Coming Out Day 2020: video gallery

Coming out can be a very important experience in a person’s life, but it’s also a personal one. If you know someone struggling with their sexuality, identity, or expression, be supportive. Listen, but don’t push.

If you’re struggling yourself, take your time. Don’t let other people rush you. When, how, and how much you come out is your decision. You have to do what is best for you and owe no one an explanation.

And remember, just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it never will. You are doing the best you can with what you have. Sometimes you need more time to find your peace and make space for what’s to come, and that’s okay.

Here at Leiden Pride, we are all rooting for you, and we are so proud of every step you have already taken on your path to being your own. When you’re ready, come as you are. Your community is excited to meet you.

We reached out to members of the community and asked them about their coming out experience. This is what they wanted to share with you. It’s a project made with love, for love, for you.

[Page description: all videos on this page begin with the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fading into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. In the “Leiden Pride presents” video, as the last rainbow goes off-screen, several people begin being introduced. In the individual Coming Out interviews, only one person is introduced. Captions and transcription available in English as they are finished.]

This is a compilation of the individual interviews for Coming Out day, 2020. Members of our community reach out to those who have not yet or cannot come out right now. It’s a project made with love, for love, for you.

People in this video:
– Eliza, an American non-binary queer person in their thirties.
– Looi, a Dutch gay cis-man in his thirties.
– Kae, a Dutch non-binary person in their twenties.
– Najib, a Ugandan queer person in their thirties.
– Magda, a Dutch lesbian woman, in her eighties.
– Remke, a Dutch trans woman in her sixties.
– Debbie, a Dutch lesbian woman in her fourties.
– Rafael, a Portuguese/French gay man in his twenties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, people begin being introduced.]

Eliza: Hi, my name’s Eliza Steinbock.

Looi: Hello, my name’s Looi van Kessel

Kae: Hello, my name is Kae and I identify as non-binary trans.

Najib: I just know what I’m not. What I know is I’m not straight, but- I identify as queer, gay, bisexual, and… Yeah.

Magda: Now for 42 years, I’ve known I’m a lesbian. Before then I didn’t know.

Remke: Yeah, the first person I came out to That was my first serious girlfriend.

Looi: The first person I came out to was my mentor in high school.

Debbie: I think that was my mom And maybe my best friend.

Rafael: Before I came out to anyone, I had to come to terms with being gay myself. And that.. I had to do via coming out in The Sims.

Najib: It was not really coming out, because… I was- we were just busted. I and the partner I had at that time. And yes, when my mom asked: “is it true?” I said “yes, it’s true. I think I’m different.”

Kae: The first person I came out to was my best friend. I explained to her: “I don’t think the label ‘woman’ fits me but I’m afraid that if I refuse to use that label my life is going to get so much more difficult.”

Magda: Actually I ended up at myself. I had to look at myself to know that I am a lesbian.

Looi: Everybody actually responded very positively. I have few negative experiences with coming out.

Eliza: Overall it was very positive. A lot of questions, as well. That I needed some time to figure out how to answer. Particularly about “well what does this mean?” “Where will this lead?” And so my answer was: “I don’t know!” Laughs: And that’s going to have to be good enough for now.

Kae: My best friend told me: “I think that you’re going to be a lot happier if you can be yourself in the most authentic way.” So then I told her that I identify as non-binary and I want to use they / them pronouns.

Rafael: It made me feel weird at first because I was not used to being gay in real life.

Najib: You know, when you come out, in a way- And people are beating you and condemning you. But then there’s this group. That comes to you discreetly and says: “Yeah, I am also like that man”, I think- So you feel relieved, in a way. I could say.

Looi: I always thought that people would respond positively. But as long as you’re never sure, there is always that little doubt in your mind. That voice at the back of your head that says: “Well, but what if…”

Kae: I was almost certain that it would make my life a lot more difficult. And coming out would be scary and hard and people wouldn’t understand. But instead I felt relieved. And like I could finally be myself. And I instantly became a lot happier.

Rafael: The- The dykes bursted open, I guess. Smiles: And uh- It was a freeing experience, in my case. It just felt like, all of a sudden I just didn’t need to care about what I say The way that I sit, the way that I gesture. Because… I’m gay.

Magda: When I exited my closet, and looked in the mirror, because you almost have to see it like that, I was just super happy. And a lot of puzzle pieces fell together.

