Coming Out At Age 14

Coming out of the closet

By Zoe Heringer

I was 14 years old when I began to get in tune with my sexuality.

I had been watching a TV show called Skins, which is a British series that follows a group of teenagers who are confronting different problems in life. Some are dealing with depression or eating disorders or dysfunctional families. Others are coping with abuse or bullying. Each episode zeros in on one character and the struggles they face.

One episode centered on a young woman who was striving to come out and be honest about her attraction to girls.

Her exploration with all that exposed me to my own feelings, which I had not yet fully understood or come to terms with. Her journey helped prepare me to understand how I might be treated differently once I made the same choice to come out.

When I finally did, people started treating me differently — more like an outsider.

I might be with my partner, doing normal “couple things” and get stares — like they are trying to understand what is going on between us. Are we sisters? Cousins? Or partners?

Guys seem intent on flipping me. “I can get her to like guys!” I’m not sure why they do that. Maybe their hoped-for success would make them feel like heroes, having made such a major conquest. I find it frustrating because it’s hard to make friends when all someone can think about is changing you.

Others go out of their way to make me feel uncomfortable, treating me like my whole existence is wrong, and like I am a living, breathing sin.

Despite how I have been harassed I have never felt more at peace. But then, I am living my life openly and honestly.

Other people’s reactions don’t matter to me so long as I am happy. I believe that their issues are more about their own insecurity and discomfort with things that are “different” and not anything being wrong with me.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 21, 2019, in LGBTQ+ and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. I have been in similar situations and each time gets harder to process. Being African American we are supposed to date within our race. I would get stared at all the time with my ex girlfriend who happens to be white. I would get remarks that I hated black women because I was with her, or that I must have hated my skin color to do such a thing. That wasn’t the case, I just wanted to love whoever I wanted. Race or skin color did not matter, love should be about love nothing less and nothing more. At a certain point I hid my ex from my family because I did not want them to find out her race. Although it’s not the same as coming out and getting stares it’s a similar feeling, those who come out are brave and take the worl head on. Its tough to be an Lgbtq member in this society.

    • I can’t imagine having to deal with the backlash from a community for being your authentic self. I admire your drive stay true to you and acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you. On the case of being a gay woman, I think that’s society doesn’t really put them in the same category as gay men. I think that gay men are plain disliked based on stereotypes and being plain homophobic, but with gay women, they are sexualized, over sexualized. From your experience, it seems that society doesn’t care about you or like you unless you fit the mold they created. This is unfortunately the case for many people and it happens based on race, religion, physical appearance, and political views. I honestly think that if you hadn’t come out, you might’ve been in a different unhappier place. I hope you continue to stay true to you and fight for the acceptance of loving who you love.

  2. Jennifer Valenzuela

    As a bisexual women watching movies or TV shows also made me learn about my own sexuality. I also remember feeling confused and unsure about my own sexuality when watching said movies or TV shows as a young teenager.It’s confusing to feel as if you are completely different from others and that makes it difficult to come out about your sexuality. I know what’s it like to feel like when people start treating you differently. I was 15 when I decided to come out to my older brother, we were fairly close at the time. He was supportive but definitely asked questions that I wasn’t sure how to answer, and I wish he hadn’t done that. I still haven’t came out to anyone else in my family. I remember that the days following me coming out to him, my mom looked at me in a weird way. I still don’t know if my brother told her but we have never talked about it again. I often see others on the street staring and judging same sexed couples. It’s frustrating to see them judging others for being in love.

  3. Hi Zoe,

    I commend you on sharing your story along with having the perspective that you have regarding other’s reactions, it gives hope to others out there that may not have someone to talk to along with helping them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can relate to you on so many levels, especially when I’m out in public and am showing my partner affection or she’s showing me affection. I often see heterosexual couples being affectionate and not one person staring or paying any attention, it made me sad in a sense because the first thought that came to my mind was how I wish that I could show and be just as affectionate with my girlfriend without any worries or fears of what those around may think, say or how they would react or be stared out like we’re some type of entertainment. Thinking and knowing who I am and no longer having to pretend or hide who I truly am has made the world of a difference for my happiness and being able to live my truth and love every aspect of my life. I’m extremely happy for you and I hope that you’re able to bring comfort to those out there that struggled the same as you did then with hopes of having the outlook that you have now.

