From Staying In to Coming Out
By: Karlee Hehemann, Universal Standard Copywriter
For all of Pride Month, Universal Standard will take time to celebrate all LGBTQ+ people by uplifting the voices of this community as they share their stories from a monumental year. Read their stories here.
“For all intents and purposes, I now identify as a lesbian.”
On March 6, 2020, I sent this message to my closest friends and family. That carefully curated text was drafted in my mind, typed out, erased, and rewritten for over a year. Finally, it became my second coming out since identifying as bisexual for four years prior. This was a very personal, life-altering moment within my small world, right before the collective world saw a monumental shift. One week later, the United States would declare a national emergency and more than a year of self-isolating began. So yes, the entirety of my lesbian existence has been within the limits of quarantine.
Coming out is never a singular, linear process. Understanding this is key to celebrating the LGBTQ+ experience. Sometimes there’s a major proclamation moment, like my carefully curated text, but what is often misunderstood is that coming out doesn’t end there. I come out all the time… whenever I refer to my partner as my girlfriend for the first time, or when strangers assume we’re just friends that hold hands. Most awkward of all, when a photographer once assumed my girlfriend was my mother, then my sister, then my friend, then finally, understood that she’s my partner. An experience that has somehow happened twice now… and one that we still cannot wrap our minds around with me being 26 years old and her just 33.
Of course, sharing your identity is never owed to anyone, and is always a very personal decision. Add a global pandemic to the mix and things get pretty, well, introspective. Excessive time alone tends to bring up a lot of questions about presentation, aspirations, boundaries, and basically any other in-depth personal truth that can be easily avoided when not spending every day in solitude. No, I’m not talking about determining how many houseplants are the appropriate amount. Although, the answer is obviously that you can never have enough.
For me, quarantine has been a time spent defining what I want for my life. Without the constant noise around me from others’ opinions, I let myself dream again. I dreamt up a world in which I could present myself exactly as I wanted. Among unaccepting loved ones, homophobic strangers, and the projections of others, this exploration was something entirely new for me. Finally, the only opinion that mattered was my own. To my surprise, I fell in love. For the first time in my life, falling in love felt like it belonged to me. Long hours spent on late-night phone calls turned into shared playlists, turned into extended visits, turned into renting a U-Haul, and you can guess the rest…
This is just my story. But, as every LGBTQ+ person will know, one experience is not reflective of all. Every queer in quarantine experience is unique and full of various fears to be heard and victories to be celebrated. LGBTQ+ joy is raw in its beauty and it deserves a space to be witnessed, especially as we collectively transition out of quarantine. It’s important to acknowledge that this time in solitude has been much more than just “staying in.” For many people, it has also been a moment of coming out for the first time, coming out to new people, or maybe even coming out again (like me). The reality? Coming out is complex in its challenges as well as its triumphs.
So for Pride Month, Universal Standard will amplify the voices of eleven people within the LGBTQ+ community. In this space, we hope everyone can be heard in their fears, honored for their self-discoveries, celebrated for their victories, and to know that who they are is completely valid and deserving of acceptance… in and out of quarantine.
Read their stories here :