People always say you can’t live your best life until you really accept yourself and your truth. But because our society still tends to view heterosexual, cisgender relationships as the “norm,” LGBTQ youth (and adults) have to formally “come out” to the people in their lives even when they love and accept themselves, and sometimes they open up to friends even before members of their families. This can be a powerful, crucial turning point in a young person’s life, which is why in honor of Pride Month, we wanted to hear all about how LGBTQ teens came out to their BFFs — and what happened after.
Crushing on people, hooking up, and telling your besties all about it is one of the best things about being a teenager. But if you think you’re the only person in your squad who might identify as LGBTQ, those conversations can be wrought with stress and fear. And for good reason. Although the LGBTQ community and its allies have made huge strides in battling stigma and hate, LGBTQ youth, especially transgender kids, are still bullied way more than other teens.
According to GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools for LGBTQ youth, four out of five LGBTQ students report frequent harassment based on their appearance or perceived sexual orientation, which means they’re at a greater risk for suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues, too.
Acceptance isn’t just life-affirming, it can actually be life-saving. For example, research shows that when families and communities accept a transgender kid’s identity right away, their risk for depression, substance abuse, suicide, and even homelessness later in life decreases significantly. According to The Trevor Project, just one supportive person can decrease the risk of suicide in LGBTQ youth by 30%. Just one single person can make that much of a difference. And a person’s initial coming out experience can set the tone for how comfortable they feel opening up to the rest their loved ones.
Everyone should be able to come out on their own terms and make their own well-being a priority. Here, read the good, better, and sometimes awkward stories of how four LGBTQ teens came out to their best friends.
SB, age 16
SB said that coming out to a friend was scary, given that coming out to their family hadn’t exactly been easy.
They told HelloGiggles, “The first time I came out to one of my friends was right before my junior year of high school. Up until that point, the only people I had been out to were my parents and siblings and it hadn’t exactly gone well. I was incredibly nervous to come out to my friend, especially because I had never really hinted to her about being queer.
“So when I tried to come out to her, I got very flustered and yelled ‘I’M GAY, OKAY BYE SEE YOU TOMORROW’ before sprinting away from her before she could even say anything to me.”
SB added, “I ended up texting her later that day and apologizing for ditching her abruptly, and she ended up being totally accepting and cool with me being queer. She and I are still really great friends, and she’s someone I thankfully can be very open with about being queer.”
Imani Sims, age 17
Sims told HelloGiggles that coming out as bisexual was hard, and not just because they were unsure of what their friend’s reaction would be. At the time, figuring out what bisexuality even meant was hard enough.
Sims said, “I came out as bisexual the summer before my freshman year. The first person I came out to was my best friend [of seven years]. We were walking home from freshman orientation and I told her that I liked girls and boys. I thought it was best to come out to her first because she was my best friend, but she had also came out to me a few weeks prior! I was worried that I didn’t like girls and boys equally (50/50) and I expressed that concern.
“She stopped dead in her tracks and faced me saying, ‘You don’t have to like boys and girls equally. It can be any percentage,’ and we started walking again.”
Sims added, “What she said was very important to me, as I spent countless hours meticulously orchestrating the reasons I couldn’t be bi. I felt that since [my feelings for girls outweighed my feelings for boys], my sexuality was faulty. At the time, I was not exposed to bisexual culture, putting me in the difficult position of invalidating myself. Looking back on that day, what she said to me wasn’t revolutionary, but it continued to stay with me. Her words taught me that I was valid regardless of what gender I liked more [and] the importance of the ability to trust yourself to be who you are.”
Sayer, age 18
Sayer told HelloGiggles that things have changed a lot since coming out to their bestie, their friendship is not one of them.
Sayer said, “When I was 15, I was at a residential summer camp for four weeks. A girl that I had known from years past was in my cabin that year and we quickly became close friends. We passed notes between our bunks when we couldn’t talk, and we told each other everything. One day, I wrote a note that said something along the lines of, ‘Carly, I don’t know how you’ll react but I have something to tell you… I’m pansexual…'”
Sayer added, “My identity has changed quite a bit since [that time], I now identify as very, very gay. Anyway, she read the note, looked at me, smiled, and ripped the note up. I was confused, I wasn’t sure if this was a negative reaction. She climbed off of her bunk and threw the scraps of paper away and came over to my bunk. She reached up and gave me a hug, ‘I love you, I’m sorry for ripping up the note, I just thought you wouldn’t want other people in the cabin to see it.’ That summer, we continued being best friends and nothing has changed.”
Kian Tortorello-Allen, age 17
Kian told HelloGiggles that coming out as transgender just happened one night. “The first time I came out as transgender to one of my best friends was in my freshman year of high school. It had been a rough day for me, and I had gone to Hebrew School that night feeling exhausted and worn out. When I got there, I could only seem to cry and one of my close friends gave me the best hug imaginable. My synagogue is pretty small, so in a quest to find anywhere quiet to sit and talk — we wound up sitting in a literal closet.”
Kian continued, “My friend and I are the types of people who hug and cuddle for hours, so we sat snuggled on the bottom of this tiny closet and talked for what felt like forever. We talked about my dysphoria and trans identity, and why my pronouns were important. He offered so much love and support and even helped me pick out my name: Kian. I find the entire thing ironic, seeing as we were in a literal closet, but I still cherish that day. It had a huge impact on me. So many of my coming out experiences had been negative and having someone unconditionally love and support me made me the happiest person ever.”