"I just came out at the age of 30. I had no lesbian role models growing up, and only heard people talking about men identifying as queer. I was 21 before I realized I 'must' be bi because I'd dated men but also liked women, but the idea of telling people terrified me. So, I just tried to make it work with men. Jump forward to 29 and I realized I'm DEFINITELY a lesbian. I started dating my current girlfriend and decided it was finally time to tell my family and friends.
I first told my brother as a good litmus test for how my mom would react. My mom just looked at me and said: 'I'm honestly not that surprised,' and immediately made plans to meet my girlfriend. My mom is so happy for me, and proudly shows off our pictures to anyone who will look at them!"
"I always knew I was queer, but based on how I was raised, I also knew I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be this way. I first came out to my boyfriend in college as bi, and he accepted me for who I was. We eventually got married and had two amazing kids, and then at 30, we got divorced. I spent time trying to find myself because I couldn’t hide who I was anymore. I secretly dated women before, so I started dating women again. Eventually, I met Kelly, and we fell in love — the kind of love that felt right, and the kind I didn’t want to keep a secret. So, at 31, I came out to my whole family and all my friends. Everyone in my life has been so supportive, except for my parents. They need time, but they are getting there. Life is short. Love who you are."
"I've known I was transgender since I was 16 years old, but I spent 20 years running away from who I really was. I thought I 'cured' myself when my son was born, but shortly after I finished my master's in 2017, it became clear to me I was transgender.
Telling my wife was one of the hardest things I've ever done, and when she responded with, 'I'm not attracted to women,' I thought we were done. That was two years ago, and I'm happy to say this month we'll be celebrating our six-year anniversary. I work at a middle school with about 30 kids, and when I came out to my fellow staff and my students, they were AWESOME about the whole thing. In January, I started to publicly transition, and I haven't looked back since."
"I grew up going to church and very much internalized the idea that being queer was a sin. I knew I was queer, but I was so afraid of losing my family, friends, and whole world — so I remained closeted. After a lot of soul searching, reading queer theology, and going to therapy (yay for therapy!), I came out to my friends first and then my family when I was 31. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, but when I finally told them, my dad said: 'I love you more today than I have ever loved you before.' I don't regret coming out later in life. We're all on our own journeys, and I'm grateful for being queer because it made me brave."
"I was raised in a very conservative home and got married way too young because it was expected of me. I was always secretly attracted to women, but it never occurred to me it was possible to be in a relationship with one. I spent a decade in an extremely toxic marriage, as I repressed my sexuality and tried to fit into a socially acceptable 'feminine' role.
I finally came out as queer at 30, and at the time I didn't know if I was being brave, but I did know hiding my identity was slowly killing me. It was terrifying and it turned my life upside down, but it was worth it. I was able to start rebuilding my life on my own terms — I got out of my miserable marriage, I chopped off all my hair like I'd never been 'allowed' to, and I started to dismantle the internalized homophobia I'd carried around my whole life.
Some of the awful things people did and said to me when I came out will stick with me forever, but I figured out who my real support system was. I'm now engaged to an amazing woman who is also a wonderful co-parent to my 4-year-old kiddo. We're building our dream life together, day by day."
"I went back to school in my twenties and within a year of working on achieving my dream, I started to understand myself more and realized I was transgender. I didn't want to transition at first because I felt like I was too old, and I'd be disrupting everyone's lives — so I just kept it a secret. By the time my final year of school started, I couldn't handle it anymore. I felt so uncomfortable living as that person because it didn't reflect who I was.
First I came out to my family that fall, and then to some friends at the school's Pride Center who were helping me transition. I came out publicly on New Year's Eve that year so I could start the new year as the 'new me.' I now teach at the same school, having done queer research for my master's degree — I'm currently working on queer research for my PhD – and I sit on my city's pride committee."
"I was raised in Tennessee by a family of Republicans and Christians. After years of confusion, depression, and wondering why I could never just be happy in my seven-year marriage, I met a woman and was just blown away by her. I had several failed attempts at a lesbian relationship while married (my husband, for nefarious reasons I didn't clearly understand until the divorce, always pushed me to 'indulge in that side' of myself), and was terrified of the way this woman made me feel.
Soon afterward, I divorced my husband. Now, three years later, that same woman and I are engaged and buying a house. My family does not approve of me being a lesbian. I've been told that I'm going to hell, but the real hell is pretending to be who you're not to make other people comfortable. I'm still a Christian and have a relationship with God, and I'm happier than I ever thought I could be."
"I came out as a lesbian about seven years ago after being married to a man and having a beautiful daughter. I was 33 at the time, and had suppressed my sexuality for years. My ex-husband was OK with me experimenting with women during our marriage, as long as I promised nothing would change between us. I promised, not realizing something like that was actually impossible. I should've known my life would never be the same after I met a woman, and held her hand while we walked down the street. I couldn't stop thinking about that touch — my world just opened up. She didn't end up being 'the one,' but the first. A few months went by and I began to change — I found a therapist, and I eventually met my wife. We will be celebrating our fifth anniversary soon."
