What It’s Like To Come Out As Queer In A Pandemic

two women facing each other with string lights
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I’m a cisgender woman and I’m in my early thirties. I was in the closet for 18 years. Then COVID-19 happened and I was forced to come out to my straight as an arrow family. Well, not to all of them; only those who didn’t use the word bugger all the time. (I don’t care if it’s a British thing, it’s offensive. And yes, I’m British.)

I was about eleven when I realized I was not like the others in my all-girls school. They were crushing hard on guys, with some pseudo experimenting mainly to attract guys. In contrast, I was having genuinely strong feelings for everyone. I hoped it was just a passing phase because the world is homophobic and being queer was a crime until recently. Actually, it is still treated as one even in supposedly progressive countries. We are not the norm and people fear us. Thus, the discrimination and hate against us…

Due to heteronormativity, internalized homophobia, and fear of persecution, I never came out to anyone for 18 years. I wanted to but I couldn’t. And it would have stayed that way if not for COVID.

I’ve pretended to be straight for most of my life and it’s been exhausting. I don’t think it’s wrong to be queer, never did. But the world prefers the straights. So I kept it to myself for years on end. No one suspected I was pansexual…that’s how well I passed as straight. I pretended to be okay with living a lie and hey, I had a lot of time to come out. But then the world changed and became a lot more uncertain. The deadly pandemic (there wasn’t even a vaccine at the time) made me feel like the end of the world was nigh. I thought I would die with an integral part of my identity hidden like a shameful secret. Which it wasn’t, then why was I hiding?

As the pandemic worsened, fear overtook me as no one knew the real me. I thought that if I didn’t find the courage to come out now, I would never be able to come out. Tired of being an imposter, I came out to my mother and sister over a quick group text. Soon, I came out to my friends too. To my relief, most of them accepted me. The ones that didn’t…well, it was for the best to see their receding backs. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I may never have had the courage to come out. It was terrifying but I’m glad I did it. I wasn’t ready then, but I don’t think I will ever be.

I had resigned myself to living a lie for so long, I didn’t think living my truth was ever an option for me. It’s freeing to not have to pretend to be a mere ally of the queer community. I’m an out and proud member now.

I’m finally unlearning internalized homophobia and learning to embrace my queer identity. And yes, I’m finally dating someone who is not of the opposite sex. Of course, only some people know I’m not straight. I might never come out publicly like my role model Demi Lovato. But that’s okay. This is real life and it isn’t perfect. Fame and money allow people to be more authentic, and I have neither so far. Maybe if that changes and people become more accepting of the entire spectrum of sexuality, I may do a whole thing on social media myself.

It’s not necessary to come out to everybody, but at least one person in your life should know the real you.

I hope my story inspires queer folk to be true to themselves. It’s hard, more so if you are surrounded by ignorant, small-minded people. For example, bisexuals are often judged for being greedy and promiscuous. The stigma for being pansexual is infinitely worse. In just a few months, I’ve experienced judgment, stereotyping, and fetishizing on dating apps. Despite all this, I still feel it’s better to be out than pretend to be straight.  And hey, it might even help you stop self-invalidating your sexuality…I can vouch for that. After years of longing, I kissed a girl and I loved it.
But let’s face facts: the pandemic has had a horrible impact on the LGBTQ community. Instead of coming out, people have been forced to go back into the closet. If this is you, and you are living with a queerphobic family, be discreet about your sexuality to protect yourself from physical harm.
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