The Daily Forty-NIner presents a nine-part series where members of the LGBTQ+ community share their coming out stories. This series is part of the publication’s OUTober special project, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community at Long Beach State.
Series produced by Paula Kiley & Aubrey Balster in collaboration with Queers and Allies CSULB.
‘It wasn’t a crazy big deal’, Keilan Stafford
Keilan Stafford was in his freshman year of high school when he received a question on Ask.fm, a social media site that encourages users to send questions anonymously.
“Are you gay?” the user asked.
Stafford quickly responded “yes,” and the news soon spread to his family. One Friday night before a football game, Stafford came home to his mother, who confronted him about the social media exchange.
According to Stafford, the conversation was brief and casual. After coming out to his mom, he went to the football game just like any other Friday night.
“It wasn’t a crazy big deal,” Stafford said. “My family’s super accepting.”
Though Stafford is grateful for having been raised in a nurturing and accepting environment, he recognizes that it could have been much worse and that many people don’t receive the same support he did.
“I sympathize with people who have had harder times,” Stafford said. “I try to be there for people the way that my parents have been there for me.”
‘[Coming out] never felt like an option,’ Paulina Rodriguez
Growing up, Paulina Rodriguez told herself that she would not come out until her mom passed away. Raised in a Catholic family, Rodriguez felt like coming out was not an option until about two years ago.
“It kind of hit me that I was going to lose so much of my life,” Rodriguez said. “I was already going through other things, so the sexuality kind of played into it. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to move forward until I was honest.”
On the day Rodriguez realized this, she came out to her mom.
‘It felt empowering to say it [out loud],’ Megan Henry
Megan Henry was 15 years old when she first said out loud that she was bisexual.
“I said it to myself in the mirror,” Henry said. “It felt empowering to say it. It’s finally out there in the open.”
Having gone to a Catholic school, Henry had always thought that romantic relationships could only be between a man and a woman.
“Do I want to date her, or do I want to be like her?” she would often ask herself.
Henry has been out for four years now and has experienced biphobia within the LGBTQ+ community.
“Being bisexual, people in the LGBT community have told me, ‘If you are with a man while being bisexual, you’re straight now,’” Henery said. “Hearing that made me feel depressed about my sexuality. I didn’t know how to express it. But now, I’ve known for a while that I am bisexual, and I’m going to keep it that way.”
‘And I oop, maybe I am gay,’ Federico Yñiguez
Federico Yñiguez always felt like he was different. But this became prominent in the seventh grade when Yñiguez began taking health classes.
“I was like, ‘And I oop, maybe I am gay,” Yñiguez said.
Yñiguez’s friends and family didn’t know about his sexuality until the tenth grade when his cousin found something interesting on his laptop…
‘Whenever I walk into church every Sunday, I feel like a fraud,’ Jireh Deng
Being a first-generation Asian-American in an immigrant family, Jireh Deng understood from a young age that family is number one.
“I think you stick together because there’s that immigrant mentality where you have to support each other,” Deng said. “But it also creates this space where you just feel a lot of pressure from your community to kind of follow in-line with certain expectations.”
Deng grew up in a conservative, Christian family. So when she told her mother that she was bi, the first thing her mother said was, “No.”
“She was really concerned for me and sometimes she would send me Bible verses [while I was] at school,” Deng said.
Learn more about Deng’s journey with coming to terms with being her most authentic self.
This nine-part series will be updated.