OutPower

On Coming Out – Madelyn Eatley

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

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I have a complicated relationship with National Coming Out Day and more specifically with my own coming out story. This past Monday, my two roommates and myself hosted a potluck of sorts for the “holiday”, bringing out our favorite comfort food dishes, and telling our coming out stories. For all of us, these stories emphasized the anxieties and fears we felt when revealing one of the most personal details of ourselves to the rest of the world. Luckily for me, my coming out did not prompt packing a bag or losing my family, but that does not mean it was easy.

A lot of folks talk about knowing that they were queer since they were kids, but I do not remember truly questioning my sexuality (and not immediately repressing it) until I was leaving high school and entering college. Looking back, I crack jokes with friends about “the vibes” I gave off in high school and reasons I should have known, but “coming out” has been an ongoing journey over the past few years as I begin to understand myself and the community I am a part of more. I grew up with a relatively religious family, and although it was not something we talked about at home, I distinctly remember walking out of church service my junior year after they spouted how the only “real” relationships were those between a man and a woman. I watched as family members made underhanded comments online, and as I came into my identity, I felt as though I could not reveal that side of myself to them without changing the way they felt about me.

Coming out stories from both my friends and the media often show a slightly dramatic conversation with your family, hopefully ending with acceptance and promises of love. My story included telling a few of my closest friends and then watching as I was outed to people I had never met, or people who were openly and aggressively homophobic. It involved being told I “could not hide it anymore” when I decided to keep cutting my hair short, but also feeling closer to who I was and the people I wanted to be around. When I was deciding to come out to the rest of the world, I knew I did not want to leave myself open to awkward conversations with family, or the possibility of more hurtful comments, so instead I just did not. I made a post online celebrating pride month and left it at that. My identity was, and is, mine to understand, and although I am surely not hiding it, I do not think I should have to label myself to every person I meet, regardless of our relationship. There will always be those who choose to not understand, but my identity will never be something I am ashamed of.

Coming out is complicated, and coming out on Capitol Hill to the rest of my office, and to others I meet while networking, has not made it any less so. Being out on Capitol Hill has given me amazing opportunities to help draft new letters for my Congresswoman’s office, go to amazing shows at local queer spaces, and be apart of a community in the field I am passionate about that I have never found at home. But its also meant sometimes being the only one in a room of staffers who has personal experience with how policies affect me and my community, and learning to be confident enough to speak up about my knowledge and experiences.

As Congressional offices go about drafting and posting their messages on National Coming Out Day, I think it is a nice reminder that everyone’s coming out journey will be different, and everyone discovers themselves and their identity at different times in life. There is no timeline on identifying as LGBTQ, and there is also no requirement for coming out in the first place. No matter where you are in your journey, your story is yours, and it is important. We are here waiting for you with open arms. Happy National Coming Out Day!