A Small Piece of Me- My Coming Out Journey
Hello world. If you haven’t already connected the dots from my previous blogs, I shall say it to you now. My name is Corinne and here it goes. Deep breathe. I’m gay. More specifically, I am a cisgender homosexual female and my pronouns are she/her. Whew, it feels good to have that off my chest. In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11th, I wanted to take a slight detour away from my normal comedic tone in order to discuss one of the most integral, yet terrifying, experiences LGBTQ+ people face every day- coming out. It is my hope that my vulnerability in telling my own story will resonate with you. Here it goes.
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Alright, I guess I can’t completely move away from my comedic tone or forget to pay homage to my deeply-rooted love for Star Wars. You caught me. Let’s try again.
I knew I was different when I was eight years old. I’ve always been a self-proclaimed nerd, but I knew this was unprecedented. The girls in my class gushed over the boys and gawked about how cute they were. I was giving the boys bruises while we played flag football and kickball together at recess. The girls were wearing pink uniform shirts, navy blue skirts, and white frilly socks. I was content with my khaki pants, white uniform shirt, and tennis shoes, all of which were perpetually stained with mud and grass, despite the obscene amount of OxiClean utilized in my parent’s laundering efforts. The girls wrote mushy Powerpuff Girls Valentine’s day cards to the boys in our class and signed their names with hearts and flowers. I snuck my unsigned Power Ranger Valentines into the boxes of the girls in my class, hoping they would never figure out who the handwriting belonged to. I talked to the boys about sports, the weather, and Pokémon cards. I talked to the girls about my feelings, my aspirations, and my insecurities. The guys were just my “bros” and the girls were my interest. I didn’t realize the difference that I felt had a name for it- gay.
I spent the duration of my middle school, high school, and college years trying to deny the feelings simmering underneath the surface. I hid behind my busy class schedule, competitive sports, and extracurricular activities in an attempt to take my mind off the truth. I made feeble attempts to date men to keep my parents from constantly questioning why their very eligible daughter seemed to be socially inept. I vehemently and almost ragefully denied being gay when my mom asked me in high school, despite my own better judgement. I knew I was, but I was paralyzed with fear of the unknown. I feared my parent’s reaction, despite their unrelenting support. I feared my classmates and teammates would treat me differently. I feared that my friends, my primary support system, would abandon me because they thought I was a freak. I feared that my existence would inherently have less value. For years it was a perpetual cycle of legitimately questioning my sexuality, doubting it, and then sweeping it under the rug. Rinse and repeat with an obscene amount of OxiClean.
You know, they say you find love when you least expect it. For years, I scoffed at the notion that such fate existed in the universe. Lo and behold, while not making any sort of attempt to date, I met the person of my dreams 15 days after my 22nd birthday. Francesca was beautiful, intelligent, funny, and most importantly, could put up with my sass and sarcasm. Just that last bit was enough for me to fall head over heels. Even though we had just met, I felt as though the universe had meant for us to find each other. Our friendship was instantaneous and inexplicable feelings manifested in the same fashion. My long-standing protocols of denial and self-sabotage were absolutely useless against this revolutionary ardor. I had fallen madly, deeply, and passionately in love and I couldn’t hide it. I had to come out.
I was sitting on the couch texting Francesca when my mother and brother walked into the living room. They noticed my ear-to-ear smile and giggled at one another, snapping me out of my love-stricken stupor. My eyes drifted over to where they were standing and immediately took note of their curiosity. Nearly in unison they asked, “Your face looks weirder than usual. Who are you texting to make your face look that way?”. I gulped hard at the realization that I wouldn’t be able to hide from this question.
With one huge breath, the words tumbled out of my mouth, “I’ve met someone really special and this person just so happens to be a woman. I love her and I’m gay.” There was a moment of silence, they looked at each other, and smiled back at me. I expected some questions and bewilderment, but I was not met with either. After years of angst, their response to my coming out was, “Sweet! Hell, it’s about damn time! We had suspected it, but we just wanted to hear you say it. We love you and we support you no matter what.” As I was trying to gain my composure, my mom looked over at me and chuckled. She said, “I’ve said this to you before and I’ll say it again. You have the emotional hide of a rhinoceros. You’re stubborn and have fiercely guarded your feelings. The first person to rightfully earn your heart is going to be the person you marry.” Clearly, moms can predict the future.
