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Author Topic: Why Come Out? Why Not?
eryn_smiles
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A pretty simple question, right? But one I’ve thought about a lot lately. In your experience, what are the good things about coming out and being out? What’s not so good or risky about it? If you’re not out, what’s stopped you from doing so?

Good points:
1. Getting to be your authentic self and open about it.
2. Gaining new friends and a whole new community, if that’s what you want
3. Old friends feeling able to trust you with important things in their lives, because you trusted them with this.
4. Finding it easier to meet partners and maintain relationships with them.
5. Getting to challenge peoples’ prejudices and educate them.
6. Being an activist, if you want to be-
http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/15/t/000793.html
7. Becoming a stronger person [Smile]
8. Being a role model for other GLBT people who want to come out


Bad points:
1. Dealing with homophobia and discrimination, for example in the workplace-
http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/15/t/000689.html
2. Dealing with the threat of violence-
http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/15/t/000799.html
3. Probably losing your heterosexual privilege-
http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/8/t/001231.html
4. The possible loss of friends, family and community

Just my thoughts and experiences….I’d love to hear yours!

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Idir
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If considering my cultural background, it's not quite a good idea to come out yet, so I'll be "straight-until-graduation".
Well, closeted - that is.

But, I'll probably never come out to my relatives, I love them too much, but I know for our relationship to survive, I have to keep a part of my personality hidden from them. I know too many queers of color that had been cut off from their families because of that, and I know my family, so I'll avoid that bandwagon.

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I know there is an over the rainbow for me.

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bluejumprope
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One of the best things for me has been feeling like my life (or my identity) is more integrated. When I was closeted, and had to keep aspects of my life compartmentalized, everything just felt lonelier and harder.

I've experienced the same thing being more open about my personal values or sensibilities. The more out I've been about what I think about things or my sexual orientation, the less depressed and crazy I've felt.

The 8 points you listed have all been true for me, especially 2,4 and 7. I hadn't thought of #3--"Old friends feeling able to trust you with important things in their lives, because you trusted them with this"--but I think that's really true. Honesty inspires other people to be honest. I've had so many great conversations with people that I don't think could have happened if I weren't out.

I can't really think of any negatives. Or, for me, they've been so minuscule in comparison to the benefits.

[ 04-23-2009, 06:25 PM: Message edited by: bluejumprope ]

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without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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Heather
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This is one of those things where I have a bit of a cultural/generational gap.

Personally, I didn't really know this was a choice to make. Mind, my nature is such that I've always tended to be very honest and upfront with most things, even those things which some consider provocative, but I never really knew to hide (if one is going to) being queer until AFTER I already hadn't. In other words, I just never made an active choice about it, even though one half of my family was (and in some ways, still is) intensely homophobic.

In a lot of ways, I'm glad I didn't know any better, because I've just never had to have that feeling of living stealth in this that so many people find so debilitating (and which also seems to take up SO much emotional energy).

Mind, I think I still would have chosen to be out, particularly since where I grew up -- Chicago, pretty urban, and around a lot of art people, progressive people -- and when was more supportive than not. The conflicts I had with family about being queer were likely conflicts I would have had about any aspect of me (and did have) that didn't jive with what they wanted, who they wanted me to be, what they were comfortable with. I deeply resent heterosexual privilege, so losing that (in the places I even had it/have it) certainly would not have been something I'd have considered a barrier.

Yes, I've dealt with bigotry in my workplaces, but often that's happened even when I was NOT very actively out at work, just based on assumptions co-workers and supervisors have made about me based on my appearance, my politics, etc. Lastly, violence was long an issue for me merely based on my gender, which -- practically and statistically -- put me much more at risk of it and in the line of it than my orientation ever has.

(I should add that for me, I also think having a much bigger "secret" for years in my teens per being a sexual abuse survivor probably influenced what choices I did have to make with this. I was much, much more scared about losses from being out with that than from being out per being queer.)

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Jill
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I'm out to most people and I find that it cuts down on the amount of homophobic nonsense I have to hear. Essentially, people become afraid of offending me and censor themselves a bit more; it's not the same as someone actually realizing that they are speaking in a hateful/discriminatory manner, but at least I don't have to hear quite so much of it.

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“I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.” --Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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eryn_smiles
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Cheers guys..

Idir-
So what will change for you after graduation?
Do you think you might come out to any member of your immediate family? The biggest difficulty for me about coming out and hopefully finding a partner is definitely the very likely loss of family and community support and love. But I'm also not sure what kind of healthy relationship I can maintain with them while lying to them that I'm planning to marry asap. My great hope is that I can find enough support and love from other people to compensate for this loss.