Debbie: What I found to be very positive was the reaction of people in general. Never in my immediate environment, whether with friends, family or acquaintances, I never got any negative comments or experienced any unpleasantness.

Eliza: I got emails, from colleagues. And people had said you know, this is great that I know this about you now. And I know how to address you correctly. And I think for me that’s a sign that it’s worth- always it’s worth taking the risk.

Najib: When I came out, I was thrown out of my parents’ house and I had to live on the streets. I met many queer people on the streets who were surviving on nothing. But when they knew, when they heard my story, they welcomed me. I was like, wow, I met a family now.

Looi: After I came out to my parents, My, uh, my parents told it to their parents, so my grandmothers. My mom came up to me and she said she had that conversation with my grandmother. And my grandma said that “Oh, I’m very happy for him.” And then “I hope he’s going to be really happy with whomever he finds.”

Kae: I’ve actually had quite a lot of good coming out experiences. But the best one, in my opinion, was uhmm, we were having some drinks with a lot of people from my student association. And I was talking to some guys about flirting, with women.
And they kept saying things like “Oh, well, you should know ’cause you’re a woman.” And at some point, I got really sick of it and I said “well guys, actually I’m not a woman so please stop calling me that.” And then some other people overheard the conversation and they came over to help me explain what non-binary means and how to use my pronouns. And basically do all the explaining for me so I wouldn’t have to. So that was really nice.

Magda: Recognising people who feel the same… That was some sort of coming out. That was to the inside, so in the circle of like-minded people. But for me that was very important. To be able to then, also to the outside talk about it with a bit more ease.

Remke: The hardest thing about coming out, I thought, well that was the very first time. For me, it was the very first time, with my girlfriend. That you then have to get over your own feeling of shame. That you… Well, that you have to share something of which I then still felt, sometimes, that I felt ashamed of myself.

Looi: The feeling or the idea that it’s not good enough, if you’re gay. Or you won’t be good enough, ever, if you’re gay. And- And even though I knew that my family, my friends, would never have a problem with it hearing people use “gay” as- as a derogatory term. As a slur. Does uh- uhm. Yeah. Instill this- this fear of coming out.

Kae: I had one friend, who turned out to be quite transphobic. And he told me “I’m never going to use different pronouns for you
unless you can give me a letter from your doctor saying that I have to.” Which is absolutely ridiculous, of course.

Najib: I lost my family, I lost my education. Because I was a private student at university and my parents couldn’t pay my school fees anymore because, yeah, my mom said: “Yeah, why should we waste our money on a cursed child?” Yeah. So, that was hard, and of course leaving, losing your brothers and everybody that you have known for so many years since you were a child because, yeah, people think “well he’s gay, so he’s not a part of us.” Yeah. That was kinda hard, but yeah. It was hard then.

Interviewer: And do you have any advice for young LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Eliza: The struggle is real. Laughs:

Magda: I wish I had some really good advise. Laughs:

Looi: That is a very difficult question. Uhm…

Magda: The only thing that I would say, in general, dare to, at some point, love who you feel you can love.

Remke: I would say: don’t walk around with it for too long.

Kae: Coming out can seem really, really scary, and it’s easy to see all the problems, that you could be having but don’t forget that it’s also very liberating to be able to live as yourself.

Najib: I’ve been into activism since 2007. And that has put me in a position of meeting many people. Queer, many closeted. But I tell you that you owe it to yourself. To live- to be, yourself.

Looi: I would say: take your time. Because you should tell the story about your gender or sexuality when you’re ready for it and not because others want you to tell that story. What helped me was uh, the internet.

Najib: One thing I would love to say is that- is that I think we just owe it to another generation. Because I believe that if the people before us had not taken steps. Coming out however hard their situations were. We would not be having this discussion now.

Text on screen: Want to hear their full stories? Please visit leidenpride.nl

Magda's story

Magda (she/her) is an 83 year old lesbian woman who lives in Leiden. She’ll be telling her story of coming to terms with her own sexuality during a time where that was not very accepted and coming out to friends and family later in life.

People in this video:
– Magda, a Dutch lesbian woman, in her eighties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Magda introduces herself.]

