I'm OK With Strangers Knowing I'm Gay, But Not My Family

06/12/2015 03:22 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015
Yagi Studio via Getty Images

In honor of Pride Month, HuffPost Young Voices is highlighting the coming out stories of teens and those in their early 20s. Was it a life-changing moment? A bittersweet one? No big deal? Are you "out," but only to certain people? What does being "out" mean to you? Email youngvoices@huffingtonpost.com to share your story.

By Richard, 18

I am known by my friends as weird. And I don't use the word "weird" to describe my not-abiding-by-gender-norms attitude like my blatant disinterest in sports, motor engines or girls. No, I am described as weird because I am unique and I embrace the difference.

To prove to you how quirky, funny, charming and modest I am, I share with you the best and worst moment of my life.

My family was vacationing in California and we were at Universal Studios, near the "Jurassic Park" ride. We took a short break because we decided to indulge in the decadent taste of two churros and a large soda for the low, low cost of $5,000. (Disclaimer: a joke obviously. It was more like $4,500.)

I was there, standing in awe of the beauty known as the "Jurassic Park" ride. My mom, dad and sister started walking towards the concession stand only to realize five seconds later that I wouldn't budge. So, they developed a plan of action: My mom and sister would go to the concession stand while my dad and I would sit and stare at the ride until the two returned.

So my mom and sister left, leaving my dad and me to our own world. There I sat, captivated and unaware of the activity taking place behind me. I recall looking at the spectacle as nothing more but heavenly, and nothing -- and I mean nothing -- could divert my attention from the ride to the distractions all around me.

Now, mind the fact that I was 7 at the time so my attention was as good as that of a goldfish. Two seconds later, I was wondering where my mom and sister were, so I ran off, followed by a confused dad. I ran until I found the nearest Asian lady and I squeezed her into the tightest hug a 7-year-old could give to his mom. And I noticed that she had a half-empty Gatorade bottle in her hands. And I was in the mood for some Gatorade.

So I tried to take the liquid from my mom, but she was stubborn and did not let me take what was rightfully mine. It wasn't until I looked up at my mom's face did I realize that the lady who I had around my arms was in fact some random stranger did I run away in terror.

Retroactively, I should have known that the lady who I called "mom" was a stranger for a few key reasons. Firstly, she's not my mom. And secondly, my mom was with my sister. This lady was alone.

Now I know what you are thinking: Why am I reading a story about a lost Asian 7 year-old on HuffPost? And there are two reasons. First, I mean, it has the word "churro" in it and honestly, any story mentioning the heavenly treat is worth the read. And second, this story is mine and mine alone. As much as I describe to you -- in detail -- about the events that took place that day, you would never be able to replicate the story in your mind and imagination. Seriously, I could write a book as thick as the Bible and fill it with nothing but details. But in reliving the events in the story, you will never be able to experience my story the way I experienced it purely because it belongs to me.

This is why coming out is so tricky. You can't rely on other peoples' stories to determine when it is the right time to come out. And I do not advocate for all people to come out immediately. Hear me out.

I am out to my friends, but not to my family. I live in Arizona, which is predominately conservative. However, I went to Desert Vista High School, which is a great, open-minded public school. So unlike at home, I felt as though I would be more welcome by my friends. Thus, I was open to the idea of disclosing my sexual orientation to my friends. But I didn't come out to them the way I expected to.

As I mentioned before, I am weird. All of freshman year, I claimed to be straight while talking about all my boy crushes in the most ironic tone possible. For some reason, my friends found my frequent fangirling over numerous male celebrities odd and rather revealing. Starting sophomore year, they started calling me out on it. A lot of conversations went as follows:

"Richard, we all know you're gay."

"You don't have any proof."

"Richard, you talk about making out with Logan Lerman all the time."
"Well, so do you."

"Yeah... Because I'm a cis heterosexual female."

Or, my favorite:

"Richard, when will you come out?"

"I don't know."

"Wait... you just technically came out, right?"

"I'll come out when I feel like it."


And that was basically my life. It wasn't until near of the end of the semester that I finally confirmed what everyone already knew.

"Richard, are you ready to come out now?"

"Ugh, whatever, OK. Fine."


Coming out to my friends was the easiest thing to do. And if you are in a friend group where you are 100 percent sure that they will accept you for who you are, you owe it to yourself to state the obvious because you can then express yourself. Although that is not the case for everyone.

The same year I came out, I experienced hate. I was at a speech and debate tournament, which is the most liberal thing you could possibly do besides asking your same-sex partner to marry you by presenting them with a ring made with recreational marijuana handcrafted by a team of feminist blacksmiths. Actually, I have no idea if the people who design the metal rings are called blacksmiths but honestly, I have no interest in finding out. I digress. Back to the story.

I was with two of my closest friends, talking about whatever stuff hipster sophomores talk about when a kid that I vaguely knew came out to me and asked, "Are you gay?"

Recall that this was shortly after I came out to my closest friends so for someone who I hardly knew to ask me, I was terrified.

"Yes, I am."

And his next words were devastating. In front of my two close friends, he nonchalantly said, "No Richard, you're a fag. You make all us gay kids look bad. I'm gay. You're a fag."

A gay person called me such a derogatory term. And he said it in the most matter-of-fact way possible, that it got to me. And I wondered if there was truth to it. When we reveal ourselves to others, we make ourselves vulnerable. Like a white towel dragged alongside a dirt road, we absorb the dirt thrown at us.

And so I advocate that we come out when it is most comfortable. And I say "we" because we are not alone in this adventure. We owe no obligation to reveal intimate information to people who we hardly know. Safety is our priority. And that is why I cannot come out to my family quite yet.

