8 Canadian Women Share Their Coming-Out Stories

"I've had many coming-out moments, not just one," says Tao-Ming Lau, the Toronto-based founder of Blue Crane talent agency. "LGBTQ narratives so heavily focus on THE BIG or ONE moment and that is not my experience at all." Lau's point: Whether it’s explaining to a new colleague that, no, you don’t have a boyfriend, or to a friend-of-a-friend that you don't believe in binary notions of sexuality, coming out is an ongoing process. (It shouldn’t have to be, but that’s another story.)
That said, sharing your sexual orientation can be incredibly liberating and empowering. “To my surprise, the shock of coming out and the pain resulting from my parents’ reaction was very quickly overshadowed by the incredible feeling of freedom," says Jordan, who accidentally came out on television (more on that below).
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In honour of Pride Month 2020, we asked Canadian women to share their coming-out stories.
“My son was about two when I came out. Between having a lot of time home alone with him during my mat leave and then going back to work, it felt like I was in my own thoughts more than I'd ever been in my life. I remember being home alone and putting my hands on the kitchen island and saying to myself over and over, 'I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay.'
"It was the first time I had ever said it out loud. It was March 2016. It took me a few more months to tell my son’s father. We were trying to work on our marriage for a year after that; we had been together for 12, almost 13 years by the time I left. It wasn’t like there was anyone else. As soon as I heard it in my own voice in my own ears, it was just true."— Erin
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"I've had many coming-out moments, not just one! First was having a crush on my high-school camp counsellor when I was 13 years old. Big one was coming out to my parents when I was 26. I wrote a formal seven-page letter to my dad and came out to my mom over a meal in Vancouver. Lastly, constant coming outs to my sweet cis-dude boyfriends putting up with me.
"My biggest advice? There are many of these coming-out moments — to friends, family, workplaces, social media, over and over again — in different forms, for different reasons (safety and visibility, etc.) that change over time. Know that there are many different types of opportunities and ways to go about it if you feel safe to do so, for each specific crowd. LGBTQ narratives so heavily focus on THE BIG or ONE moment and that is not my experience at all. I'm currently coming out here too, on national media!"
Tao-Ming Lau, president/founder, Blue Crane Agency
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"I came out as a lesbian when I was 18. When I came out to my dad, he was like, 'I knew that already.' With my mom, it didn’t go all that well. I blurted it out because it was such a pent-up thing. I came out again in my 20s as bisexual, but it wasn’t as grand a reveal. It was gradual; I dated a couple of guys, and I just let the world in. I dated women and men in my 20s, and I eventually married a man.
"As a bisexual woman married to a man, particularly in pretty straight, Conservative Alberta, I do feel like I come out a lot. Sometimes just so that the people I’m talking to know who I am. It opens the way for other people to come out, too. And, sometimes, because I’m bi, I feel the need to shake things up and remind people that people have different identities that aren’t super visible." — Bri
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"I’m 55. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family, and I heard my mother say things about how [being gay] was unnatural. That stuck in my head. I never really came out to her. My dad died when I was young, and my mom died when I was 29. The last couple years of her life she had figured it out. She had said to a gay cousin of mine in Ireland, ‘I think our Sheila’s gay, I’m not sure what to do about it.’ And my cousin said, ‘Well, love her.’ And my mom was like, 'Okay. Cool.' But we never discussed it.
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"Then she died and all of a sudden there was this freedom of being able to tell anybody and everybody. At first I thought, ‘I hope this doesn’t change how people perceive me,' but the support and the love and the kindness was unbelievable. Part of me is hopeful for the generations to come that there won’t be that stigma, but there [still] is [for some members of the LGBTQ+ community]. But most people don't care... Most people are just living their lives." — Sheila
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"I was 15 when I came out. It was a unique situation — my tenth grade English class was given a speech presentation assignment, and I decided to write mine on LGBTQ+ struggles and representation, with the twist that I myself was gay. I ended up coming out to my whole class, which quickly became my whole school. I was lucky enough that people were very accepting and understanding. A few of my classmates weren’t so warm; one kid laughed in my face about it, someone else wouldn’t drop the topic for the rest of the month, and I heard a lot of jokes and whispers. It made me uncomfortable, but it wasn’t too bad, all things considered — kind of what you’d expect from such a public coming out.

"In the actual instant when I had to say 'I’m gay,' I felt like all the air was getting sucked out of my lungs. Every time I’ve said those words to someone since, it’s been another little moment of fear, stress, uncertainty — just a fleeting anxiety that they might take it badly. It’s gotten better over time, though. Once again, I’ve been really lucky, because I’ve never gotten a violent or outright aggressive reaction.
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"I think it’s important to start small, telling one or two close friends in confidence. You need that small support network, even if it isn’t safe for you to take any further steps. Depending on your relationship with your family, they can also be a great source of support. Coming out is completely worth it, and you’ll probably find that the backlash you expected won’t really be so bad." — Jess
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"I was being interviewed for TV at a protest against the regression of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. One of my biggest reasons for opposing the rollback was the erasure of queer identities from sex education, and as I was talking about the effects of this erasure, I said, “as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the response I get isn’t always positive…” I was so caught up in the passion and emotion surrounding the protest that I was speaking without even really thinking about the words coming out of my mouth.
"[Later], I was so excited about learning that I was on national television that I didn’t even bother watching it before running to my mom and sharing the good news. We sat down to watch it together, and when I saw myself appear on the screen and announce that I was a part of the LGBTQ+ community, my heart stopped. Realizing I was cornered and had no choice but to tell the truth, I told her I was bisexual.
"To my surprise, the shock of coming out and the pain resulting from my parents’ reaction was very quickly overshadowed by the incredible feeling of freedom. The one barrier stopping me from being my authentic self was finally removed, even if it was against my will, and I could finally live without the constant burden of keeping my identity a secret. That night was bittersweet; while I was deeply hurt by my parents’ negativity, I also felt a freedom that I hadn’t felt for my entire adolescent life, and I didn’t regret my actions in the slightest." — Jordan
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“I had inklings my whole life. I was really stressed out at work and at home with the kids. I ended up taking myself away on a yoga meditation retreat to Big Sur in March 2018. I was alone for the first time in forever and I was writing stuff down — and I never journal. I remember walking up a hill and thinking, 'Oh my god, I’m gay.'
"The first person I talked about it with was a work friend. He formalized it with me and was really cool about it. Almost six months went by and I didn't say anything to anyone until my husband was like, 'I want to have sex,' and I was like, 'I want to be with a woman!' I started exploring after that. For me it was a big deal to tell other people because I have a family; I have my husband’s family, my family, they were connected and did a lot of stuff together for me. This was going to be completely transformative to my whole life. But it was worth it."— Meghan
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"My coming-out wasn’t planned. I was 21 and under pressure from my girlfriend at the time to come out and I didn’t want to. I was sitting at the table waiting for her to come pick me up and my mom was telling me that she didn’t like this new friend I had. I replied, 'Well I like her,' and my mom was like, 'What? You lick pussy?' And I said, 'Don't knock it till you try it.' And she said I was disgusting and told my dad.
"They are an old-fashioned Greek couple and they threw me out of the house, but they are slowing coming around. Twenty-three years later, they are almost accepting of it. (I say with laughter.) My advice is to do it on your own terms or don't do it at all. Every situation is different." — Maggie
These interviews were edited for length and clarity.

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