How Rape Culture Kept Me From Coming Out Sooner

Eighteen-year-old NCJW LA intern Emily Heaps was reluctant to come out, and then went from being ashamed of who she is, to waking up every morning loving herself


It wasn’t until a month ago that I fully came out. At the time, I was unaware of why I felt hesitant about my sexuality, but looking back now as an eighteen-year-old, I can see why I was so reluctant.

When I was younger, my parents taught me that no matter who I was or what I wanted to do, they would support me. So when I discovered that I was gay, coming out to the people close to me was easy and well-received; having support behind me made my circumstances feel a lot safer. It’s rare for somebody to feel that they can always fall back on their family.

Yet, something continued to hold me back from coming out as gay to people I didn’t know as well. I found myself hiding it from others as if it was something to be ashamed of. For the last two years, I identified as bisexual. Though I had no doubt that I was gay, bisexuality felt safer because it was more accepted by my classmates.

When I first started middle school and all throughout high school, I heard many negative comments about women who identify as gay. I heard guys talking about how that girl was “way too hot to be gay,” which never made sense to me. There is absolutely no correlation between appearance and homosexuality. Yet growing up, I learned from the people around me and the media that there was. I’d also hear male students say that gay women were probably “just going through a phase.”

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