What was your coming out experience like?
We all have a different story to tell, some happy, some sad, some downright tragic…! But it's what instantly unites us in our awesome LGBTQ family and helps us form a unique bond with each other.
In this article, we've gathered some of the most inspiring coming out stories from various LGBTQ influencers and online personalities who have made waves in the queer community. These stories are deeply personal and not always sunshine and rainbows but these trials and tribulations have certainly helped drive us to create content for people who might be dealing with similar troubles in their own lives.
So, if you have already come out and are looking for stories to validate your previous experiences, pull up a chair and prepare to dive into these moving tales. If you are currently in a position where it's not safe for you to come out to anyone or thinking of coming out, know that these stories are still for you! Take your time and allow yourself to find whatever comfort and encouragement you can from our little anecdotes.
And for all of you reading, know that you are loved and have a safe space here!
Kellie Maloney: boxing promoter
From a very young age, I always knew I was different but didn’t know what it was until I read an article by April Ashley. I then realised that I was simply born in the wrong body! I knew I had a female brain, and in my dreams, I pictured myself as a little girl, never a little boy.
Sadly, growing up, acceptance for transgender rights had not evolved to what it is today, so I led most of my life as ‘Jack the Lad’ Frankie Maloney and became one of Britain’s leading boxing managers and promoters. The pinnacle of my career was leading Lenox Lewis to the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. Due to my success in boxing, I felt I couldn’t commit to who I really was for most of my life so I led a lie until I could come to terms with myself and face the truth.
In terms of coming out publicly, I had no choice. So rather than having some opportunistic tabloid journalist manipulating my story beyond my control, I agreed to publish my story in the Sunday Mirror in 2014. I was given full editorial control, which was important because above all else, I wanted to ensure this would be about my gender.
Let me tell you that coming out as transgender to the world is terrifying! As well as worrying about how the public would perceive me (particularly in the boxing profession), I also had to consider the safety of my family, especially my 3 daughters. Fortunately, the reaction was very positive! I received so many comments and messages of support – it felt truly incredible. Finally, a massive weight I had been carrying all these years had now been lifted.
At the end of the day we are all human. You may not understand what we each go through in life but at least have the decency to respect us a human being.
If you haven’t yet read Kellie’s terrific book, “Frankly Kellie”, then you sure need to and also be sure to watch the Amazon Prime documentary “From Frank to Kellie“…Otherwise, connect with the lovely Kellie on her Twitter and Instagram.
I first came out to a friend called Tracey, during my first term at college. I was 19. I’d been building up to it for a few years – dressing ever more outrageously, dying my hair, and wearing makeup. But apart from one drunken kiss with a drunken rugby boy, I had no experience at all. I’d had some experiences with girls but never with boys.
Tracey urged me to go to a gay club, so I went to Heaven. On my own. It was terrifying and exciting in equal measure. So many men. So many unfamiliar sights and smells. I remember the fan dancers with their handlebar mustaches and bandanas – and the overwhelming smell of poppers!
I had my first homosexual experience shortly afterward and went to my first Pride in 1985 – the one featured in the movie, “Pride”, with the Welsh miners. I’d fled Wales nine months before and didn’t appreciate just how important their presence at Pride was.
I didn’t come out to my mother for another five years. It was the 80s, the tabloids were full of stories about gay men dying of AIDS and I didn’t want to worry her. But finally, I decided that she needed to know. I’d become an AIDS activist with ACT-UP and I wanted her to hear it from me before one of her neighbors spotted me in the newspaper or on the news. So I wrote her a letter modeled on Michael Tolliver’s ‘Letter to Mama' from “Tales of the City”. It took her some time, but now she’s my number one fan. If the local bookshop doesn’t have my books in stock, she wants to know why! My mum is a force to be reckoned with. I take after her in so many ways.
Indian Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil
I came out to myself in 1995 after meeting Mr Ashok Row Kavi who was the first person in India to openly come out as gay. He helped me and inspired me to feel proud of being gay. With his help I set up the Lakshya Trust in 2000, which works towards the empowerment of the LGBTQ community in India.
I came out to my family in 2002, but sadly this was more traumatic. They reacted very badly and forced me to get “medical” help to try to “cure” me. This involved surgery, mental shock therapy, “conversion” with religious leaders and plenty of emotional blackmail! This became so bad that in 2006, I decided I'd come out to the world. I told my story to a local journalist who published it in the local regional newspaper in my Gujarat region of India. The result was pretty bad. My family disowned me, I received a lot of threats and effigies of me were burnt in public!