    Best wishes,
    Jalisa M

  4. Hi Zoe,
    I am glad to read that despite all the negative reactions and experiences you have faced you are still able to live in peace and be your authentic self. It is unfortunate for someone to have fear embedded in them due to certain society believes and “norms”. Nonetheless, I do feel that it is more acceptable today then several years ago, though there is still plenty of room from for further improvement in the way gay people are treated and accepted. There will always be those who can not accept the “unaligned” behaviors and likes of woman and males towards the “equal” gender as them. However, like my experience, for someone who is coming out the most important acceptances and support stems from family members. I am a Mexican woman and in my culture there is a stigma that woman are made for men. Fortunately my parents were very open minded and when I came out my moms answer assured me I was going to be just fine. She said “I always knew you would be different”, and she said it with a smile. My parents said as long as I am happy they are too and any negative feedback that came from speculators did not matter or effect me. At the age of 14, and having the courage to come out knowing the resistant you may face, I applaud you for your courage and hope that life brings you great happiness.

  5. Dear Zoe,

    First, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to you for sharing your story and being open about your experience. I know that these are difficult discussions that are sometimes easier not to have, but when they are shared, they can be so beneficial and so many great things can come from them. In addition, on behalf of our society/culture, I would like to apologize for the harassment and judgment you have endured. I encourage you to continue to be brave and stay true to yourself, because that is where, I, too, have found lasting peace.

    You mentioned that a woman’s story on the show Skins helped you understand and prepare for what would come with being open about your sexuality, and your story has helped me understand my 14 year old niece who confided in me that she is attracted to girls. I will recommend the show to her and hope that she benefits from it like you did. Thanks again!

    Maria C.

  6. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story, this could really help others who are still trying to figure out their own sexuality, or who are struggling and afraid of coming out. I think that sexuality is a norm, in a sense that many people are still not “used to” or familiar with seeing or being around people who are attracted to someone of the same sex. Coming out can be very scary because not only do you have to face the reaction of your friends and family, but you also have to face the reactions of the public world. Although the opinions of others should never affect you and how you live your life, somehow it can. “Guys seem intent on flipping me”, it’s sad to think that many people, especially men when it comes to women liking women, do not take them seriously. It’s as if men think it is just a “phase” or that women are just making up the fact that they like people of the same sex. This is where spreading awareness needs to come in. More people need to be educated on how to properly interact with people of the LGBTQ community.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your coming out story and your struggles. I myself am bisexual and my wife is a lesbian. We have gotten more than our fair share of stares or the consummate male gaze that stays on us holding hands for far too long. We have gotten the questions of “Can we watch you?” from men that have only just met us and also the implication that we just haven’t had the right man. I have discovered though that when confronted with the fact that while my wife is lesbian, I have in fact been with men and find the ones asking to join us inadequate, that it is met with immediate hostility and I have been called quite a few names.
    My daughter was 14 when she came out to us, but she knew we would be accepting. I was hopeful that she wouldn’t have the same struggles that my wife and I faced and in reality, that didn’t happen. She came out as pansexual and was met with immediate hostility from her peers and isolated very quickly. People could kind of understand bisexual, but being pansexual is a newer term and in the small town we lived in the people around her just didn’t understand what it meant. She has a better circle of friends now that she is an adult, but it still kills me that she was immediately placed in a box titled “other” by people who had known her for her entire life. It seemed unfair having struggled through the 90’s myself as a teenager and helping pave the way for LGBTQ youth to be more accepted that when my own daughter came to age, she was shoved right back into that same box that I knew so well. It is freeing being yourself and living your best life its just such a downer when the rest of the world sees that wonderful life and calls it sin even if it is the farthest thing from it.

  8. Kimberly Welch

    Dear Zoe,

    I commend you for staying true to yourself and putting your happiness and life choices first. Coming out is probably one of the scariest things to do as you’ve mentioned because it’s unclear on what to expect from your friends and family and how they will react. However, those who truly love you for the amazing human being that you are, will support the decision you’ve made for yourself and stand by your side at the end of the day. I think it’s pretty amazing that in today’s society, there is an LGBTQ+ community of people to reach out to for guidance and to provide a sense of belonging. Communities like these are wonderful because they educate us on the various important issues in which they fight for and promote on a daily basis. This includes: ending discrimination and obtaining basic human rights for all, which is a powerful and beautiful message. I for one, have certain members within my family who are “gay” and have heard some of the hardships and pain they’ve endured over the years. It’s hard to watch the people you love suffer and go through discrimination and constantly be ridiculed or reduced to feeling unfit or not normal simply for not conforming to what society considers to be normal. My advice for you would be to continue to stay true to yourself, obtain a loving support system, and pay it forward by guiding another individual into coming into themselves. I wish nothing, but the best for you and a positive and bright future.