Bluejumprope-
I think this is very true:
quote:
Originally posted by bluejumprope:
One of the best things for me has been feeling like my life (or my identity) is more integrated. When I was closeted, and had to keep aspects of my life compartmentalized, everything just felt lonelier and harder.

I've found it really hard to compartmentalize my life. To go to work or be with my straight friends and family, or date a guy and think "this is my normal straight life". And then rush off in secret to meet some lesbians and think "this is where I get to be myself for a little while".

I'm glad that coming out has been overall, really positive for you.

Heather-
What do you mean about a generational gap? How was it different to be out? It's good, right, that you grew up without feeling you needed to hide it.

Jill-
One would hope it might be the first step towards them realising *why* their nonsense is offensive to people. Its harder to criticise and discriminate against someone you actually know, rather than some unknown abstract group of people.

[ 04-25-2009, 02:00 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Heather
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Eryn: I mean that there was no broad, cultural conversation about coming out in the first place, so I didn't know what that even meant, that there was a choice to make. That conversation only ever happened once a person connected with queer community (which for me, wasn't until my last couple years of high school, long after I knew I was queer and had had same-sex relationships openly).

People in general, out and about in the world who were not queer, in the media, etc. simply did not know what coming out was.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Idir
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quote:
Originally posted by eryn_smiles:
Idir-
So what will change for you after graduation?
Do you think you might come out to any member of your immediate family? The biggest difficulty for me about coming out and hopefully finding a partner is definitely the very likely loss of family and community support and love. But I'm also not sure what kind of healthy relationship I can maintain with them while lying to them that I'm planning to marry asap. My great hope is that I can find enough support and love from other people to compensate for this loss.

Well, I'll go to The UWC, a hippie-esque international college, which is uber-liberal (they force all freshmen to participate in a drag show - to feel like the opposite gender in the first weekend) and I'm already out to half of my future co-years, so I'll probably have enough to do in the GSA there.
(Yes, I inquired in advance about that [Big Grin] )
Then, for uni, it should be the same.

Now my biggest fear is that my best friend will also follow me there next week, and if that happens, it'll be a chain reaction and half of my city will magically know about my homo(bi?-)sexuality and the rest of my life will be pretty much ruined.

No home. No more college money. No more relatives.

In other words, I'll maintain a totally schizophrenic double-life for the rest of my life. I'll live abroad, but I know that if I'd stay here in Algeria, I'll never be happy as I'll end in an organized cousin marriage (seriously), or come out, and for that, see the pseud-paragraph above.

Living such a schizophrenic life might seem unimaginable to most people, but if considering that I either have that choice, live closeted (Ted Haggard, anyone?), or cutting off contact with my family, I'd choose it.


So, yeah. I'll never come out to my relatives.

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I know there is an over the rainbow for me.

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-Jill
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quote:
Originally posted by eryn_smiles:
One would hope it might be the first step towards them realising *why* their nonsense is offensive to people. Its harder to criticise and discriminate against someone you actually know, rather than some unknown abstract group of people.

I find that people generally treat me well, but don't always extend that to others. I suspect that they do some sort of mental acrobatics that make me somehow different or special. They're willing to treat me like a person, but they're not always willing to examine their prejudices and extend that courtesy to everyone. I frequently find myself explaining that treating one queer (me) decently, does not give anyone the right to be bigoted or mean they are not homophobic. So coming out helps me, but I'm not sure it's doing as much as I'd like for the community.

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“I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.” --Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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eryn_smiles
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Heather-
I think it's still like that in some parts of the world, like where I originally come from. There must be many people who have homosexual feelings but are not really aware of "coming out" as an option. It's just not talked of in the mainstream at all. Some people are unaware that there even is a queer community, which I imagine, must be incredibly lonely.

Idir-
I dont think that kind of life sounds unimaginable. Hard, sure, but not unimaginable. Actually I have spoken with an Indian man who left his country to come here. Everyone back home thinks he's straight and single. He lives with his partner here who he will never ever introduce to his family. And he says he'll never come out to them.

Your college sounds great, I wish you all the best there.

Jill-
It's a real pity isn't it, if they can't extend that to others.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Idir
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quote:
Originally posted by eryn_smiles:

Idir-
I dont think that kind of life sounds unimaginable. Hard, sure, but not unimaginable. Actually I have spoken with an Indian man who left his country to come here. Everyone back home thinks he's straight and single. He lives with his partner here who he will never ever introduce to his family. And he says he'll never come out to them.