Despite the tragedy, this was one of the best things to have happened to me. As the first member of a royal family in the world to openly come out as gay, my story became a huge controversy leading to people talking about a subject which was always considered a taboo, especially in a very conservative country like India. I was interviewed (3 times!) by Oprah Winfrey and received a whole bunch of incredible opportunities – even a feature on “Keeping up with the Kardashians”! This allowed me to use my platform for advocate for positive change – which included the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India in 2018.
Max Emerson: YouTuber
I came out when I was 18. I knew that I was gay since I was around 11 years old but stayed firmly in the closet. In fact I dealt with being in the closet as a kid in central Florida by self-medicating and projecting my insecurities on others… In other words, I partied too much and was sometimes a bully!
I waited until I left my tiny Florida hometown and went to college in Miami to properly explore my gay side. I dated girls at first but it wasn't until I met a guy at my college, who I really liked, when I realised this actually affects me emotionally as well. At this moment I finally came out to myself. I then went back home to my family in Florida and came out to them. Overall they were cool about it though my brother stopped me and said, “it's cool you're gay and all, I just hope you're not the bitch!”. He caught me unaware with that statement at the time, but now when we look back at that moment, we laugh about it.
The main thing I took away from the whole experience was that by coming out I've been able to take a deeper inventory of my actions (and myself) in order to claim full responsibility for my fate. It's in thanks to being gay that I have the self-awareness to always strive to be a more compassionate person.
The Zakar Twins: Zach and Michael
Our coming out was quite unique, so unique we wrote a memoir about it called “Pray the Gay Away”. First things first, I, Zach, knew I was gay when I was around 16 years old, but never did I realize that my twin, Michael, was also gay. I only found out after we hooked up with the same guy! As you can imagine, it was quite a big shock at first, but we quickly bonded over it and became best friends.
Along the way, we lost some friends but it didn’t matter because my twin was my best friend! But things didn’t end there. After we came out, our mother reacted by throwing holy water on us. For years, our mother tried different tactics to “de-gay” us but clearly it never worked. It was tricky for our mother to accept because being both Middle Eastern, and gay, is unheard of!
But truly with time, things get better in their own unique way. And a big lesson in our book is that you eventually become parents to your parents to teach them what’s right. And throughout own process we created the app, MyTwin Chat, an app in which you can talk directly to us if you have any questions about coming out.
The Zakar Twins post the best thirst traps on their Instagram and also have the cutest videos on their YouTube channel. We've also featured them in our article about the best gay couple Halloween costumes.
Sebastien Chaneac of Nomadic Boys
I am from a working-class family in Saint Etienne, an industrial city in the heart of France. I had a happy childhood, filled with love and happy memories but I always knew I was ‘different'.
I had my first crush and “boyfriend” when I was 6 years old. We would always sit together on the bus, hold hands, and kiss on the cheeks publicly! We didn't care and neither did the other children. It goes to show how accepting and non-judgmental we are at that age.
I started having feelings for other boys when I was around 12-13 but didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. My family never spoke about homosexuality growing up as there was no education or awareness about it at the time. Therefore, in my mind, I thought that this was something I'd always have to keep a secret and never tell anyone else, especially my family!
Oh, but how wrong I was…
When I was 18, whilst away on holiday with my best friend, I got a bizarre call from my family. During this call, I spoke in turn to my father, mother, and twin sister, each of them asking me the same question over and over: “Are you ok? Are you sure you're ok? Is there anything you want to tell us?”. I found it strange at the time but didn’t give it any more thought until I got back from my trip and my sister fell into my arms, sobbing uncontrollably, crying out: “Why didn't you tell us you were gay?!”
I explained to her that it was because I was terrified of our parent’s reaction. My mother later sat me down and we talked about it. It took some time for my parents to process it, but eventually, they embraced me for who I am and now even treat Stefan as a second son.
But how did they find out? Well, that day they all called me up asking those questions…they had stumbled on my huge collection of gay adult magazines which was hidden away in my wardrobe! Today, I'm out, loud and proudly flying the rainbow flag around the world with Stefan to hand, blogging about it all on this website, our Instagram, and on our Facebook page.
Meg Ten Eyck of EveryQueer
I was born the oldest daughter of 11 children to teenage parents. Let’s just say birth control and LGBTQ issues weren’t high on their radar when I came out in 1998. I was a middle school student who knew exactly who I was, but my parents weren't ready to handle the realities of parenting a queer preteen…
It’s been 22 years and I still have issues with my family. I realized in my late teens that I owed toxic people absolutely nothing and cut ties with anyone who wasn’t supportive of my community and my identities. That included both of my parents. It was an easy decision for me because I knew in my heart they were stifling my growth and progress in this world. I appreciate this isn't an easy thing for everyone to do.
