the first time I had heard of that term. After she explained it to me, things felt a lot clearer in my mind. She asked if she could kiss me, and I said yes. It was the greatest feeling in the world.
Four years ago, I spent the entire year working up the confidence to come out to someone.
It began to build up and felt like a huge secret that I became progressively ashamed of. I saw how people joked about LGBT people, and even if they were jokes, they hurt me. I came out to my friend that I had a crush on in the eighth grade. I never told her I liked her, but I felt the most comfortable telling her first. She was happy for me, and I still remember how great it felt to tell someone. She came out to me as well, and i was grateful that she wanted to share that with me. Soon after, I told the rest of my main friendship group, and I thought, “This will be easy.”
I had a friend who asked me if I would make out with one of my friends in front of him. I had a friend ask me not to hit on them. I had a friend who made a joke to me about not stealing their girlfriend, unless they could watch. I had a friend who was uncomfortable sitting next to me in class. I had a friend who asked me if I had made my mind up yet as a joke.
“So, you like women now, too?”
“What happens if you date a guy, though?”
“Do you like men or women more today?”
It hurt so fucking much. How come some of my friends understood how I felt while others made jokes? It felt super shitty knowing that some of my friends just weren’t comfortable with who I was. I didn’t know many people who identified as LGBT, so I found it hard to find someone to talk to about how I felt that could relate. I spent my last year of high school laughing along. My sexuality had become a punchline, and I had encouraged it.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with depression. Moving away from home, stress from studying at university, the shift from having a large group of friends to having only a couple close ones, and an overwhelming sense of shame from trying to accept my sexuality. I wanted other people to accept me and was so hurt when they didn’t, that I began to feel less than because of them. It took me over a year to work through all of my issues, but my sexuality was something that I felt like I hadn’t figured out.
One year ago, I came out to my mother.
I was reluctant due to some conservative views that she held. She didn’t know what it meant at first, but after explaining, she slowly began to understand. One of my brothers is blatantly homophobic, so I am weary about going home to visit again. Even though my family didn’t react in the way I had hoped, it was a relief to not have to hide who I was anymore. I stopped wanting to hide my sexuality, and began to embrace it. So much so, that I am finally comfortable telling my friends nowadays.
Today marks four years since I came out as bisexual.
It has been a long journey, spending years understanding myself and my feelings, and then coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will be supportive and accepting of who I am. I have lost friends who were not supportive, but also gained friends, both heterosexual and LGBT+, who understand and even know and can relate first hand to the struggles I have gone through to get to a point now in my life where I am happy with who I am.
For me, it is such a relief to be able to wake up and not worry about what I might say, or what I might post, in fear that my secret wouldn’t be a secret. Unfortunately, for so many others, they don’t get to feel this relief. No one should ever feel pressured to come out, but no one should ever feel like they need to hide their sexuality to be safe in a world where people still don’t accept LGBT+ people. LGBT+ Australians are twice as likely to have high levels of psychological distress as their heterosexual peers, and LGBT+ individuals have the highest rates of suicide of any population in Australia.
We must break the stigma on mental health. We must stand up for our LGBT+ friends and support them in a world where they are still treated as less than. We must educate children about sexuality and teach them that no matter where you fall on the spectrum, it does not fundamentally change who you are. We must speak up when we see acts of discrimination or homophobia. We must do everything we can to make society a safe space for the LGBT community to feel welcomed, and to continue to educate those around us. Love is love.
Kahlei is 19 years old and extremely passionate about feminism and women’s rights. Her hobbies include writing poetry and tagging her friends in photos of dogs on Facebook.