Your college sounds great, I wish you all the best there.

Thanks! It is indeed great, at least that's what I've heard.
Ironically, it's in India [Big Grin]

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I know there is an over the rainbow for me.

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PenguinBoy
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Just a note: I understand how living a bit of a double life can be really disorientating mentally etc, but also it's probably important to say that split-personality disorder and schizophrenia are specific mental problems which many people have to deal with and are also completely separate things. It is a common misconception that they mean the same thing

[ 05-18-2009, 12:21 PM: Message edited by: PenguinBoy ]

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bee_is_me
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Well, like many people on here, I'm not 100% sure about my orientation. But I have been open with people about the fact that I'm unsure, and they've been nothing but supportive. So, for me, it's been sort of like a 'try before you buy'. [Razz] . That is, I know that if and when I decide to come out as bisexual that those I care about most will be ok with it.

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Stephanie_1
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One of the hardest parts about coming out for me was actually in telling myself rather than in telling any of my friends. Having grown up in my household, I knew that being attracted to both men and women would not be something that would be widely accepted. I'd listened to comments over the years about people on tv that were gay, my choice to work with the LGBTA, and how my best friend was a certain way because he was gay (but that as it's not their child it's fine). So not only did I feel the need to hide it from everyone around me, but also from myself.

Meeting back up with an old friend started the ball rolling on my realizing that not only was I hurting myself by not accepting who I was, but that having friends on my side can really help in dealing with other's view of me being just who I am. When I started talking to my friends, a lot of them told me that they already knew but also understood they had to wait for me to say something. My friends being such a diverse group of personalities really helps in the way of mostly everyone just accepting who we are for us and being glad to have one another.

I'm not planning to talk with my family just yet, and really have only had a couple of friends that I had trouble with. I still fight with my family on their views, but I always had and always would regardless. In all, I'm glad to be able to just be myself.

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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Cian
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I think my family suffers from a case of "swell, but not in my neighborhood", that is, they're not against someone being homosexual or what have you, but they'd not want it to hit too close to home.
I don't know what to do, I am not sure whether I am bisexual or not regardless my femalexfemale relationship. And because I'm not sure if I want "bisexual" tagged onto me for the rest of my life, I don't know what to do. I am primarily heterosexual that I can tell, hence why I find it an easier solution to not say anything for now.

I know my immediate family would either abandon me entirely, or at least distance themselves from me, and that's something I can't take. I've always been very close to my family, currently I'm financially depended on my parents, and I'd hate nothing more than to have my grandmother despise me. At the same time it's impossible to keep my relationship a secret, since she'll be coming over during the summer and I know my family would find it very odd if I suddenly cut contact for several weeks.
To lose the emotional support and to be totally excluded would be horrible, I know my partner could never ever replace the support of a community I have now.

I don't know. I feel absolutely hopeless. Do or don't, neither solution feels satisfactory.

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eryn_smiles
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Hi Cian,

I'm sorry that you're feeling really hopeless about this and it does sound like a tough situation. For you, it does seem a good idea not to come out at the moment. It's ok to be unsure though and many of us don't want one label tagged onto us for life. After all, sexual orientation is very fluid. Some people will come out many times and in different ways during their lives.

I can relate a little to your family issues. With my family, it's more "this isn't swell in anyone's neighbourhood but we're going to deny it exists". I have also worried alot about losing my family and community by being open about my sexuality. For me, I've found it a comfort to remember how it doesn't necessarily have to be all or nothing and that sometimes people I've expected to react poorly actually turn out to be a great support eventually. Sometimes people who love you now do still love you after you come out.

What do you think you're going to do when your girlfriend visits? Would you introduce her to your family? What is her family and community like in terms of support?

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Cian
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Hey Erin,

Yeah, I've decided to keep it hush hush for now, especially since I don't know how things will fold out. I don't want to be alienated just because I have a lesbian relationship that I got semi-involuntarily rolled into. (You may find the background for that in my earlier post, My boyfriend is my girlfriend)

I did come out to one of my friends, but it didn't really make me feel all that better, despite the fact she didn't take it in a bad way. She simply congratulated on my ability to be open minded about my relationship. (I then panicked and went on to explain how my bisexuality is very selective and she doesn't need to worry about me being attracted to her. Which she shrugged off with an "oh please, I'm not like that.")

Given the circumstances, my family knows my girlfriend already. They just happen to know her as a him. Which complicates things further, had they never known, I could well have introduced her as my friend and problem would've been solved. We've been mulling over the possibility of telling my family how things turned out, but claim not to be a couple anymore. I'd hate to lie, but it feels like the safest choice.

