Happy Pride Month! Now that it’s well under way, you’ve probably heard a lot of great Pride stories. Stories about being queer, about coming out and about all the rainbow-fied partying to be had.
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One story that we hear less of, though, a more subtle story, is how and when people who identify as LGBTQ finally came to accept themselves. Coming out is one step, but being “out and proud” in a society that still has plenty of homophobia typically takes much longer.
We talked to a few LGBTQ people about their unique stories about coming out - and finally coming into their own.
Throwing Off Stereotypes and Finding a Place in the Gay Community
My dad is gay, and he came out of the closet when I was 8. So I was raised by a gay parent.
When I was growing up I knew I was gay from my earliest memories of who I was interested in.
As I was coming to terms with my own sexuality, because of the fact that my dad was out and proud - he referred to us as the "out family" - I was very much aware of gay culture and community. But I still had my own struggles. Homophobia starts with yourself. As a preteen, I knew I was attracted to women, but at the time there wasn't any representation of gay people in media so when I thought about what a lesbian was, there were all these heteronormative examples of what it was to fall in love.
I struggled in early adolescence. Am I gay? Is it a gender identity thing? Am I trans? I felt this lack of confidence in my body and my identity because I couldn’t see a way to fit into the gay space.
It took me well into my 20s to come to terms with that. I dated a lot of curious straight girls. It wasn’t until I’d moved and met a group of lesbian girls that I kind of opened my eyes to the fact that I can be myself, and I just needed to find my place and my space. For me, coming to acceptance happened as gay visibility increased across pop culture too. I saw that there was a diversity of gay people out there. So I felt like, OK, I can fit within the space.
Bringing the Family on Board
My family was immediately very accepting of my sexuality when I came out because I didn’t seek their approval or acceptance, per se. I told them I would be deciding if they could remain in my life based on their reaction to my news. This allowed me to take true ownership of my sexual orientation while taking back the power associated with this type of personal disclosure. I decided to come out in this manner because I wanted to project strength and 110% acceptance - I needed them to know I wasn't ashamed or unsure of my identity.
The moment I realized I had fully accepted myself as a gay dude was when I took my family to a drag show at a local gay bar.
The moment I realized I had fully accepted myself as a gay dude was when I took my family to a drag show at a local gay bar. I witnessed my dad people-watching and coming to the realization that I was going to be just fine, which was extremely comforting. At the same time, my sister and stepmom were having a blast being there and enjoying the festivities. In this moment, with my family by my side, I felt genuinely comfortable in my own skin. That night was a game-changer and helped me see how lucky I am to have an accepting family that loves me for who I am.
My family's approval has had a profound impact on my life as a gay man. It empowers me to enjoy life out and openly, because I don't have to worry about the people I love the most disapproving of my lifestyle. I've always been able to take the person I'm dating back to my family's home without fear or a second thought of how he'll be received. Being free to love who I love in the presence of my family has shown me the true meaning of unconditional love.
Embracing Being Bi
I am a bisexual cis woman in a married, polyamorous relationship with a cis man. From the outside looking in, we look like a heterosexual couple if we're not dating or being openly affectionate with other partners. In the past, this left me feeling self-conscious about considering myself as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Was I enough for it?
I even thought I could only call myself part of the community if I was dating a girl as well as married to my husband.
It wasn't until recently when having a child put a hiatus on my dating that I was able to embrace that I was Bi no matter who I was dating.
It wasn't until recently when having a child put a hiatus on my dating that I was able to embrace that I was Bi no matter who I was dating. I was still me, still attracted to people across the whole gender spectrum, and it didn't matter who I was dating or having sex with. This gave me the confidence when dealing with bi-erasure and misconceptions about bisexuality from other people and I am grateful to have achieved this acceptance and confidence in myself.
Gaining Respect as Part of a Couple
My acceptance of my orientation came gradually in waves, but the final piece of it came when my partner had her stroke in January of 2018. I have to preface this with the fact that we used to lie and say that we were sisters if we were ever in the emergency room, or the doctors and nurses would not allow us to be in the room together. There's nothing quite like being relegated to the waiting room when your partner is in an emergency situation.
When Lisa had her stroke, it presented with numbness and jerking. I got her to the hospital just in time for her to have a grand mal seizure as they were checking her in. The doctors asked me a million questions and before I knew it, it was documented in the electronic medical records that I was her partner. It didn't matter if her mother arrived and asked me to lie as usual, the truth was already out there and all I could do was hope and pray they wouldn't keep me away from her.
Imagine my surprise when I was treated with the utmost respect. The doctors listened to my questions and kept me informed over her month-long ICU stay. I was consistently welcomed with open arms and allowed to stay with her - even past visiting hours - to keep her comfortable.
Later, when she transferred to inpatient rehab for six weeks, I was allowed to live there with her. We were surrounded by incredibly supportive therapists and nurses who have become our close friends. These people lifted us up, respected us as a couple, and made us feel accepted for the first time in our lives. Not only did we have Lisa's recovery to celebrate, but we had a newfound acceptance of ourselves to embrace.
It doesn't upset me anymore if someone fails to understand us. It's their loss.
This experience changed us in myriad ways, but with regards to our orientation, it gave us the self-respect we lacked before. It gave us not just permission to love ourselves as we are, but to enact new standards in our own minds for the way that people treat us. It doesn't upset me anymore if someone fails to understand us. It's their loss. I'll never hide this love again. There is nothing more important than this union. It is an undeniable blessing to feel such acceptance of it from everyone, including ourselves.
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Self-Acceptance Right Out of the Gate
When I was a sophomore in high school, I felt like most things in my life sucked. Most people didn't know I had been suicidal, but most did know I loved theater and dance. "Falsettos" was recently out and was my favorite musical at the time. I saw it on Broadway with one of my friends from dance. I bought the cast album. I listened to that cassette over and over and over again.
When I was a sophomore, I didn't think about sexuality at all - mine or anyone else's. I didn't date. I didn't think about my identity in that way.
My mom was the librarian at my high school so we commuted together. It was about a 30 minute drive.
This particular day coming home from school, "Falsettos" was playing again. And I was silent. I was not terribly chatty with my mother in those days.
"You've been listening to the 'Falsettos' sound track a lot" she said.
"Yeah, I like it," I replied.
There was a long pause at we drove down Rt. 17.
"And you know my college roommate is a lesbian," cut in my mom.
"Yeah, what about her?" I answered.
Another loooooong pause.
"And you know I'll love you no matter what," my mom said gently.
"Yeah, mom. I know. What's your point?" I was probably more sharp with her than was warranted. Hormones.
"Nothing, I just wanted to make sure you knew."
My mom was completely successful. I knew that I would always be loved and appreciated regardless of the sex/gender combinations of the people I date. And I am. For which I am incredibly grateful.
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