Coming out is not easy. Coming out also never fully ends. I should know, I’ve come out 3 times now!
It took me a long time to realise my identity, to accept myself, and to tell those around me who I truly am. My freshman year of high school, 2009, I started questioning my sexuality. Though I dated boys, I noticed I was also attracted to girls.
In 2010, I went on a date with this girl I’d had my eye on for a while. I thought she was cute and edgy and I was nervous about my first date with a girl. We went to the local county fair; I bought her a snow cone and we walked around looking at all the animals.
At the end of the night, she told me she just wasn’t into me like that. When I got home, I was of course upset. My parents could tell and they kept asking me if I was okay. I continually said I was fine since they didn’t know I was even attracted to girls.
That night, we had a small fire in our backyard. My brother and sister had long gone to bed and my dad followed not long after. It was just my mom and me sitting at the fire as the night grew old, and I was trying to work up the courage to tell her my secret.
“mom, I like girls”
It wasn’t until about 1 am, as we were heading to bed that I blurted out “mom, I like girls. I’m going to bed — night, love you!” Of course, my mom didn’t just let me off the hook. So we talked and I explained what had happened earlier in the day. She told me to stay focused on school and not worry about dating or who I’m attracted to. So, for the most part, I did.
Over the next few years, I continued struggling with my identity but knew I was attracted to girls. The week before I was set to have my senior pictures taken I came home with very little hair styled in a faux hawk. I loved it. My mom? Not so much.
We found a feminine way to style it for my photos and my mom was happy. That was the first time I’d really altered my appearance to be more masculine even though I’d always been a tomboy.
“They did not take it well and did not accept our relationship”
It was 2012 when I first cut my hair, and that was also the year I met and started dating my wife. After about 6 months together, I knew this relationship was serious and I needed to tell my parents. So, I did. They did not take it well and did not accept our relationship.
After a year or so, my parents agreed to meet my wife and, of course, ended up loving her. Now, the ongoing joke is that Natalie is invited to my family’s events and I’m her tag along.
About 2 years into our relationship I realised I was transgender. I had found a transgender community on Tumblr and started exploring my gender. When I told my wife, Natalie, that I thought I was a boy, she simply said: “I know.” I found so much comfort and relief in that response. I slowly started asking professors and friends to refer to me as “AJ” because it was more gender neutral and felt more comfortable to me.
In 2015, I decided I wanted to change my name to Drew. It took a while to decide on a name, but once I said “what about Drew” to my wife, it just felt right. A little while after deciding on my new name, I emailed my parents and siblings to reveal my true identity.
My brother’s response was simply that he always felt like I was his brother anyway, and my dad texted me saying he loved me. Besides that, we didn’t really talk about it again for roughly a year.
In February 2016, I asked my parents to come over to my house so I could talk to them. That night I let them know that I’d be starting hormone replacement therapy the next day. We talked about what changes to expect, what this all means for the future, etc. At this point, my parents weren’t 100% on board with my transition.
Roughly a year later in 2017, they started changing my pronouns and name in certain situations. If we were around my friends, they’d use Drew and ‘he’ pronouns, but if we were just at their house, they’d use my birth name and ‘she’ pronouns.
“I understood my parents also needed time to adjust”
Even though a lot of people in my position would not be ok with this, I was. I understood my parents also needed time to adjust, to accept me as their son when they’d been raising a daughter for 20 years.
Today, my parents pretty exclusively use Drew and ‘he’ pronouns. I don’t blame them for needing time to come around. I’m not mad at them for not immediately accepting my identity. They continued to love me and support me in that they remained in my life, gave me a home to come to no matter what, and listened even when they didn’t understand.
I may have had to come out 3 times in my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m thankful to have the support of my wife, my family, my in-laws, and so many others. At times it was hard, but it’s been so worth it. It’s said very often, but it truly does get better.
“You do not have to come out if you are not safe and supported”
It’s important to also note that you do not have to come out if you are not safe and supported enough to do so! It will never feel like the right time, so feeling a little uncomfortable (or a lot uncomfortable) is expected. But if coming out will result in you losing a roof over your head, food on your plate, etc. then it’s ok to decide to wait a little longer to come out.
With that, happy Coming Out Day to those of us that have as well as those that haven’t! If you need help coming out or just someone to talk to, my Instagram DM’s are always open.
Edited by Ash O'Keeffe