Coming Out? I Didn’t Read About That in the Gay Agenda

Words & Art by Alyssa Rodrigo | @alyrodrigo

I came out to my family on a mid-September afternoon. It was a Sunday, and I had spent most of it in bed scrolling through social media. There were no grand plans for the afternoon — it was just another day. Over the past few months, there had been a rumour floating around our church that I was gay, and on this particular Sunday my mum caught wind of it. She texted me after a service I had intentionally missed, asking to “have a talk”. Historically speaking, whenever my mum texts me asking to talk it’s almost always going to be uncomfortable.

Later that day she came into my room to find me still in bed with the sheets pulled up to just below my eyes. “Is there anything that you want to tell me?”

I dodged her question, beat around the bush, was evasive as possible. I didn’t tell her. Shortly after she left my room, I put on my sneakers to go for a run. I ended up sitting on a slide in some small playground, crying. After about half an hour, I jogged home, walked into my mum’s room, and came out to her.

I could recount every tiny detail about that day. The way the sun set, the couple that walked by the playground with their pram. The way my mum sighed in disappointment, and how my brother shifted uncomfortably in his car seat when I told him an hour later. I remember everything about it because I hated every second of it: The autonomy I wasn’t afforded, and the conversation I wasn’t ready to have.

After the entire ordeal, I thought that was all I had to do, that I had paid my penance as a gay person. It turns out coming out to friends and family is just one step out of a process I am nowhere near finishing.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to come out to someone, I’d be writing this from a penthouse in Newtown; the kind that hangs a rainbow flag from the balcony. What Ellen DeGeneres failed to tell me is that coming out isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s a long and arduous process. People will tell you how they come out to their mother and cousin, but not about how they came out to the lady in the local Woolworths who thinks it’s sweet you’re holding hands with your “sister”. I don’t have a sister. I’m gay.

After a while, you learn to grit your teeth when people assume you have a boyfriend, or say you’re too pretty to be gay. Being gay taught me when I should lie and tell a boy I have a boyfriend, and when I should tell him the truth. Because the truth is something that people are still not completely used to. To accept this truth would be to begin dismantling a culture of heteronormativity, and to prioritise the validity and existence of LGBTQIAP+ people over the privilege of comfortability and tradition.

I’d like to hope in years to come, having a thick skin would no longer be a necessity for LGBTQIAP+ identifying people. That microagressions, however small and seemingly inconspicuous would dissolve into a culture which is — finally — ready to accept queerness in its entirety, with open arms, rather than apprehension and misunderstanding. But until then, I will continue to remind myself that my gayness — however exhausting in a society and home which is yet to be fully accepting — is simply a symptom of my capacity to love and be loved in return.