On 11 October it’s Coming Out Day. We celebrate this day because everyone should be accepted and valued for who they are. In honour of that, we’re introducing you to some of our UvA community in this portrait series, where students share about their sexual and gender identity.
When I was about 13, I started questioning myself for the first time. I noticed that all my friends were talking about girls, and I just.. didn’t notice them? Whenever a pretty girl would walk by and my friends would comment on her, I often wouldn’t have even noticed her. This started a four and a half year journey of self-discovery, exploration and many labels, ranging from asexual to genderqueer and everything in between, until I settled on being gay and that being good. I actually came out on Facebook by accident, after I had told my parents first. On vacation, I wrote a concept version of my coming out post, but couldn’t post it as I had no data. The next day I was out for lunch, and it appeared that Facebook posted the post when I connected to wifi. Out of nowhere, I received many messages congratulating me on coming out. Well, that was quite a surprise! Nowadays, I’m an out gay man, and I hope that coming outs will one day no longer be necessary. I’ve reached a point where I no longer do coming outs, but people will hear I like guys if I mention I’m attracted to them; hopefully someday this will be our new norm.
This year, I’ve accepted that I don’t feel sexual attraction in a sexualized society. In the past, it has been so confusing to not relate with my friends on what seemed like such a vital topic, that finding the word ‘asexual’ and the community felt like a big relief. I learned that when I thought I had crushes, I was actually experiencing a strong aesthetic attraction and need to connect emotionally.
When I told my sister and niece about my asexuality, they were so understanding and validated my feelings. I consider myself lucky to be around people with energies comfortable enough to allow me to discover this in myself and put other past experiences in perspective. I found podcasts and books and YouTube videos that helped me feel seen and included. I am asexual and I am proud!
My came out story goes back to the age of 17. When I came out to my mom, she was shocked, started crying and tried to figure out if she might have done something wrong. It was very hard and unnecessary to see her go through so much emotional distress for no reason. However, I understand that some people have grown up differently and maybe they need a bit more time to process something that does not conform to the social norms they are aware of. After lots of honest and open discussions she came in terms with the fact that basically nothing has changed; I was still the same person with the same dreams and ambitions. What I would say to people who are still a bit concerned about such issues is to let go and embrace yourself. This not only relates to your sexuality, but for everything that differs you from the crowd. There is nothing more fulfilling than being honest with yourself and others. If you’re happy with yourself, the others will follow.
I grew up in a small village in the northern part of Italy where the "closed-mind" people are the majority. So until the age of 21, I kept my identity hidden and repressed. I met a guy, which I was secretly dating, and he made me see that I needed to release the weight that I was carrying on my shoulders for years. I decided to tell my friends about my sexuality. They were completely okay with it. Every time we ended up crying and laughing together for a problem that does not exist in reality. We are who we are.
Once I came out to my friends, I was left to face the hardest part: coming out to my family. After a romantic holiday in France, I decided I didn’t want to lie to them anymore. As soon as I got back, I told them the truth. To this day, I still remember their shocked faces. It was difficult for them to accept that I was gay but after a few weeks everything was normal. I think the biggest fear for a parent is how society can still be tough about something they don't know. But always remember that parents love unconditionally.
I was born and raised in Russia, which is not a particularly tolerant environment. Even now in my home country people can be persecuted, tortured and killed for their sexuality, or simply because of how they dress and behave. In a regime like that you usually can't be completely open about who you are, because there are no role models for queer kids to look up to, and the stereotypes of gay people are mocked and negatively characterized in the media. When I was around 12-13 years old, I realized I can like both girls and boys, and that might be OK. This happened largely thanks to the supportive internet community where people can express themselves freely. I decided to tell my mom that I might like girls too. Even though she wasn't homophobic, she didn't quite understand me. She thought that in general, being LGBTQ+ was fine, but it just wasn't her daughter. In retrospect, I can say that it really wasn't a talked-about subject in our community, so she probably saw it as a way of keeping me safe. After that, I didn't speak to her about my sexuality for years. Last year, when I was 20, I finally found the courage to ask her if she would be okay if I hypothetically wanted to marry a woman. She responded that she would be okay with my partner as long as I am happy. I feel like that was a huge step because it was important for me that the most precious person in my life understood me. Unfortunately, my coming-out process is still stuck halfway because I know that my father or my grandparents would not accept me if I came out to them.
My coming out story was - looking at other experiences - luckily quite a smooth one. I think for me the hardest person to come out to might have been myself. Going to a predominately Christian high school growing up, I remember asking my religion teacher if being gay was really a sin according to the Bible. Though I knew at the time my family, friends and even school would be completely okay with it, I feel like getting the words out of your mouth will always be a nerve wrecking moment for most people.
Since multiple family members are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out to my family seemed less scary to start with. Eventually when I did tell my friends (or text… since a face to face moment was still too intimidating for the 16 year old me) I couldn’t have gotten a better reaction. Luckily they were all super supportive. Coming to uni helped me gain more queer friends to share stories, advice and experiences which has been really nice!