When I left home I fell headfirst into the world of queer activism because I didn’t want other queer kids to experience the loneliness and isolation I felt growing up. I ended up working in a queer youth association because I knew kids like me trapped in unforgiving and unloving households needed an outlet for their mental health. Through my work at the Trevor Project and now at EveryQueer Magazine I’m able to provide outlets for struggling queer people and a platform to highlight the magnitude of beauty in our community.
Dani from Globetrotter Girls
I was 19 when I had my first girlfriend, and until then, I’d been with a couple of guys. Nothing too serious, but serious enough for me to worry about what people would think if I showed up with a girl all of a sudden. I am from a small town and growing up, I didn’t know any lesbians, which is why a big worry of mine was that people would distance themselves from me, thinking I was some sort of freak. But as my relationship with my first girlfriend progressed, I decided it was time to tell people about her. I was in love after all – and really, I wanted to shout it from the roofs. My coming out ended up being very unspectacular – almost anticlimactic, after months of building up so much anxiety about it! There were no tearful confessions that ended in heartfelt hugs. It was more like “Hey I’m dating a girl now” and people shrugging “Okay then!”…
My parents and I were never close, which is why I wasn’t worried about telling them. We never talked about relationships, personal stuff and matters of the heart. However, I was super afraid to come out to my grandma because her opinion of me always meant a lot to me. She was in her 70s at the time and she’d always been living a very conservative life. But surprisingly, there were no judgement from her when I told her I was gay. Instead, she welcomed all the girlfriends she met with open arms and treated them no different from my siblings’ straight partners.
I came out slowly back in 1991. I moved to San Francisco just three days after breaking up with my then girlfriend. At the time I had ordered a book about coming out (remember kids, these were the days before the Internet existed and we only had paper books!). I sat in the local park and read it cover to cover. This book made such a strong impression on me that after finishing it, I came out to my friends and coworkers.
A few years, I met the love of my love, Mark, who is now my husband. He was the one who gave me the courage to come out to my family. So, in 1993 I sat down and wrote letters to each family member, sealed them up, and mailed them. Then I waited.
My family started to respond, one by one, and they were overwhelmingly supportive. My own grandmother was blasé about the whole thing, which made a lot of sense when I found out I was the third one to come out that month in the extended family!
My Dad said he always kinda knew and it was why he put me in soccer as a teenager. I think it was hardest on my Mom, who worried about what it would mean for my life, and her dreams for me. For years, every time we spoke and I mentioned a “gay” thing, there would be a few seconds of silence on the other end of the line.
Until one day that pause was gone. Now it’s just another part of me. I’m a writer, a web designer, an Italian teacher, and a gay man. Period. It’s hard to recall the fear I lived under for so long.
I will never go back!
Josh Rimer: YouTuber and Mr Gay Canada
I first came out to myself when I was 20 years old. Prior to that I was in a deep state of denial and really didn't want to accept that I could be gay. I grew up in a time and place where there weren't any visible LGBT people around me and it didn't seem like a good thing to be gay so I really didn't want to be during my teenage years.
After I accepted it myself it was a slow process of coming out to friends and family, but I was very lucky to have support from all of them. Eventually I came out at work and to new people that I'd meet and finally even came out on YouTube to the world – which is the point when I finally did start to experience some homophobia but coming from anonymous online trolls it didn't really bother me.
By being out on YouTube in its earlier days though I did often get comments and messages from people who were grateful that I was so open and sharing about it on there – both from people who were struggling with their own orientation and from straight people who said I was one of the first gay people they'd ever “met”. Now there are many openly gay people on the platform, but it felt great to be one of the earlier ones back when being gay seemed to be more taboo and not as generally accepted online as it is today.
Check out our interview with Josh about gay life in Canada and being crowed Mr Gay Canada. You should also be subscribing to his YouTube Channel if you aren't already and also check out his website and Instagram.
I’ve always had a passion for travel and coincidently my coming out story happened whilst on a trip when I was 23. In 2005, a friend of mine was celebrating her 21st birthday in Las Vegas. One guy on the trip named Matt was a friend of a friend whom I’d never met. I later found out he was gay, but I didn’t think much about it at the time. I got quite drunk the last night, as one often does in Vegas, vomited on the monorail and next thing I know, Matt and I are kissing a few hours later in an alley on the Vegas strip. We later hooked up at the hotel but none of our friends realized. It was a sudden and traumatic moment for me and something I wasn’t expecting. Later that night I came out to all of my friends and the rest was history.