He family is very conservative. And very Asian. I am a horrible person already for being un-Asian, and worse yet, I don't even live in the States. It's another thing that worries me, I know her family would never accept me as their daughter's girlfriend, they'd hate my guts. Non-Asian, non-American and worse still, a girl. She doesn't feel able or ready to come out to her friends or family yet.
And I don't know how I should feel about a family I will never be a welome part of, one I'll always be seen as the horrible person who ruined everything in. I'm a very sensitive person and while I can't please everyone, I doubt I could handle being downright resented.

[ 02-25-2010, 02:47 PM: Message edited by: Cian ]

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eryn_smiles
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Wow, sounds like a tough and complex situation for both of you! Sorry you're going through this. As Heather had asked in the bottom of that thread, how do you feel about your relationship at the moment? Is it still beneficial for you in some way or is it causing more heartache?

It is important to make safe choices I think, especially as you're financially dependent on your parents. Perhaps telling them that will be okay for now. And if and when you are feeling stronger and more independent, you could reconsider coming out.

You had mentioned about seeing a therapist, how is that going? Sometimes they can be quite good with cross-cultural issues like with whats happening with your girlfriend's family.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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moonlight bouncing off water
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I'm sort of, in the midst of coming out. All my close friends know, my little (and only) sister knows, my mom may or may not know (it's complicated) and I'm not hesitant about coming out in writing assignments in school (although in school in general, I'm still closeted). I really want to come out more, but there is much preventing it.

First off, I don't know what I want to come out as. I am predominantly a lesbian, but I still find some guys attractive. Besides, I like the way lesbian sounds much better, but I would feel dishonest coming out that way, unless I came out as 80% a lesbian. Secondly in one week today I am undergoing spinal fusion surgery which will keep me at home for 5 weeks. I have known I need this operation for over a year now (and I only figured out I was gay in the past 5-6 months) and my parents have been getting more and more concerned and stressed out about it progressively; I just don't want to throw anything else into the mix. Plus, if there is any awkwardness surrounding my coming out, being stuck in the house with my parents would not be the best thing ever. Thirdly, I don't want my parents to react badly. I told them once that I thought I was bi (even though I knew, not thought, I liked girls) and I didn't like how they reacted. They weren't negative per see, but they could have reacted better. I feel like I'm holding my breath, waiting to exhale, to be out to my parents and in my school life.

There are so many pros. The biggest for me would be that the stress would stop. That I could stop being silent when I want to stand up. That I would be able to say, "I'm gay" and have someone respond "Yeah, and my hair is brown, but what's new?"

[ 02-26-2010, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: moonlight bouncing off water ]

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~moonlight

I am ME and that is the only label I need.

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Ecofem
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I hear you're saying you want to come out more, specifically to your parents and at school, but also feel you're not quite ready yet due to possible reactions, especially from your parents when you'll be having a major surgery soon. (Good luck with that, moonlight!)

What about focusing that energy on expressing your identity through creative outlets like writing in a journal or an art project or some online activism? What about having a film night with friends? Etc. [Smile]

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Cian
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Quite honestly, I don't know how I feel about our relationship. Some days I can think we'd be better off if we weren't together, but at the same time I love her very much and we have always been very compatible as a couple. It's hard to say, I'm not yet sure how I feel.

I have seen my counselor a couple of times but I only mentioned our situtation at the end of the last session as it came to question whether I've ever had a relationship. My counselor seems nice enough, and it's likely she'll refer me to therapy once the evaluation period is over.

I wish I could say "there are so many pros." too, like moonlight. For me, there's basically one or two pros and a flood of cons.

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eryn_smiles
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Hi Cian,

If there are so many cons and one or two pros, what is keeping you in this relationship? Have you thought about switching to a platonic friends-type relationship, which also creates less stress in terms of both of your families?

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Cian
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Oh, my bad wording, I didn't mean the relationship, I meant the pros and cons of coming out. The relationship itself has far more pros than it does cons, hence the hesistance to just end it to make things easier. Love conquers all and never give up and what have you. Sorry about the mix-up.
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Justice
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I've come out two people, and most of the time I think that is two people too many. I think my sister might have forgotten about it (well probably not, but she never brings it up, so I don't either). Coming out to my bff was beneficial with helping me come to terms with my bisexuality, but I kinda regret it because he puts a lot of pressure on me to come out to everybody, and that's just not gonna happen. Honestly, I'm hoping that if and when I decide to settle down, that it's with a man so that I don't have to come out.
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