You may be wondering, "Well Richard, what if your family reads this?" Don't. They can't read. Why? My parents do not read articles if they are in English. As for my sister, she attended the University of Arizona* so she literally does not know the alphabet. (*U of A is great. But ASU is better so....)

Also, you might be wondering, "Richard, you said that we owe no obligation to tell strangers about our sexuality, yet you are doing it on a vast scale." It goes back into the ideas of comfortability. I care so little of what you think of me because you don't fund my love for Chipotle. The reality is that I am comfortable with strangers knowing my sexual orientation but not quite my family.

I need my family to support me as I head into college. I mean, I don't want to independently fund my college experience. And as unfulfilling as it may be, I have to keep such a personal part of me hidden from my family until I am able to support myself. It goes back to the whole idea of "wait until it is the right time" philosophy. We do not have an obligation to provide personal information -- even to our families -- if that information leads to unjust persecution.

Everyone's experience will be unique and individualized. It has to be. But by allowing each story to be different, we build upon our life stories differently, and we build upon the rainbow flag, giving life to each color as demanded.

Read more from Young Voices' "Coming Out" series:

  • "What I Wish I Could Have Told My 11-Year-Old Closeted Self"
    • "Here's What It Means To Be A Demi-Romantic Asexual Agender Teen"
    • Also on HuffPost:

      • D Dipasupil via Getty Images
        NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: A general view of atmosphere during the 2014 New York City Pride March on June 29, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
      • PYMCA via Getty Images
        A group of gay parade participants and party people are having a great time dancing around at Copenhagen Gay Pride Parade. Denmark 2013. . (Photo by: PYMCA/UIG via Getty Images)
      • Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
        LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: People take part in the annual Gay Pride street march through central London on July 4, 2009 in London, England. This years parade theme is entitled 'Come Out and Play' and consists of celebrities, floats, and performers celebrating the UK's largest gay and lesbian festival. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
      • MARTIN BUREAU via Getty Images
        A woman holds the rainbow flag, colors of pride for the gay community during the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (HLBT) visibility march, the Gay Pride, on June 29, 2013 in Paris, exactly one month to the day since France celebrated its first gay marriage. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
      • AFP via Getty Images
        Youngsters hold a rainbow flag, a symbol for the homosexuals, as they march on the street during their anti-discrimination parade in Changsha, central China's Hunan province on May 17, 2013. About one hundred persons gathered to the anti-discrimination parade on the International Day Against Homophobia, appealing for understanding to homosexuals from the mass people. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
      • Jasper Juinen via Getty Images
        AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 02: Revelers on a boat parade the Prinsengracht canal participating in the Amsterdam Canal Parade during Amsterdam Gay Pride on August 2, 2014 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Over 500,000 people from all over the world attend the yearly Gay Pride and the Canal Parade where 79 boats with revelers in fancy comstumes parade the Dutch capital from the Prinsengracht canal to the Amstel river. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
      • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
        JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - SEPTEMBER 18: Participants wear rainbow flag take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade 2014 in Israel on September 18, 2014. Over 500 people attended the gay pride parade in Jerusalem and marched to Independence Park from Gan HaPa'amon (Bell Park). (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
      • STR via Getty Images
        Participants pose with a rainbow coloured heart shaped placard during a local annual gay pride parade in Hanoi on August 4, 2013. Some two hundred activists waving rainbow flags and carrying hand-painted banners biked in a colourful convoy through central Hanoi on Agusut 4 as part of the communist country's second gay pride parade. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
      • YASUYOSHI CHIBA via Getty Images
        Revellers march with a giant rainbow flag during the annual Gay Pride Parade at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
      • Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno via Getty Images
        MADRID, SPAIN - JULY 06: Two gay men calling for freedom kiss during the Madrid Gay Pride Parade 2013 on July 6, 2013 in Madrid, Spain. According to a new Pew Research Center survey about homosexual acceptance around the world, Spain tops gay-friendly countries with an 88 percent acceptance rate. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo/Getty Images)
      • Tristan Savatier via Getty Images
        Woman waving a 'Born this Way' rainbow flag over the dancing crowd in front of the San Francisco Federal Building, at the Gay Pride Festival.
      • FILIPPO MONTEFORTE via Getty Images
        Rome, ITALY: Demonstrators pass the Colosseum during the gay pride parade in Rome 09 July 2005. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
      • Alberto Buzzola via Getty Images
        TAIPEI, TAIWAN - 2012/10/27: Dressed in fancy costumes reminiscent of ancient China, participants at the Taipei Gay Pride Parade celebrate in harmony and fun. (Photo by Alberto Buzzola/LightRocket via Getty Images)
      • NORBERTO DUARTE via Getty Images
        A gay couple kisses during a parade demanding equal rights for the LGBT community, on September 27, 2014 in Asuncion. AFP PHOTO Norberto Duarte (Photo credit should read NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
      • ADALBERTO ROQUE via Getty Images
        Locals take part in a gay parade, on May 9, 2015, in Havana. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
      • Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
        NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 30: Indian members and supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Community hold placards and dances during a Gay Pride Parade, on November 30, 2014 in New Delhi, India. Nearly a thousand gay rights activists marched to demand an end to discrimination against gays in India's deeply conservative society. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
      • Brendon Thorne via Getty Images
        SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 01: Parade goers march during the 2014 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on March 1, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Mardi Gras parade began in 1978 as a march and commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots of New York. It is an annual event promoting awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues and themes. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
      Suggest a correction