Over the next few months, I slowly told my other friends and family and luckily never had any major issues. A few distant relatives had negative reactions at first but eventually, they moved on and accepted it. Now 15 years later, what started on a simple trip to Las Vegas has inspired a life-changing passion that has taken me around the world. David and I started Two Bad Tourists in 2012 to specifically be a resource for the LGBT+ community. If you would have told me that night that I would later start a gay website featuring everything from LGBT+ travel guides to gay solo travel tips, I would have said, you’re crazy! But here we are today, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision!
For more from the super cute Two Bad Tourists, Auston and David, check out their Instagram.
Jakeline Santos: LGBTQ Instagrammer
I’m Jake, originally from Brazil, now living in the Netherlands with my fiancée, Karin, and our son, Bryan.
My coming out wasn’t easy. I always had feelings for girls but was always too scared to come out. Growing up, Brazil had one of the highest cases of homicides against homosexuals, so you can imagine that it wasn’t easy to be open. I, therefore, forced myself to have relationships with men and from this was blessed with my beautiful son, Bryan.
After moving to the Netherlands, I met Karin and fell in love. Together we are an incredible team. We support each other in every goal and dream we have. Bryan met Karin when he was 4 and it’s so amazing to see the connection they instantly developed. He calls her his mummy and he’s so proud of it. I always say – you don’t need to share the same DNA to be a parent.
Coming out to my mother was very difficult. She is super Catholic. At first, she was in shock, particularly after I told her I was in a relationship with another girl. She said some very nasty things to me, which broke my heart. We didn’t talk for weeks until my sister-in-law spoke with her and made her change her mind. She apologized for every nasty word she had said to me and from that moment on said she would stand up for me no matter what! You cannot imagine how happy this made me, especially after she met Karin and blessed our relationship.
Today I’m happy I can share my family’s adventures with the world without any fear. I hope I can inspire and help other LGBTQ families with my story.
Jake posts THE cutest photos of her family life with Karin and little Bryan on her Instagram.
Rafael Leick from Viaja Bi!
I am from Brazil, which for the past 20 or so years was often at the forefront of LGBTQ rights in South America, which culminated with us passing gay marriage in 2013. It was against this backdrop I came out. It took me a while to understand these feelings and even more time to come to terms with me being gay. Back in 2005, I went with a friend of mine to a gay club for my first time. I enjoyed it so much that it was like this huge revelation – I am gay! This was the hardest part – coming out to myself.
Soon after that I told my sister, who took it very well. Then, mom. She was very cool so I thought I would have no problem, but for 6 hard months, she barely looked me into the eyes. Now, she is totally over it. Half a year later, I decided to tell dad… on Father's Day! I've always had quite a tough relationship with my father and used this as a test – to see if we were going to improve our relationship or break apart for good. His reaction? He said that whilst he didn't agree with homosexuality, I am still his son so he was there for me no matter what. We actually became really good friends and our relationship massively improved…until the extremely conservative Jair Bolsonaro was elected as President of Brazil in 2018 and destroyed everything!
As part of my coming out, I decided to come out again and created Viaja Bi! – the 1st LGBT+ travel blog in Brazil. It was hard, but my coming out story post had a lot of positive feedback from people who were afraid to do so. If that's you, remember that yes, it might be hard. But it sure as hell gets better!
Jose from My Normal Gay Life
For me, coming out really wasn’t that big of a deal and it happened in parts. I came out during my first year of university out of necessity. My peers at uni kept asking me about having a girlfriend and, honestly, it became taxing. Out of utter exasperation with the expectations of others, I came out of the closet as a gay man. You might even say my coming out was forced by those around me but it wasn’t a big deal at all. The awkward questions stopped and later that same year I slowly came out first to my mother, then my sister and then my brother. To the people in my life that mattered most, the fact that I was gay changed nothing.
Then there was the issue of my estranged father with whom I currently have not spoken to in nearly 16 years. Many years later after my coming out moment, my brother decided to tell my father that I am gay. He apparently did not handle it well and asked my brother to make me disappear “real man” and brought shame on the family name etc etc… My brother instead defended me. I suppose that’s the thing about coming out: as gay people we have to do it every day and we never know how others might react.
But in the end here I am, queer as ever!
Brent from Brent and Michael Are Going Places
Brent's parents had a very hard time when he came out. And they weren't particularly thrilled when the two of us starting dating a few years later. Our first group dinner was a very frosty affair. But they were trying, so we gave them time to adjust. Unfortunately, Brent’s mom died before she made much progress.