When I came out to my dad, step-mom, grandmother, old teammates, and closest friends, I was met with love and support. I felt liberated from my own self-guilt and I was finally able to be my authentic self. Unfortunately, this story is not all rainbows and unicorns. When I came out, friends did walk away from me. Extended family members looked at me differently and judged my “lifestyle” accordingly. Numerous people told me that “it’s just a phase” and “I’ll get over it”. The worst of the worst, “You just a need a big, hunky man to set you straight.” I lied to my predominantly male co-workers about my “boyfriend” to defend myself against harassment and sexist remarks. I wanted so desperately to wear that rainbow flag on my sleeve for the world to see who I really was, but the fear of judgement still had deeply imbedded roots.
Coming out, no matter where one falls on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, is never an easy task. Looking back on my own story, I acknowledge that my coming out process was considerably easier than most. I have met others who had an extremely difficult journey and are actively struggling with the repercussions of choosing to live their honest truth. The difficult coming out stories that we hear about on social media are not fantasy. They are an appalling reality. I have met LGBTQ+ people who have been disowned by their families and thrown out onto the streets to fend for themselves. I have met those who have attempted suicide or who have inflicted repeated self-harm because they were shunned by their families. I have those who have been the victims of physical violence and hate crimes purely because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I have met those who have developed severe addiction problems to cope with the unrelenting rejection and hardship.
A study of youth homelessness in the United States in 2017 by Chapin Hall of the University of Chicago discovered that LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely than their cisgender heterosexual peers to experience homelessness. The 2019 State Index on Youth Homelessness published by True Colors United found that LGBTQ+ youth comprise approximately 40% of all youth experiencing homelessness. 33% of transgender people have experienced homelessness at some point in their life and transgender youth of color are more likely to be victims of violent crimes. According to the Human Rights Campaign report on transgender violence, at least 26 transgender women were fatally shot or killed in 2019. Of those killed, 91% were Black, 81% were under the age of 30, and 68% lived in the South.
Despite the immense social progression and rising approval of the LGBTQ+ community in the past few decades, the journey for LGBTQ+ equality is still far from over. According to the 2019 GLAAD Accelerating Acceptance Report, 80% of non-LGBTQ+ Americans support equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, violence and discrimination are still prevalent, especially against the transgender community. Education and visibility will help steer the movement in the direction of tolerance and eventually acceptance, but the journey is far from over. In reflection of this monumental day, take these words of truth with you and apply them in your life.
1. Coming out is terrifying. Sometimes the coming out process is easy, and for others, it can be extremely difficult with life-altering ramifications. Don’t assume or pry about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Allow LGBTQ+ people to come out on their own terms and be very respectful of their privacy. Announcing a person’s coming out story to other people without their knowledge or consent can be damaging. Create a safe space and show your patience, empathy, love, and support.
2. Being gay is not a choice. I spent too many years of my life lying about who I was because I was frightened about how the world would perceive my existence. My scientific brain has spent countless hours trying to discover a logical reason for my homosexuality to no avail. The answer is simple- we are who we are.
3. Being gay does not define a person. People who identify with the LGBTQ+ community are more than their labels. I do not introduce myself as, “Hi, I’m Corinne and I’m a lesbian.” Get to know people for the incredibly unique individuals that they are. I’ll start with myself.
I am obsessed with building Legos.
I was an All-American softball player in college.
I have two large tattoos.
My partner and I have the same birthday.
4. Coming out is not a one-time event. If only it were that easy! Posting on social media on National Coming Day does not mean that the entire world has received your memo. I came out to my extended family, friends, peers, professors, and co-workers over the course of many years, one person at a time. It gets easier with time, but is a lifelong process.
5. To those who are questioning and those who might know someone who needs to see this. Your sexual orientation is valid. Your gender identity is valid. Your unique identity in this universe is valid. This odyssey is arduous. You will have to overcome adversity. You will have to have difficult conversations. You will question whether or not you can handle this. Trust me when I say this- you can. It does get better and it gets easier. You are loved. You are respected. You are not alone.
Regardless of your sexual orientation, embrace your amazingly unique self, live your life authentically, and own who you are. As cliché as it sounds, time is too precious to waste being unhappy. Being gay is simply a part of who I am and I have chosen to embrace it and the challenges that accompany the territory. In doing so, my soul is alive and thriving. I am comfortable in my own skin, my heart has found love, and I am living my life free of guilt or regret. In the midst of these absolutely crazy times, here is my message to you. You are beautiful. You are amazing. Your differences make you extraordinary. Be kind to one another and most importantly, yourself.
Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C., Chapter 115
Corinne Alexander, D.C. is the ambassador of Chapter 115 in Cupertino, CA and has been a member of the Women’s Networking Alliance since July 2019. She is the owner of Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C. located in San Jose, CA. Her interest in joining the Diversity and Council was fueled by her personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She aspires to be a positive role model in her community by promoting kindness and education, and creating an environment of mutual respect among others.