  9. First off, I can only imagine how difficult this experience has been and likely still is. I admire your mindset of putting your happiness first and foremost and not letting the judgments of others effect you. Coming out at a young age, when the teen years are already filled with bullying and judgment, sounds terrifying — you have a tremendous amount of courage. In my catholic high school, two girls came out shortly after graduating because they were afraid of the judgment they would receive in the school community. I find this so sad because religion should be about loving one another but in reality, the world we foster on a day to day basis is pretty much the opposite. Also, the mother of a close family friend of mine just came out to her husband, children, and friends. The amount of judgment she has had to endure for people she has known and loved for 40+ years is insane. I think everyone likes to think we live in a progressive, accepting society, especially in our own “inner circles” but her experience has showed me, second-hand, how people isolate someone just for expressing who they are. I cannot imagine how painful it must be to have close friends of many years isolate and distance themselves from you for being true to yourself.

  10. Hi Zoe,
    Firstly, I want to thank you for sharing your story here. I think that the ability to come out to friends/family is something that so many LGBTQ people struggle with, so the fact that you were even able to do that is wonderful and so incredibly inspirational. As someone who used to watch skins, I’m so glad that you were able to get some type of epiphany from the show that helped you to prepare for your own announcement to the people you care about and the rest of the world. I do think that anyone who tries to change you, or make you feel like you’re wrong somehow for your feelings or the way that you are is struggling with something deep down inside of themselves, maybe its because of the way they were raised, or because of how they were taught, and while I am in no way condoning their behavior my point is that the issue is not you at all: its the person passing the judgment, someone who does that is obviously struggling with their own issues. I think that your ability to handle the harassment you’ve received and your ability to stay true to yourself is the most amazing form of self-love and grace and I hope that you continue to speak your truth and be yourself 🙂

  11. As others have mentioned, coming out in a relatively old-fashioned society like America is incredibly courageous. I was saddened to read the heartbreaking reactions of shunning, chastising, and attacking against you expressed in this post, but I am, disappointingly, not surprised.

    However, it certainly must feel emboldening and encouraging knowing you are living an honest, open life. In the long run, those who shunned and chastised you for coming out will become the odd ones out, and hopefully this comes sooner than later. I hope you continue to feel encouragement and support from within yourself, as accepting yourself for who you are is a big feat many cannot say they’ve toppled.

    I have the luxury of being a straight man in a society that favors my “type” as the norm. I won’t pretend I can fully comprehend your experience, but I will say that coming out as an atheist in a highly Christian high school, and still to this day, proves difficult, especially among family. So, I am at least partially understanding of the feeling of freedom that comes with being honest with yourself and others. Please, keep being who you are. I believe the comfort and hope this brings you will far outweigh anything anyone can say or do to you.

  12. I think there is a lot of bravery and courage needed to come out because one will have to understand that they will be subject to different treatment and judgement, but its good to know that the show “Skins” was able to help Zoe understand how one could possibly go through that process. I feel like nowadays there are more and more shows that include characters that are part of the LGBTQ+ community and include the way they are treated which in more cases than not can happen in real life. These shows are good for public who watches so that they are able to understand what those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have to go through and also to help people like Zoe who are just trying to understand how the journey would be like for themselves.

    I couldn’t imagine how it would feel like to have guys wanting to “flip me” because it shouldn’t have to be something that they should even think about doing or decide to make on someones life. I can sympathize with Zoe that it can see it being difficult trying to make friends when there are people who hope to flip you to like the opposite sex.

  13. While LGBTQ rights have improved a lot in the last generation, this posting is a prime example of how much further it has to go. I find it strange that people can be so threatened by someone that is different even though they are not causing anyone harm. That concept of fitting in affects people their entire lives, not just when they are young and in school. There also seems to be more analyzing of gay couples than straight couples. It is less common to look at a straight couple and wonder if they are friends or siblings. The assumption is that they are a couple and it is socially acceptable. Also, I found it interesting that she was concerned about men’s responses to her being a lesbian more than women’s responses. There is a common reaction by men to try and make gay women become straight. I suspect that somehow a woman choosing to be with another woman is perceived as a threat to their masculinity. They are not comfortable enough with themselves to accept that a woman does not want them.