Magda: Hello, my name is Magda Römens. I am 83 years old. Of the 83 years, I have known I’m lesbian for 42 years. Before that I did not know. I am also an ambassador for Roze 50+.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Magda: That question led me think for a bit. Uhm, actually, I ended up at myself. I first needed to…. And it didn’t take a lot. But I needed to look to myself first. To know I was lesbian. So that was the first person. And for the rest I didn’t come out in any particular way, I feel. I acted, and we were friends, and we loved one another. The ones that saw it talked about it. But the ones that didn’t and that was very common in my generation
Uh, so they did know that I was different.
But talking about it? You only did that with intimate friends.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Magda: When I came out of my closet and looked in the mirror… Because that is how you should look at it… I was only super happy. And a lot of puzzle pieces came together. And before, as a fourteen year old, I really was in love with a girl. But I didn’t know that was possible. I was really waiting to fall in love with a guy, because all girls did that. And all boys fell in love with a girl. That was the thinking back then. Homosexuality and such? Never heard of it. I really did not know about it. And that meant that for coming out, for me most important was to recognize myself. And summoning those old feelings. To know that, probably since I was 12, I was like that. But I never could express or experience it. And it was for me also a world that didn’t exist. And I probably didn’t know it existed until I was 25. Except one word, and that was about men from the wrong side
in a story from the Bible, I think Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a word in it that looked like homo I would say now. I cannot find it anymore. But I knew there was something about that and it had something to do with mysterious things. And for the rest you covered that with a lot of other… So knowing? No. And acknowledging the feelings? I gave that a place in the sense that, for example, for the girl friend I was crazy about, I wrote poems for. But because I was laughed at for that, I hid them under a pile of books. And at some point I tore them all up. So it really wasn’t just a closed book, it also just wasn’t there. The phenomena I did not know. And not just me, but I don’t think anyone in my environment.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Magda: I believe when I, uh, as member of COC. Because I became that very quickly, out of principle, to support a organization that was very important to realize that breakthrough. But after that… The moment I was in the circle of Roze 50+ ambassadors
and that I recognized sympathizers. That was a kind of coming out. So that was inward, so in a circle of like-minded people.
But for me that was really important to make it easier to, also outwardly, to talk about it. Because I did not hide it in my actions, like I said in the beginning but to talk about it was more difficult for me. And the moment I met like-minded people
for me that was a coming out moment. Like oh, if I can share it with them, so with a larger group. Then I will also be able to talk about it seriously in other groups.

Interviewer: Yeah. And did it make any difference to you that it was people your own age who had gone through the same thing or didn’t it matter?

Magda: No, no, I also have that with young people. I also did activities in The Hague with Evelien. That was an eat together activity with some elderly and young people. And I love to talk about my past but also I love to hear from young people how it is now. And only now have, for example, that book by Spijker. Forgot his surname… about his coming out to his parents…
What was his name? Spijker, Spijker… Anyway, got it in my room. In it he tells, Dutch boy in a liberal family that he doesn’t dare come out. He wrote about the entire struggle. And to talk to young people about that struggle… At the dinner, which was very informal allowing you talk easily and very personal, I really enjoyed that. And uh, those are things that keep me fresh and up to date. To say that in the past it was even more difficult than now I don’t agree with that. It remains a difficult point, also for young people to acknowledge that your are different from the majority.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Magda: Uh, most likely my parents. Yes, that was really bad. So I was 41 before that I was married, “properly”, to a mister.
Got children. Uh… And in their eyes I lived life as a traditional, “happy”, woman. And that my husband and I, that it no longer worked I never suspected homosexuality as cause. I didn’t know that. But our paths were completely separated, which was very painful and sad. And I thought it was a very big step, which I also took with regard to our children. So I did not feel it had something to do with my lesbian identity because I didn’t know anything about that yet. And after that I fell in love with a woman with Mien, she is still with me. And actually, because the pieces were coming together again regarding the fact… It was enjoyable, it was a fullblown party. And when my parents, coming from the south… You can still hear it in my accent I think…
They came here, and they noticed something of, in their eyes, a strange friendship. And after that I got a call from my father who really demanded I come south for a conversation with them. And do not bring any girl friends with you! Do not bring any girl friends with you. Well I refused and then it was completely broken, the contact. I did not have contact with my parents for four years. And along with that also not with my sisters, not with nephews, nieces. The whole family was taboo. That was really bad, yeah… After four years, actually after a radio interview with a Russian homosexual… A young lad, a young lad! Who at one point told that he was ready. He had also broken contact with his parents. He had wrote them a letter and his parents responded positively. And I know I had the radio on when I was ironing and I still see my hands making this movement and thinking ‘What you can, I can do as well’. I sat down at that ironing board and I made a letter, added some points, and I just wrote a letter to my parents. And to that they responded, thank God, with… understanding is not the correct term. But acceptance, their form of acceptance. And that, uh, made up for a lot. But that is, if you’re talking about difficult coming outs, then that was horrible. That really was… Uh, yeah. That was one of the most difficult moments of my life regarding this subject.

