From a young age, Gabe Allen and Sam Rojewski knew they were different from many of their peers, but that fact hasn’t stopped them from being who they really are.
National Coming Out Day was first celebrated as a way to acknowledge the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which was on Oct. 11. Like many other LGBTQA+ awareness days, National Coming Out Day is an opportunity for people within the LGBTQA+ community to celebrate their sexual and gender identities.
Allen, a freshman chemistry major, said his identity as a bisexual cisgender man has become a very important part of his life.
“I keep that identity a priority within myself as a way to keep true to myself and reassure other individuals around me,” Allen said.
Growing up, Allen came to the conclusion that he was bisexual in the fifth grade and never felt the need to hide who he was from his family or his friends. He knew who he was, and that wasn’t going to change.
“My mom found out in like 2015 or 2016, but I had known for a long time, since like fifth grade,” Allen said. “My family wasn't super religious, but it wasn't necessarily something that was talked about, but I really don't know why.”
Rojewski, a freshman journalism major, said she originally came across the term bisexual through a middle school friend and thought that could be the label for her. Soon after, when she was 13, she came out as pansexual before coming out as lesbian a year ago.
“I started questioning if I liked girls in sixth grade. I remember thinking about it randomly, kind of like an intrusive thought,” Rojewski said. “I would push it away because we’re always surrounded with the norm of a man and a woman together, so that’s why it felt like that.”
Rojewski hopes that if there would be more representation of queer characters within the media, it would give children a better opportunity to understand themselves.
“If they saw it in a Disney movie, I think it becomes more normalized and kids would feel not as alone and not as weird because that’s how I felt,” she said. “I felt weird.”
Allen said he believes that coming out can act as a form of liberation within yourself and can reaffirm the way you feel about yourself.
“I think it's important to be true to yourself,” he said. “Coming out is sort of a coming-of-age moment. It's redefining and it's anchoring knowing that this is who you are.”
In an Instagram post made on Monday, Oct. 11, The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQA+ youth, states coming out as a unique experience for everyone that is dependent on an individual’s situation.
“Coming out is different for everyone,” the post reads. “Along the way, you might have new questions or feelings like confusion, excitement or nervousness. It’s okay to feel this way.”
The Trevor Project also wants LGBTQA+ youth to feel comfortable while going through the process of coming out, whether that be finding a safe environment to deliver your announcement or only telling a close group of friends.
Allen said coming out is an important event in someone’s life that can be a signal for personal growth. He said he also feels this brings out some hardships LGBTQA+ people face.
“The process of coming out and accepting who you are, it gives you a lot of relief and allows you to think about yourself, which is something a lot of straight people don't do because they're so used to fitting in this world with no problems and no questions about who they are and what they want to do,” Allen said. “They never have to question, ‘Will I get this job because they’re straight?’ But ‘Will I get this job position because I’m queer?’ That’s a valid question.”
To anyone struggling to come out, Allen encouraged them to take their time.
“You can experiment, you can find out what you like and don't like, and you don't necessarily have to put a label on it,” Allen said. “You can just exist as yourself, and if people can't accept you, then they don't need to be in your space.”