  14. Enedino Vasquez

    Not many people can “come out of the closet” due to cultural beliefs in their family and how society would treat them. Yes although it is 2019 the LGBTQ community face a lot of criticism. Which prevents them to show their passions towards their partner in public because the community thinks it’s still wrong. I have a friend who says that he still gets looked bad and treated differently because he is gay. I asked him if it affected him in how he acted around others he then told me that he didn’t really pay attention to the people criticizing him and his partner because the only people that matter is how his parents feel about it and he said they actually respected his way of being. That all they wanted for him is to be happy. Yet he didn’t “come out the closet” until he was 18. The LGBTQ community should be respected as they respect everyone around them.

  15. Coming out at the age of 14 can be pretty scary, and personally, I have heard adults say things such as, “there is no way a child could make that decision”, or, “how could they know?”. Although I have never experienced this before, I can understand that it can be something stressful and difficult to carry through. It is crazy to think that even after all this time being straight is the norm. People should be allowed to choose and change their sexuality without anyone giving it a second thought. Although sexuality is a big deal, it should be treated the same as a random part of a person’s identity such as their clothing style. In addition, the fact that men have a desire to “flip” someone, does not have a lot to do with someone’s sexuality. Although, it can hurt someone’s feelings and cause them to feel that others around them are not in support of their sexuality, it mainly has to do with those men trying to prove their masculinity.

  16. I am really glad to hear that there are platforms out there that help people tackle difficult decisions like deciding when to come out. I always imagined it would be a scary process, constantly thinking up all of the different ways an announcement like that would go. It’s terrifying to think that a part of your life could completely change the way another person thinks of you, especially when it is so central to who you are. I did not really even consider that someone might think to make a game out of something so personal. As if someone would, after going through all of the different motions of coming out, suddenly realize that they were wrong all along. Not only does this come across as disrespectful, but it makes a joke out of something that is a somewhat vulnerable and intimate subject. It’s sad that a simple change in how a person lives their life brings about so many other complications.

  17. It takes a lot of courage to already be honest with your inner self, I can’t imagine doing it as well to the world. Also having the risk of them not accepting you as your true self could be a scary thought, this makes it more difficult to even try to accept yourself. Most of the TV shows that now air on TV and even on the internet like Youtube are helping young people understand that there not the only ones who are experiencing  these situations . Compared to back when in the early 2000s there were not many shows and media that would often openly discuss about this topic thus making people feel like it wasn’t normal. I am glad that we have more open media because this will help young or older people feel loved that they are not alone that it’s completely natural. Your sexuality doesn’t define you as a person, we are all the same no matter what our preference may be. 

  18. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone to come out. You aren’t just coming out to your parents and friends, but you are putting yourself on display for the whole world to see. It must feel like there is a big label on you that everyone can see when you are in public. Although I have not had to go through this, I have friends who have come out and they have told me similar stories where they were dreading telling their parents about who they were. Thankfully, they were all accepted by their parents and didn’t face much criticism in public for who they were. It is really sad to hear how people didn’t accept Zoe and made her feel like an outcast, especially when I compare her story to the positive experiences my friends have had. I’m hoping that Zoe’s story is from years ago and that she is much more comfortable with who she is today.

  19. Hi there, thank you for this post.
    I have a female friend at work to confided in me last night that she was invited to drinks one-on-one with a male coworker of ours. She was nervous to go out with him because she would be telling him she was gay. She told me that it could go one of several ways: he will either be totally fine with it, super turned off by it, not wanting to even be her friend because she is not a possible dating option, or will still make advances at her despite her saying she is only interested in women.
    I was saddened by this as I do not face any discrimination when making friends and telling them about my boyfriend. Some guys may get bummed out realizing I would not be an option, but overall, most still want to be my friend. I did not realize just how much of a struggle it is for her to make friends with men because she is gay. She confided in another coworker of ours who is also gay and he let her know the guy she was going out for drinks with is not a complete ass and will not be upset with her for being gay.
    However, this is still so frustrating as there should be no worry for anyone to come out to a friend about their sexuality. It annoys me that her first thought when she was invited out was to worry about talking about her own life and her girlfriend in front of someone who may not approve.

  20. It takes a lot of courage to come out and even the journey to figure out this important part of you should take as much time as necessary. I really like how the show Skins is discussed in this article because I remember watching that show when I was younger and having it really open my eyes to many different issues, problems, and situations in the world. I remember exactly which episode the author is talking about and I remember it helped me understand my sexuality too! Especially due to the age I was watching it at was beneficial because I did not see the negatives or have any prior feelings towards the LGBTQ community, understanding that people saw same sex couples negatively was something I found out about after this crucial time in my life. Being able to understand my attractions with no restrictions was really helpful and I wish Skins was still running!

