Blogpost # 13: My Coming Out Story for National Coming Out Day!

Hello everyone! 

Today is a very important day. Today is National Coming Out Day.

Before I tell my story, let's go back in time and review a little history of how Coming Out Day began. 

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an annual civil awareness day observed on October 11th. The date of October 11th was chosen since it was the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (pictured below). 

A photo from the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. 

A photo from the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights. 

More than 750,000 people were in attendance on October 11th, 1987. Posters distributed read "come out, come out, wherever you are!" with the date emblazoned in bold beneath it. 

Founded in 1988, in the feminist and gay liberation spirit of the personal being political, the emphasis is that the most basic form of activism is coming out to family, friends and colleagues, and living life as an openly lesbian or gay person. 

The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, and that once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. The process of coming out involves self-disclosure of one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

My Coming Out Story: 

When I came out, I was 15. I had known my entire life that I was different but had no awareness or way of defining what it meant to be LGBTQ. It wasn't until high school that I finally had a true understanding of what it meant to be a lesbian.

In 1st grade I got in trouble for kissing a red-head girl on the playground. 

In 4th grade I had a crush on my gym teacher. She taught me how to throw from the 3 point line on the basketball court. She played basketball, volleyball, and soccer and wore collared shirts with shorts. I remember thinking that she could do anything. 

In 5th grade I moved from my old house to a new one. That also meant a new school, new life, and boys. Before the move I had been learning & exploring life at an all girls school in Philadelphia. I was happy, I was immersed in an empowering, female led & focused school so the switch to a public school...with boys...was devastating and very, very confusing. 

In 6th and 7th grade I tried my best to pretend I had feelings for a boy and tried to convince others that he had feelings for me, too. No such luck. 

In 8th grade I joined stage crew. Thus I began a long relationship with musicals, theater, and the big rainbow network that is everything & all things Broadway. I was and am forever changed from that one spontaneous choice to put my name down on the list to help strike the set. 

By the winter of 8th grade I had began to experience my first ever crush. It struck me like a bolt of lightning. A few of us were waiting for rehearsal to be over. I watched her sing, practice her scenes onstage with the rest of the cast, and out of nowhere - I felt it. In an instant, it was like a lightswitch had been turned on. I knew instantly that I was attracted to her but had no idea what to do about it or how to define it. Before I could figure it out I was moving again, to another house, and yes, another school. 

In 9th grade, after switching school districts & houses twice, I was beginning to feel a bit worn out. I had only just experienced an attraction to another woman. What was I to do now? Who would I confide in about this new discovery? Who could I trust? 

One of the first friends I made in 9th grade came out to me as bisexual. I was thrilled! She had a boyfriend but she had always liked girls, too. Our friendship was fast and we shared everything on folded notes written in gel pens. We passed notes to each other during our shared classes. Always griping about this exam or that assignment. A few months later we went on a choir trip to Toronto. As part of the trip we visited several museums, historical sites, and a planetarium. She chose to come with me to the planetarium. We held hands inside the planetarium.

That brief moment, as we passed through the dark room, our hands together, our hearts racing, was exhilarating. I remember wishing that the moment could have lasted forever. When we returned from the choir trip I told her about how I had felt holding her hand. That I respected her boyfriend but needed her to know my feelings regardless of whatever may happen. She told me she needed some space and shortly after that she stopped speaking to me. Our friendship faded away by the end of the year. I was heartbroken.

In 10th grade I started dating my first girlfriend. We met at a homecoming football game. She wore a rainbow pin on her jacket which immediately signaled an opportunity for conversation. Within a few days we were spending all our time together. We ended up dating until February of my Senior year -- my first real relationship. The breakup had been on the horizon for a while. Each of our families had been having their own issues - I was trying to choose where to apply for college. We simply grew apart. No one was at fault but it still felt like a huge loss. 

It wasn't until I went off to New York City for college that I really was able to have enough time to sit down with myself and think about who I was becoming. I cut my hair. Not super short at first but just above the shoulders. It was okay but it wasn't perfect. I cut my hair a second, and a third time until I finally had it the way I wanted it. 

With a fresh haircut and the entirety of New York City as my playground to explore, experience, and learn from I let myself get swept away by the energy and the excitement that ultimately made me who I am today. I spent all my time in Central Park. Downtown. Midtown. Uptown. Brooklyn. Outside all the time. Only coming home at night to sleep or shower. I often stayed awake all night to watch the sunrise over the city. It was glorious. I fell in love with the city and with several women during my time there. Each of whom taught me how to love, how to advocate for yourself, and most of all to be passionate about who you are at your core. In a short time I found myself working as a photographer at a lesbian magazine. It jumpstarted my career as a photographer and gave me the most exclusive insights into life, lesbianism, and the city. 

I met my wife in April of 2009. We spent the following months flying back and forth to be with each other. May, June, July, August - all the while we were falling in love. By September, I was moving to San Francisco. I took a huge risk on her and have been here ever since. The risk paid off and we got married in 2012 and then again at SF City Hall in 2013. 

Whenever I think about my coming out story it feels tremendously overwhelming because I simply can't decide how to tell the story in a short, brief way. There are always more stories that I am reminded of, more memories than I can include, and in some ways, it still hurts to think about when I was a young girl and felt so afraid of being myself. 

Today I'm grateful for the vibrant community of queer women & men that are in my life. I'm grateful for their stories, their trust, and their existence. I hope that this video will inspire others to share their story and come out (if they haven't already)! 

Without further ado here's the video I put together today with my wife, Toby: 

With love & gratitude, 

Betsy