Coming Out While Being Locked In
Throughout this pandemic, I haven’t let myself journal, despite having kept one for most of my life. Instead, I’ve spent the time looking over past journals. Only recently have I begun to understand why. Not writing was the only way to allow myself to grow. It sounds counterintuitive for someone like me who has always used writing to express myself, but by revisiting my journals from the past few years, I’ve been able to see myself more clearly.
I had always expected that the first person I’d come out to would be my journal. In reality, coming out had to happen without it. Over the course of the past two months, I’ve realized, or rather finally allowed myself to admit, that I am a lesbian. It’s all very new, and still sensitive.
In fact, I cringed writing the above sentence just now. I’ve also realized that one of the reasons I was finally able to embrace my sexuality was because I haven’t been journaling. In past journals, I circle around this knowledge about myself, and then ultimately write my way out of it.
Yes, I was an active LGBTQ+ ally, speaking up in classes and on social media throughout high school, and yes, I have a welcoming family. But the social stigma and compulsory heterosexuality that ran rampant in my social spheres made it extremely difficult for me to come out, even to myself.
The spring before senior year, I came out as bisexual, to test the waters. Coming out as queer while leaving open the potential for male romantic partners felt less scary. There was still the possibility that one day I would conform to the norm. I could exist in the world in a way that hid my queerness. Immediately after coming out on Instagram, I was euphoric. I had revealed a part of myself that I had hidden for a long time. And just as quickly, I had a sinking feeling. Had I just lied to the world? Worse still, had I lied consciously?
That July, I wrote in my journal, “When I look into the future and consider a husband, I just don’t feel like I’d be satisfied or even truly happy. But I feel like it would be so much easier to raise kids as a traditional straight family.”
The rest of my entry is a rambling run-on sentence where I twist myself into a pretzel to avoid the inconvenient truth of my identity. I continued, “And I also don’t want to prove my middle school bullies right but it might make everything better if I come out but I’m not even sure that I’m gay but also I’m pretty sure I am and the line between what I want and what I want to want is getting so blurry.” Despite the “ands” and the “buts,” this is the most explicit any of my journals ever got when it came to my sexuality.
Maybe it’s no accident that I journaled in pencil that summer.
While I may not have been aware of it, the choice not to journal during lockdown was a choice to confront the parts of my identity that I’d tried to talk myself out of for so long. Each time I’d gotten up the courage to write about the possibility of being gay, I’d either scribbled it out or explained why it wasn’t true. Not writing gave my internal monologue permission to be free and honest without the gravity that comes with existing in hard copy.
When I came out to my family, I felt the same euphoria I’d felt that spring when I came out as bisexual, only this time it wasn’t accompanied with the dread that I’d told only a partial truth.
While the pandemic has taken so much—lives, livelihoods, hugs—it has provided me the humble gift of stillness. It’s these moments of stasis that allowed me to grow. And when I emerge from this pandemic, I can emerge as my full self.
Abigail Fisher is a Lilith intern and a sophomore at Wesleyan University. She appeared on the Lilith blog in high school.