I came out as pansexual, and it changed my life
Pride, and Pride month, is a wonderful, inclusive experience. Individuals on the LGBTQ+ spectrum are highlighted, allies are supportive, naysayers are educated, and the whole world grows.
The impact of Pride, however, goes far beyond a parade, celebration, or even a month. It’s human. Who we love is an intrinsic part of our being, and affects the trajectory of our lives in a major way.
Which is how I found myself sat on the edge of my dorm bed, shaking and staring into my laptop’s camera in September 2018.
“Please don’t tell Dad,” I begged my mum over FaceTime, with tears streaming down my face and onto my keyboard. I’d recently moved 3,633 miles away from America to London to fulfil my academic goals, and in a moment of panic, I’d finally told her my deepest, darkest secret: I wasn’t straight.
That’s what I kept saying, afraid to actually say the word “pansexual”–which is the attraction to individuals, regardless of their sex or gender. I hadn’t meant to come out to my mum, but 23 years in the closet and a very persuasive panic attack will do that to you.
Keeping a secret of that magnitude was stressful, exhausting and terrifying as a whole, but I thought I could handle it. But once my dating pool grew, and I was having to lie about who I was seeing, I knew I had to make a choice.
After the panic subsided, I was acutely aware that by telling my mum, I’d laid the groundwork to come out to my entire, very religious, family.
See, when I was growing up, it was always clear that in my household, being part of the LGBTQ+ community was extremely frowned upon. The prospect of having to go against my family’s beliefs and potentially losing them was nerve-wracking–but even though I wasn’t even remotely emotionally prepared for it, I knew it had to be done. Living with one foot out of the closet was exhausting.
My depression had been getting steadily worse, my anxiety was skyrocketing, and those pesky panic attacks were back. If I wanted to live–truly live, with my whole heart and soul–I knew I needed to be honest with myself and those around me: I was, and am, pansexual.
That’s why this Pride, I’m so conscious of how that acceptance might be the only reason I’m still standing here today.
When I finally came out, I thought I was going to die. And then, once that feeling passed, it was like the weight of the world had been lifted off my chest.
Strange things started happening – namely, that I felt safe. My sexuality was no longer a scarlet letter, but instead, a vibrant badge that I chose to wear on my terms.
I want to make something clear: I’ve battled depression and anxiety for the better part of 10 years, and coming out didn’t magically solve all my problems. I still have bad days, and sometimes, I regret coming out. It sent shockwaves through my family, and I’m still feeling the aftershock.
But the freedom to be myself is something I will never take lightly, and that’s why I have to celebrate it. In my eyes, the propensity we have to love one another is the most beautiful thing about being human.
Platonically, romantically, sexually–love is powerful, pervasive, and has the ability to change lives.
When I came out to my family, they didn’t blindly accept my sexuality–but they did continue to love me. I hadn’t warped into an entirely different person by coming out, and I think in the months since I came out, they’ve begun to realise that. I am loved, but I am also lucky.
Unfortunately, not every member of the LGBTQ+ community has the privilege to be visible and vulnerable. Across the world, 72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships and eight countries would give the death sentence to someone like me, simply because of who I love.
However, my sexuality is an essential part of who I am. My propensity to love anyone, regardless of gender, is a beautiful thing that I refuse to be ashamed of again. This month, this parade, this time in my life is a reason to celebrate.
For me, Pride is dancing with my best friends to Queen in a basement bar. But, in the same way, Pride is reassuring closeted friends that one day, it will get better. And this weekend, Pride will be me wearing my pansexual flag like a cape, twirling around in the middle of the pavement, not a care in the world.
If you’re questioning your sexuality, I encourage you to reach out to trusted and LGBTQ+ affirming friends, family or authority figures. Navigating your sexuality can be a terrifying and beautiful experience, and you don’t have to do it alone. Remember: you’re never alone. Pride shows us that.
Whether you’re straight, queer or questioning, Pride is important to each and every one of us. That’s why we celebrate – for the wellbeing of the world.