His dad Harry was a different story. Always a logical thinker, he started reading everything he could about being gay. So it was a little disappointing when he'd introduce Michael to friends and neighbors as “Brent's friend.” But the man was in his 70s – as a kid, his family had an outhouse, for God's sake! We figured he'd done his best. And it was still clear he loved Michael. Then a few years later, when introducing us to others, he started referring to Michael as “my other son”. This was sweet, but it still seemed like he was trying to hide the fact we were gay. But Harry was now in his 80s, so we weren’t expecting any more change.
Then, a few years later, we were out at a restaurant when an old colleague approached to say hi. Harry introduced Brent, then turned to Michael and said, “And this is Brent’s husband Michael”. Let’s just say the two of us were quite surprised! Shortly after that, he told us he'd laid down the law to the people at his retirement community: he wouldn’t listen to anyone badmouthing gay marriage!
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Frankly, we both hope we'll be as open-minded as Brent's dad at his age!
Ryan from Out With Ryan
My unintentional coming out experience happened when I returned to Canada after living abroad for a year in the UK where I got my left ear pierced.
When my father picked me from the airport, he noticed my earring in my left ear, said nothing and continued to ask about my flight back home. I eventually talked with my stepmom about my amazing year until my dad interrupted by saying, “oh, and he got an earring in his left year so he came back gay!” as a joke. My stepmom thought my dad was saying the truth and reacted by saying how happy she was for me. I just stood there, shocked, wondering “what the hell just happened!?”
My dad followed with “It's a joke!” and my stepmom was like “oh!“. So I used that moment to tell them and my stepmom went back to being happy. She hugged me and I saw my father process just what happened. In that moment he saw his wife being happy for me and I think decided to just be happy for me.
This was my coming out story and later that night my dad said one sentence that made me realize he had come to terms with it: “Well at least you're not the only oddball in the family. Your cousin does Adult movies!!” Firstly, I had no idea I had a cousin who did movies like this, but 2) I didn't care because, in that moment, I knew my dad had come to terms with his son and it only went uphill from there.
Charlotte Hockin from Our Taste for Life
Unfortunately, I grew up with little LGBT+ influence in my life, which meant I was confused about my feelings for a long time. Looking back, I had feelings for girls from a very young age. However, it took me 21 years, and a failed straight relationship to come to terms with the fact that I am a lesbian.
When I started coming out to friends and family, it seemed like they had all known before I did. One of the first things my best friend said to me was “Let's cut your hair”. We were in Italy on a work trip, so we picked up some scissors from an art shop and cut my hair into a short choppy bob. It was one of the most liberating feelings of all my life!
While my friends celebrated the fact that I'd finally found myself, it took my family some time to come to terms with it. Don't get me wrong, they were all very supportive and never made me feel bad. But I know for a while, my Mum hoped it might be a phase. I think what bothered her most was the kind of life I would have. And what it would mean for me when it comes to having children. However, once she saw how happy I was, she became my biggest supporter.
I understand and am incredibly grateful that I had such an amazing support system when coming out. Many people in the LGBT+ community aren't so lucky, which is why I believe it's so important for my girlfriend and me to be visible on social media and play our part in “normalizing” gay relationships.
Stefan Arestis of Nomadic Boys
I came out pretty late in life. I was 20 years old.
Although I grew up in a really gay city (London, UK), my parents were extremely religious and loyal to the Greek Orthodox Church – a pretty awful institution that doesn’t have anything positive to say about our LGBTQ community. In addition, at that time in the UK, we had Thatcher’s “Section 28” law, which made it illegal to promote homosexuality in schools. This all left me with a really negative view about homosexuality. So, as a teenager, I thought the right thing to do was to suppress all the “feelings” I was experiencing towards men, and instead focus on liking/dating girls.
It wasn’t until I went to university when things started to change. I did a Human Rights course as one of my law degree modules and had a brilliant tutor who I adored. In one class we covered the evolution of LGBTQ rights. As part of this, she “came out” to us, explaining that being gay was not a choice, in the same way a straight person never “chose” to be straight.
This completely blew my mind! Someone I respected was not only an openly gay person, but she validated all those feelings I had towards men, which up until that moment I thought was an illness, something abnormal.
Cut a long story short, soon after that class, I accepted the fact that I am a gay man and came out to myself.
For more inspiration:
- While you're travelling, check out these best gay apps to make your life easier
- Check out our tips and tricks for how gay travellers can stay safe while travelling
- These are our favourite gay alternatives to AirBnB
- Find out how we stay fit and healthy while travelling
- Check out the best and biggest Pride events in the world
- Then get inspired with these cute gay Pride outfit ideas
- And make sure you pack these must-have Pride accessories to ensure you have fun!
- Get ready for the magical Disney gay Pride too