  21. Coming out can be a scary situation at any age. There is always that fear of your friends and family not being supportive, being harassed, and being treated differently. When meeting new people, there are no expectations, no preconceptions, no previous ideas about who you are, and who you are “suppose” to be. There is only you, a brand new person to strangers. Most of the time, your sexuality doesn’t come up, but when it does, and it is mentioned that you aren’t straight, you did not shatter someone’s expectations of you. The fear is telling your family, your friends that you have known since elementary school, and basically everyone that has ever know you to be straight. Shattering that preconcived idea of what your life was suppose to be like. That is what is terrifying, are the most important people in your life, the ones you love and cherish most, going to love you unconditionally and support you through the toughest of times? I sure hope so. However, if they don’t welcome you with open arms, then I hope one day you find the people that show you what unconditional love really is. I hope that you can live your life to the fullest extent, and express your self, your sexuality, and your love in any way you may imagine. (P.S I am using “you, and you’re as a general statement. They are not directed at you personally. However, I am very happy that you are now expressing who you really are.)

  22. Hi there. I first want to express openly that I may never be able to truly understand what it must be like for you on a day to day basis. That being said, it is with full heart that I am in awe of your bravery to come out at a young age. Please do not take my words as pity or anything negative. One of my good friends in high school grew up in a tradition Asian Christian household and his coming out to his parents was without a doubt one of the most difficult ordeals he had to go through. And even then, it did not occur until he was in college, with an amazing support system of friends, and the experience and bravery built up over years to back his decision. So when I hear your story, again I am just in awe with your take on life to live openly and honestly because for far too many people, living openly is terrifying. I am also just so frustrated with society because I know that people being different has always been and always will be a defining factor in creating prejudice and hate. I just want to end this with keep on doing you and rock this world.

  23. It’s so brave of you that you did coming out in your young age. I would not do that if I were in your situation. Your words, “Other people’s reactions don’t matter to me so long as I am happy,“ is expressing how you went through some difficult time and have been still fighting with them. For a third party, people including me can understand that the best way to cope with those people who say something bad about others is just ignoring them. However, imaging if I was said something disrespectful for me I could not put up with and try to think things positively like you. (Of course, I know it was not that easy to move on.)
    More and more numbers of people have more understanding of LGBTQ, but we should not only promote the movement of LGBTQ but also understand what kind of things LGBTQ people are suffering from.

  24. It sucks because some of the worlds are super accepting and supportive. HOWEVER, another large part of the world sees your being bi as something DIFFERENT, which means, while they might not think it’s the worst thing in the world, they still want you to know there is an option to NOT BE THAT WAY.
    It’s a little effed up, yea, but I think it happens to all of us regardless of age. If you feel comfortable enough to come out, I think you should. You don’t come out for people around you, you come out for you. That is what is important here. There will be questions/concerns/ comments from people, sure, but keep in mind that YOU know yourself. Even if your mind changes in 15 minutes, this is exactly who you are right now. This is not a phase; you are not confused. You are you.

  25. I love this. I came out at a young age as well, and it can be very lonesome. I’m asexual so telling people came with a lot of explaining and youtube searches and metaphors. But what really helped me was reading books with characters in them like me. Watching YouTubers who could explain things in a way that I couldn’t. I think there should be more representation out there for every type of person.

  26. I am so proud of you for being brave enough to come out and being able to take on all the harassment. In middle school I had a best friend who I knew was hiding something from me for weeks. It wasn’t until I moved to a different state that she called me and told me she was bi and had a crush on me. She was afraid that I would hate her or not want to be her friend anymore, but the only thing that upset me was the fact that she didn’t tell me before I left. I told her that I was her best friend and that I would have never judged her, but I wasn’t even able to figure out if I could return her feelings. We were miles and miles apart and had already started to slowly stop talking to each other, also starting off a relationship like that wasn’t ideal, not to mention we were in middle school. Even now, as a college student, I have only ever dated one guy and months after we broke up, I found out that he had cheated on me. So, I’m not looking to date anyone for a while. I’m still trying to learn about myself, get my degree, and start my life.

  27. I became a wiser man when gay people told me what it was like growing up in a world where they were “different”. Although a lot more people consider it acceptable in modern society to be gay, there are always going to be people who do not accept anything that is not within the parameters of their narrow way of thinking.

    Life is like the school playground, where people are attacked verbally or physically because of anything that is remotely different about them.

  28. I agree that the reactions she has received are more about the people with those reactions, than anything to do with her. Historically, in some societies I suspect she would be the norm. In the society she lives in today, well more acceptable today than when I came into the world so long ago. I suspect the actions of some less enlighten others, do unfortunately bother her.

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