To celebrate National Coming Out Day, we asked our readers to submit their short pieces, poems, and illustrations inspired by their coming out story. These stories will allow you to get a glimpse into a small part of the wide range of possible outcomes the LGBTQIA+ community experiences in regards to coming out. Thank you to all who have submitted their work, and thank you to all reading them.

Victor

‘so we are out of the closet, but into what?’

Judith Butler

What defines a successful coming out story? In reality there are only two possible outcomes: acceptance or refutation. Although there are endless variations of possible reactions, they either fall into one of these two categories. In both instances your being is shaped by your surroundings.  

My own ‘coming out-story’, if one can even call it that, was overall a happy one. Happy because my family did not disown me and I did not suffer any physical violence. For this I am grateful, but I’m equally enraged because it makes me feel that way.  

Coming out bares the promise of new beginnings. But in life no events are ever endpoints. After every milestone in my life I have waited in vain for the curtain to fall and the closing credits to roll. 

To any young queer person reading this I wish I could offer reassurance. But even in my happiest moment the shame, self-loathing and constant sense of disorientation never cease to linger.   

By no means do I want to challenge the importance of a politics of openness. However, I do think the very notion of the closet ought to be reconsidered. Or rather the act of coming out. For as Judith Butler reminds us, it is a bit like Kafka’s door; it bares the promise of freedom that in the end never arrives.

pink.  by Demetria Dawn

she is pink–,
in every shade and every sense
every tone and every trademark
of the colour.

with rosy-tinged 
cheeks. and
rouge-tinted lips,
she tastes of
bubblegum and peach
schnapps.

she’s sucker punch kisses
and smeared lipstick 
stains. fuchsia streaked
highlights, on her coral 
dyed hair.

she’s heart-shaped
bruises and nimble 
fingertips. 
rosewood coloured 
birthmarks across her
forearms.

she feels like pink skies
on a hazy afternoon.
cotton candy clouds
in cherry blossom springs.

she’s saccharine smiles
and watermelon
summers, pink lemonade
charms
both sweet and sour.

(pink has always been
one of my favourite colours).

pink by Demetria Dawn

Florie

My journey to coming out as bisexual was a drawn-out but somewhat undramatic one. As far as my own thoughts were concerned, I was sailing a choppy sea of internalised homophobia and infighting with my femininity. On the outside however, my friends and peers mostly faced the age-old, ‘I’m just open minded’, comment and thought no more about it.

It wasn’t until it dawned on me that my sexuality was truly no one else’s business that I—ironically—became more open in my language.

Rather than feel the need to justify that ‘my feelings are fluid’ or ‘oh, I’m mostly straight, like 70/30’, I could simply state that I was bisexual or queer and leave it at that. My strange fear that straight men might be scared off was wholly replaced by the realisation that those that minded weren’t worth my time. 

When I started dating my first girlfriend I was shocked by the sheer lack of reaction. I had built up this moment in my head as a major revelation that would be met with questions, judgement or even ostracism. But for the most part, I faced warmth and love and support and curiosity. At worst, it was the surprise that, me, an apparently boy-mad, straight-passing femme, was suddenly head over heels in love with a girl and buying her first strap on. 

My favourite thing about coming out was how underwhelming it was. Living more openly and loving who you want to is entirely your prerogative, and everyone around you can either get on board or get over it.

LD

We sat in the dark
the bonfire illuminating the lines
of your lovely, kind face.

We stared at it
or I did;
pretending to watch the flames
instead of your smile.

You and I, we were the same,
I thought as I sang along the campfire song.
Yet, we weren’t;
You were a star.

I wanted to be brave
and
do what, exactly?

I didn’t have the words yet, 
a name for the bird
trying to claw out my chest.

Three poems by Liz Chadwick Pywell

Coming out (again)

On the sofa she curves over herself, sips wine,
says, I don’t know how to tell him, how to say 
it’s over. I joke (not really), You could just 
do what I did, tell your partner you’re gay
and laugh into my glass (in case she thinks 
it’s laughable), but before I’ve looked up she has 
leapt across cushions, has my head in her hands,
is half on top of me, laughing (not at me,
not at me). My face in her shaking armpit, I inhale 
mouthfuls of green jumper, wet and salty.
She holds me a long, contagiously delighted 
moment and I sink into wool and warmth,
joy uninterrupted by pity. I have never breathed 
like this before, and she smells like New Year’s Day.

Mother

I have brought you here because
you are less likely to scream
in public, stubbing that instinct
in the ashtray soil, growing cigarettes, 
their dark yellow stubs artlessly
arranged like petals, or gritted teeth.

There is everything to say so  
I stare at the tonic bubbles and
shut. the. fuck. up. until my voice
trembles, queers the sword-streams 
from adjacent sunburned tables,
unnaturally pithy and high.

I will remember this moment.
How your knuckles looked like claws
for a second, how rigor mortis set in
until the blather of the beer garden
brought you back to life, how you
gurned through fag ends.

Gagged

Silent for thirty five years, the crimson tied at the nape 
of my neck meant no safe space. If self-censorship was a lie

then so was this rag and the smell of gasoline
but see, there are men holding canisters, wielding

matches. You call it omission and pretend it wounds but 
show me how fake gashes hurt like spit in your face, a punched lip.

For years I have watched my ghostly sisters beaten, fear pulling
my knotted hair as I strained against the fabric, until, finally, it

split. Forgive me my unpracticed voice, I am hoarse, 
trying to speak through this loose, red slash at my throat.

Listen. This is the truth.
This is the truth.

Photo taken at the Budapest Pride 2019, by Luca Dudits

Gaby

For years, I thought that I didn’t want to label myself as bisexual because my sexuality didn’t have to define me, but at the time, I also didn’t realize that a part of me was also repressing my attraction to girls. I often had an uncomfortable feeling that I was going to disappoint some people if I were to have a same sex relationship. I recently realized that I actually was scared to be proud of my bisexuality.

I have always been surrounded by LGBT+ communities, especially when I lived in London, as most of my friends are part of them, so all questions surrounding sexuality were never foreign to me. However, I often felt like I didn’t fit because of how intrusive my thoughts were.

At 22, even though I still haven’t been on a date with a girl, I finally told my friends and my parents that I am bisexual, and since then, I stopped feeling this way.

After spending a long time self-reflecting, I decided that yes, putting a label on my sexuality is necessary to show that I am now proud to be bi. I am still so sad that I ever felt that discomfort, but talking about my sexuality around me and telling everyone that yes, I like girls too, lifted a weight off my shoulders.

Then, I realized that many people need to hear others are part of the LGBT+ communities so they can also be proud and not feel uncomfortable because of the way they have been raised or educated. That’s why I think my coming out was so important.

Photo taken at the Budapest Pride 2019, by Luca Dudits

Brave by Jasmine Hurford

with throat sun-baked,
i dust mace and malt
to preserve
us,
fruitlessly.

you leave 
me ribboned,

bearing
reticence.

still, we

circle back
to one another

in sagar
fearful and 
woefully made

trade tongues 
under orange globes 
hide from

ourselves. it’s
the performance

of a lifetime; 
i only speak words
assigned unless

clasped in
you. our hands 
hum flesh

the sky
crepitates
flame as

you burn
for your 
father’s
gold 

in the long run
everything but
us will shift;

still, we’ll
perform.

i tell you
this

with throat sun-baked,

i choose to
be brave. 

A journal entry by Viridiana Crespo

Main illustration by Ugné Petreikyte: “The world needs to see your light, the warmth that you can bring to it. You are worthy of love, of having a fulfilling life. Therefore, make sure to make your authentic self visible. “