Come Out, Come Out
A playful and vulnerable creative nonfiction essay by Maia Luem.
Written by Maia Luem
Edited by Kendall Wack and Rose Schacherer
Art by Megan May Walsh and Alex Afolabi
I’ve known I was queer since the ripe age of 12. I spent my eighth-grade year making out with girls and smoking pot deep in the woods. Getting poison ivy and mosquito bites yet loving it all the same.
My first girlfriend was tall and had long blonde hair – my Rapunzel. I remember how my heart would patter in my chest as I felt her warm tongue in my mouth. And my hands scattering nervously up her back, becoming intertwined with that long mess of blonde hair. I remember the fear and the love that comes with your first girlfriend, the first truly visible moment of being queer. Coming out and into yourself. The excitement and adrenaline that follows. The disappointment when it ends.
It was natural, my queerness. It was sort of expected of me. So, I sort of fell into it.
But, my secret, I never came out.
I guess not never – I lied.
I’ve never come out to my parents. Now the ripe age of 21.
I should preface that I am fortunate. My parents would be considered progressive. Whenever discussing crushes and relationships throughout my childhood they always led with some version of “we won’t care if you like boys or girls!”
I know I would be lucky if I ever came out.
But somehow, for some reason, I can’t get myself to do it.
I suppose it started as an anger that I had to come out anyways. Why does it matter? Is it information others deserve to know? Really? I always felt that whoever I want to kiss or fuck or drool over or fall in love with should be between me and them. There’s no need for me to explain my desires and attractions, especially without a person I could point to. To say, “Look! At them! They are my desire, and they are my attraction!”
I rolled this anger over and over in my mind unrelentingly. Soon enough it turned into the “straight people don’t have to come out, why should I!” argument.
My defiance kept me in the closet.
But, I’m not as secretive or sly as I thought. Pretty soon my sisters were getting questions from my parents – “is she a lesbian? Is she dating XXX?”
So, quickly, my staying in the closet turned into a game. I found humor in it – that everyone suspected, didn’t know what to label me, and couldn’t get the courage to ask me myself.
What would you label me? Hmmm? Why do you want to label me? Will it truly, really, honestly offer that much more clarity?
Then my closet turned into rage, dripping red – why do I need a label? By staying inside, I thought I was forcing my people to realize that sexuality is fluid. Not sometimes, not with some people, but always. If I came out as one thing, but later decided I was something else, would I have to come out again? Why do I have to go through it twice? (Ironic, considering I haven’t even gone through it once). Would I have to explain that things change, people change, attractions change? If I didn’t come out, yet everyone knew by some way, I thought I was forcing fluidity without explanation.
Why is it anyone’s goddamn business? Why does anyone care oh so deeply?
I will not lie to you anymore. I get why it’s important. Why it’s difficult. And most of all I get why my situation is so, so, fucking easy. I guess it’s one curse of queerness, tyring to get through and out of your closet.
Dear reader, if you cannot come out, for any reason, I suppose this is your sign that maybe you don’t need to, that maybe you already have.
I suppose that there is no universal way to do it. I suppose that we come out in little ways all the time. Like the wink and smile the librarian gives me when checking out sapphic novels. Or to other anonymous preteens in the Wattpad comments of Larry fanfictions. Scratching it to my journal every day. Whispering it to the trees.
I suppose that we are all queer just the same, whether anyone knows it or not. I suppose the only label that matters are the ones you give yourself. I suppose coming out can be different and the same for everyone.
Most of all I suppose no matter when you do it, if you do it, or how you do it, what matters is what’s waiting for you after – the whole community that is happy about you just being here, the strength that comes from standing in your truth.
My parting secret to reveal: because of you, dear reader, this is my coming out.
Art Credit: Alex Afolabi
Maia Luem is a journalist who recently graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelors in multi-media journalism and a minor in religious studies. In addition to journalism, Maia has a deep love for creative non-fiction, poetry and reading every book she can get her hands on.