I never posted on Instagram with a picture of me holding a rainbow flag, tossing colorful confetti, or being at a pride parade (tbh, I’ve never even been to a pride parade). I never updated my Twitter bio with the ever popular double female symbol or a rainbow flag emoji. I never wrote clever captions or even blunt ones under pictures of my girlfriend and me.
I never formally came out online. And I’m wondering now if this makes me a lousy member of the LGBTQ+ community or a coward.
I’d like to think I’m neither of those things. First and foremost, I’m proud of who I am. It’s taken me quite a while to be able to say those words and mean them, but I finally got there. I’m proud.
At first, my reasoning for not taking the jump and publicly announcing my belonging to the queer community was simply because I wasn’t ready. After my first kiss with a girl, I didn’t really understand who I was anymore, and I definitely didn’t want to do all of that online—I felt like I needed to sort my identity out on my own before I made any declarations for others to see and analyze.
But the thing was, even when I settled on a label for myself, I still didn’t feel ready to post about it on any of my social media platforms. There were times when I thought to myself, “Fuck it, just post the picture of you and [insert girlfriend’s name here],” but I always chickened out. I would psych myself out with thoughts like “What if someone in my extended family sees this?” or “What if I become a screenshotted conversation in someone from high school’s group chat?” These thoughts alone were enough to convince me to just not post or select a less chummy picture of my girlfriend and me.
I was afraid of what others would think or say. I was anxious that people who knew me at earlier points in my life would question the validity of my sexual orientation, since at those particular moments in life, I (thought I) was “straight.” I didn’t want to be a topic of conversation or the punchline of a joke. I just wanted to remain the Nicole everyone thought I was in order to protect myself and my feelings.
I was a coward. But I wasn’t less queer than anyone comfortable enough to post about their sexual orientation.
I was never “less than” or “less of” anything. I was still Nicole, but this one aspect of my identity was different than the piece I and the people around me thought they knew before I came to terms with it.
Something that I really appreciate and value about the LGBTQ+ community is the message that we spread of coming out on your own terms and on your own time. There is no how-to book on how to come out and there’s no guarantee of how you’ll be received by the people around you. But I can promise you that even if you never want to formally come out online, you are not less than anyone that is comfortable enough to post about that component of their identity. You are just as valuable and legitimate as anyone else in this community.
And just for the record, it isn’t a requirement to come out online! This is not a rite of passage into the queer community or a box you have to check off once you come to terms with a label (if you ever come to terms with one). You can come out online or never post a thing—either way, it’s really okay. Just do what feels true and comfortable to you.
Also, plot twist! This is me coming out online.