By Katherine Martin
I started dating a junior on my lacrosse team when I was a freshman. Until I met her, I didn’t know that I was gay.
The morning after we first hooked up, I walked home from North Campus and considered my options. Walking into Alliot, I did what felt natural. I lied to my friends that I passed out on the couch the night before. We laughed about it and moved on to digest other Sunday scaries stories.
In a matter of 12 hours, I both began to understand my space in the closet and chose to stay there. The first of many choices.
Hiding my relationship on this campus wasn’t an easy feat. It looked like secret dates, walking home from the 300s separately and a lot of lies (Find My Friends was not invented with closeted gays in mind.) I embodied the word “sus.”
While being in the closet was no ideal lifestyle, it came with an odd simplicity.
I came out to the majority of my friends and family sophomore year. This big “moment” some may envision as a one-and-done deal, proved not to be so simple. It was only the beginning of constantly coming out.
Coming out to one friend meant the timely responsibility to come out to the rest, preferably before they heard on their own. And then my friends back home. Was it appropriate to wait for word to get around or did I need to text everyone I’ve ever known with the news? I suddenly had a lot of choices.
After a summer of crossing people off my list of “who to tell,” I boarded the plane for Cape Town feeling content. I was “out”. When I arrived, I realized that those new faces didn’t know me nor did I have an equal sign tattooed on my face. I was in the closet again, and not by choice.
Within the first couple days I managed to slip into conversation that I was gay. My RA Pumi later asked me, “Why did you feel the need to tell everyone you’re gay?” purposely addressing the fact that, “If I hadn’t, they would have continued to assume I was straight.”
While I am surrounded by the biggest support team and have grown to feel comfortable and safe in my own skin, there are days when my identity can feel like a burden. It can be tiresome explaining to guys at the bar, new coworkers or new classmates that I’m not the identity they choose to assume I am.
Others’ lack of understanding places a responsibility on me to correct them. Otherwise, I fear losing authenticity, or being seen as untruthful. As a society we default to straight, cisgender, healthy and able-bodied assumptions until told otherwise.
Although asking people about their sexuality when the conversation arises can feel tedious or awkward, it will likely be less awkward than the apology that comes after incorrectly labeling someone.
Choosing to ask everyone, regardless of what one presumes their sexuality to be, will take the pressure off solely the LGBTQ+ community to come out, which can feel equally tedious and awkward. Until this becomes a norm, I will never truly feel out of the closet.