"I'm 38 years old and I have been coming out my whole life. I think for some of us, as we grow, we learn we're not who we were before, or maybe we have learned to express ourselves better. I came out as bisexual in my teens, pansexual in my twenties, and queer in my thirties. My gender and sexual identity is complicated — who I feel I am and who I love is not black, white, or gray. Saying I identify as queer encompasses it all, and I don't have to deal with the invasive questions that come along with being bi and pansexual. As a person who is almost 40, having to explain to my family I'm queer is coming out all over again."
"I knew I was gay when I was 12, but there were no lesbians I could look up to at the time. I didn't realize I was 'allowed' to be a lesbian. I came out as bi in college because I felt like I couldn't keep denying that part of myself anymore, but being bi sounded 'safer' than being a lesbian. I was so consumed with internalized homophobia, and I was terrified of actually admitting I was gay. I dated a string of horrible men, and I told myself the relationships didn't work because those men were bad for me — not because I didn't like men.
I finally came out a year and a half into a relationship with an amazing man because I grimaced whenever we were intimate. I came out to him on New Year's Eve, we broke up, but are still best friends to this day. My parents and friends supported me, and I've been out for almost four years now — I couldn't be happier!"
"I worked for a church that believed being queer was *not* the sin most religions made it out to be. One Saturday night at a church event, someone assumed I was queer, and when I returned home later, I realized if I said it out loud it'd be true. I came out by writing a post on Facebook, and I got a text from my sister after midnight asking if I was queer. The next morning I went to work at church and felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I began to be my authentic self, and I haven’t looked back since."
"I came out at 39 because after two attempts and a decade of drug and alcohol abuse, I knew I didn't want to hit 40 without coming out of the closet. Halloween 2011, I went out dressed as a woman for the first time to a West Hollywood Halloween party. I came out to myself the next day, started therapy in January, and three months later I came out on Facebook to everyone.
In my Facebook post, I wrote: 'I know I've tried to tell everybody individually, to try and answer all the questions you have, but it's actually time I made it official. I'm transgender, and I'm transitioning to be a woman. Thanks to those of you who have been so awesome — I thought I'd have to be on this journey all by myself. You guys made me cry when you didn't just want to support me, but you wanted to come along for the ride. Thank you. That means more to me than you know.'"
"I had crushes on girls in school, but I never dated them. When I was in my thirties, a friend of mine had a younger brother who used to hang out with us from time to time. He identified as asexual, and I asked him what that was — after he explained everything to me, something clicked inside. My problem wasn’t dudes being disinterested in me — I just wasn’t interested in relationships. I’m still very much in the closet with most of my family and friends, but I came out to my boss, and she’s been so sweet and supportive. I plan on coming out eventually, in my own time."
"I always felt weird being a girl, and every time I brought it up in my childhood in the '70s, I was told it was just a phase. As a result, I became a shy and awkward woman. Years later, when I was 43, my boyfriend at the time identified as bisexual, and asked me one day if I identified as something other than straight. It became clear I'm bi-gender with a dominant male side, after over 40 years of living a life I never felt like myself in. I'll be eternally grateful I had him in my life because he showed me who I really am when nobody else did. I'm 51 now, and I'm finally learning how to be myself."
"As a teen, I had many sexual encounters with other boys, but I was also very attracted to girls. I was told having sex was not supposed to happen until marriage, according to the conservative Christian faith I grew up in. No one mentioned sex with boys until I was in my teens, and the conversations about it were all negative. I felt like I had to suppress that part of myself to be a good Christian, but also felt compelled to pursue females only. I found myself going to gay bars while being in situations with men that were more than a little sexual without going all the way. I married a woman who knew this about me and helped me explore my sexuality, and I realized at 30 I'm bi. I recently came out to my parents as a non-Christian, Democratic, bisexual woman all at the same time, and they took it surprisingly well."
"I was the youngest of three siblings to come out as queer. My older brother came out at 16, my younger brother came out at 27, and I came out at 31. I met a girl in 2015 who drop-kicked me out of the closet. Before her, I had a subconscious premonition I wasn't straight, so after meeting her, I could no longer ignore it.
I spent the following four years identifying as pansexual, then fluid, then bi, back to fluid, and finally a lesbian. At 30 I was living my best openly queer life with one exception: my parents still didn't know. As 2020 approached, my brothers and I had a running joke I should just text them: 'Happy New Year from your super gay daughter!' as a way to 'rip the band-aid off,' but I was too nervous. I asked my older brother to do it for me, and on January 1, I was officially out to everyone and I finally felt free."
"I came out as bisexual as a 35-year-old woman who'd been married to a man for 10 years. It was never a secret — it just never came up. I ended up telling the world because it pissed me off certain people in my life would leave if I fell in love with a woman. The fact that my acceptance was based on my marriage to a man was in no way acceptable. Love is love, and no one should have to face bigotry and hatred because of their sexuality."
Note: submissions have been edited for length/clarity.