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Davis

Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UC Davis students share their coming out stories in honor of LGBTQ+ History Month

Three students give insight into navigating their queerness and advice for others 

By LYRA FARRELL — features@theaggie.org

For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out is a defining moment that can shape how they’re perceived, not only by others but by themselves. Many must decide whether they want to publicly declare their queerness to the world or be more selective about who they come out to throughout their lives. Three UC Davis students have diverse experiences in regard to their own journeys with understanding their queerness.

Kelsey Crist, a fourth-year biomedical engineering major with a minor in education, said that she fully identified as lesbian about six months ago, after dating her now-girlfrind for three years. 

“I feel like my whole coming out story was more coming out to myself,” Crist said. “I was convinced that I was straight all the way up through high school and the beginning of college. […] I was in pretty hardcore denial because in high school, I was the “straight friend” of the friend group and was constantly told, ‘You must be bi, you must be this,’ and I was like, ‘No, you don’t get to tell me what I am.’”

Crist said that she feels that her friends telling her what they thought her identity was stunted her journey to making these discoveries for herself. Coming into college, she had been dating her ex-boyfriend for two and a half years when she met her now-girlfriend. She said that dating her girlfriend helped her understand her queerness better. 

“It felt so different and so electrifying, something that I had never felt prior with my ex, and I just thought with him that was how it was,” Crist said. “I was like, ‘OK, that’s a little disappointing, but that’s fine.’ But turns out, I was wrong.”

Lori Pradham, a second-year marine and coastal science major, said she came into her identity as a freshman in high school, but sharing that identity with people in her life took time. 

“Coming out is more of a process than an event — the first time [I came out] was to my friends in high school […], and my second time was to my mom a year after,” Pradham said.

Pradham said that while her mom’s reaction to her coming out was unexpected, it was quite relieving.  

“I was in the car and I was freaking out,” Pradham said. “I was like, ‘Mom, I have something I have to tell you and you have to promise not to hate me,’ and she was like ‘What?’ and I was like, ‘I like girls,’ and she’s like, ‘OK, and?’” 

While Pradham thought that she would have to come out to each of her parents, she was surprised to find out that her mom had told her dad before she did. 

“I forgot that my parents tell each other everything, so I technically don’t have to tell my dad anything,” Pradham said. “I just have to tell my mom, and he’ll find out.”

While Pradham’s parents were accepting, she said they did caution her against coming out to other members of the family. 

“My mom was really cool with it,” Pradham said. “She was like, ‘Your dad and I are chill, just don’t ever tell your grandparents, because you will be responsible for their heart attacks and deaths.’”

Over the course of Pradham’s time navigating her queerness, she has found that the spectrum of ‘micro-labels’ that exist for the queer community have been a useful and validating tool. These are labels that are hyperspecific and which describe certain identities that often fall under the umbrella terms like lesbian, gay or queer, according to the Western Gazette. Pradham has used these micro-labels to identify which she feels best describes her at the moment.

“[I’m] biromanticdemihomosexual,” Pradham said. “Demisexual means that you’re not sexually attracted to people until you form an emotional connection with them, biromanctic is bisexual but romantic, and then the demihomosexual is […] when I form an attraction to someone, I will only be attracted to women. It’s so complicated that I tell people I’m bi.”

Aleshia Rose, a third-year communication major, recounted an early memory when she first began to realize her queerness during a board game. 

“I was six or seven and my friend was over and we were playing [The Game of Life],” Rose said. “We got to the point on the board where you would get married and I was extremely adamant about the fact that I would not be marrying one of those little blue plastic pegs.”

Rose remembers her parents opening her eyes to another option within the game, which she seized at the time. 

“My parents were sitting on the couch and said, ‘You know you can marry a woman, right?’ and I was like, ‘No way!’ and so I did, but after that I was super embarrassed and ashamed so I tried so hard for the next 11 years to repress that,” Rose said.

After years of difficulty understanding her identity, she decided to come out to her parents when she started dating a girl in college.

“I didn’t know what to say to my parents because I had been denying it for so long even though they fully knew, so I didn’t feel the need to tell them until I started dating a girl,” Rose said. “I told my mom my sophomore year of college. She picked me up for Thanksgiving break, and the second I got in the car I was like, ‘Mom, I have to tell you something.’”

Rose also chose to come out to her dad on the drive home from school for a holiday break. She said that she wasn’t surprised when he was accepting of her, but she was surprised that he had some news to share himself.

“My dad picked me up for Christmas break and I repeated the same exact thing but with him, and he goes, ‘Aleshia, I already knew this, did you expect me to be surprised?’ Rose said. “Then he was like, ‘by the way, I’m bigender.’” 

All three students expressed that understanding their queerness and coming out was a uniquely challenging experience, but they all gave some advice to others questioning their identities and how to share that identity with others.

Due to personal experience being labelled as queer before getting a chance to come out, Crist recommends not to assume people’s identity. 

“I’d encourage them to come out to people that they know will support them, and on the flip side, not ever assume or tell people what you think their sexual orientation is or should be,” Crist said. 

Pradham’s advice is to let queerness be something sacred to oneself before sharing it with the world.

“This is completely contrary advice to my experience, but I just feel like there’s a lot of pressure these days to tell everyone everything about yourself because your whole life is on the internet, [but] you can have some things that are just for you and the people you care about,” Pradham said.

Rose said that coming out can be whatever an individual wants it to be and they shouldn’t feel the need to earnestly approach every person in their life with the news of their querness.

“It does not have to be a big event, you can just start quietly slipping little comments into conversations and it’s honestly really entertaining,” Rose said. “That’s how I came out to all my friends. It was hilarious watching the look on their faces as they tried to figure out what the hell I was saying.”

For those questioning their identities, Pradham advised not to overthink it. 

“If you feel like your experience in sexuality and gender and orientation is different than other people, congratulations, you’re queer now,” Pradham said.

Written by: Lyra Farrell — features@theaggie.org 

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