Closet Cases: Stories on when we came to terms with our queer identity

Illustration: Maple Sukontasukkul / The Peak

By: Kitty Cheung, Molly Lorette, Victor Yin

One of my favourite toys during early childhood was the household mop. My family kept the mop and bucket outside on the balcony of our Strathcona apartment. I would flip this mop upside-down and she would transform into my gorgeous dance partner. Together, we would twirl around on the balcony, executing dramatic dips as I ran my fingers through her “hair.” Even though my mom scolded me for touching the mop’s grimy strands, I remember our performances as marvellously free and fun. 

Reflecting on these kinds of memories now, it seems so clear that I am queer. As I entered adolescence and began to learn about sex and sexuality more in-depth, I would have identified as questioning. It wasn’t until after I graduated from high school that I became certain that I am pansexual: I feel like I could fall in love with anyone, regardless of their gender identity. 

I had always thought that once I knew I was queer, everyone would somehow find out. But that never happened. I felt comfortable keeping this truth to myself for the first few months, mulling it over until I was sure I had achieved full comfort and self-acceptance. I didn’t feel the need to tell anyone right away, but even if I did, I wasn’t sure how to bring up these topics. It didn’t feel right to just update my Facebook status to “I’m pan now uwu” and call it a day. Only intimate conversations (and I guess a Peak article) would do. 

 

As I made friends in university and grew a trusting support system, it became easier to come out during one-on-one conversations. I realized that when you come out, you come out multiple times, to each new person you choose to share this part of your identity with. 

I come out to my mom once every few months. I started with giving subtle hints such as “What if I want a wife instead of a husband?” Each time, I’m met with resistance and denial. The love is there, but I know we’ve got a long way to go if I’m to live life on my own terms.

These conversations with my mom are difficult, but they make me feel especially grateful for my close friends and chosen family. With this community, I love that we can have conversations where we both lament and celebrate our intersectional identities. 

– KC


Interestingly, I never had many moments of being unsure of my sexuality once I actually realized that I might not be 100% straight. The first time I had the inkling of attraction to someone of the same gender, I can recall going home and immediately consulting the internet before saying to myself, “Oh. That explains a lot.”

While I’m certain that I had several crushes on girls before I came out, in my mind’s eye I just really wanted to be their friend. While the complete and utter lack of self awareness was a large contributing factor, my well acquainted friend, “internalized homophobia,” played a large part in shielding my brain from my true feelings. Time and time again, I used to look at girls and think about how beautiful they were, and what it might be like to kiss them before reminding myself, “No. That’s gay. You aren’t gay. You like boys.” Now, I realize that most, if not all, the large playground crushes I had in my early days was compulsory heterosexuality.

Even after I realized that I was queer, I still dealt with internalized homophobia time and time again. Each time I allowed myself to get close to someone, I always found that a whisper from the darkest caverns of my consciousness would halt me, telling me that what I was doing was wrong. While I never found it hard to accept my sexuality, it was hard exploring my identity with others. Admittedly, while accepting attraction is easy, true exploration is something that I still struggle with even after being out for seven years. 

That being said, allowing myself to silence my internalized homophobia has been an amazing tool to be able to understand my true self. Silencing that voice has allowed me to become an unapologetically affectionate person. It has allowed me to understand that I am more than deserving of love from others. It has also permitted me to explore relationship structures that exist outside of the monogamous structures that have been laid out for me. While I never expected it as someone with intimacy issues, I have recently come to realize that my heart is capable of more love than I was fully aware of. 

In several ways, the journey to fully identifying as someone who is both queer and a part of a loving and healthy polyamourous relationship was both easy and difficult. Labeling myself has never been hard, but internalized voices shedding doubt upon my identity has proved difficult. The constant struggle, however, reminds me that my queer journey is never over, and permits me to express myself in new and exciting ways each day so that I might silence that pesky voice for good. 

– ML


I hit send and the bright screen stared right back. My heart was racing. I had just come out to my best friend over Line, because I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. It was a late night under-the-covers type of conversation, the time when everyone is tired and inhibitions are down, so I had decided it was a safe time. Getting to that point was not easy. Coming to terms with your identity is not easy when you are an angsty teenager with crippling self-esteem issues living with conservative Asian parents who absolutely want nothing to do with those homosexuals

So I didn’t want to be gay. Just like how I didn’t want to be Chinese, because everything was just harder when you lived in a Eurocentric society. I was so anxious and scared as I waited for my friend to reply — she was half-Asian so I knew she would empathize with my fears. Looking back now, I don’t remember her exact words, but I know she was supportive and she told me how she was bisexual herself. I was so relieved. 

And so, began my very slow journey out of the closet. I came out again and again. When I said the words out loud to myself in the bathroom mirror. When I changed my Facebook status to “interested in men,” even though it was hidden on my profile. When I came out to my brother. When I tried coming out to my parents and it ended super poorly. When I saw Love, Simon in the theatre with my friends. When I went to my first Pride (last year!). It took me a long time and a lot of unlearning and relearning to put the pieces together and become comfortable with who I am, in every dimension, but I am so glad I did. Closets are safe, but being out is worth it. This is who I am, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

– VY