Interviewer: And how is that contact now with, for example, brother and sisters, nephews and nieces?

Uhm, with say the larger family I have little contact. I really grew away from Limburg. It was restored with my parents and then actually with my sisters as well. That was very important to me. And for the rest I had one sister on my father’s side, so an aunt of me. she was even a nun in a monastery, And she was kind of a “postillon d’amour” between that nasty family and me. Because what she did, she heard that my farther had no contact with me, she called me. And she asked me directly: ‘Magda, do you have a girlfriend relationship?’ She couldn’t say the difficult word, lesbian. I thought that was so sweet, so open, that I told her how the situation was. And uh… her only response was: ‘How does it work for the children?’ I said: ‘My children come first.’ The children are okay with it. But also with Mien. Then she said she would love to get to know us. And that phone call was on a Tuesday, it’s funny you don’t forget that. The Saturday after we went to visit her. It was a small woman, that was standing like this in the doorway. She hugged us both. Well, that was great. So, because of that, she has been a very safe link. If she had manipulated my father, I don’t know. But anyway, thanks to her I do know that my father… He was hospitalized twice in that period. I wanted to know how my mother was doing, my sisters. But I didn’t have any brothers, so I didn’t need to ask. And uh… Regarding coming out elsewhere… That was mostly because of friendship. Everyone saw and felt that. And if you felt it was a close friendship yeah, you accepted that. Also at work. We both had jobs of course. Actually, that has never been an issue for me. Yeah, they could take me as I was. And uh… I was working in adult education, and they asked questions. So with adults… I taught Dutch and social studies. And uh, There was sometimes asked whether that friendship was a special relationship. I think those are nice enveloping terms. But then you could discuss it and then there is actually nothing more to it. Because in that sense I have had few negative reactions. But it wasn’t always easy, to be outed like that. The first moments I feel it in my throat. While I like it that someone asks that open question. But, still… You are someone that is part of a minority.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Magda: Well, well, that has to be a long time ago. The only thing I struggle with, still, if I am in strange group. So for example I have to go to a meeting… I’m in a choir, imagine I was on the board. Well, then I would find it difficult to say: ‘I have a lesbian relationship.’ While if you go in a circle and uh… And everyone says I have a same-sex partner, I would prefer that. So if you can announce it more neutral, then it’s more normal. While very often you are the only one in a large group that has to say that you have a different kind of partner or need to make different choices regarding that. Yeah, I find that difficult.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Magda: Ah, I really wish I had good advice to give. I don’t have that. The only thing I would say in general myself at some point, dare to love who you feel you can love. And practice carefully, with friends or people with whom you feel safe, practice a few times how you want to say or present it. And then, most importantly, enjoy it when you dare to and can love someone. And whoever that loved one is, it’s so important that you do it your way. Yeah, I really find that be the most important… Yeah, it is the most important choice in your life. My girlfriend and I, we have been living together for 42 year… Yes, 42 years. And, when you see the misery I’ve had while I had a reasonably “good” marriage with my husband. But this fits me, this belongs to me. And that former, I did my best for that. He also, by the way. But uh… Really do what your heart tells you.

Najib's story

Najib (he/him) is an LGBTQ+ and human rights activist from Uganda. He’ll be telling us about his own coming out experiences in a country where it’s not always accepted to be different.

CW: homophobia, abuse.

People in this video:
– Najib, a Ugandan queer person in their thirties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Najib introduces himself.]

Najib: My name is Kabuye Najib. Yeah, I am an Ugandan and a Queer Rights Activist and a refugee living in the Netherlands now since 2017.

Interviewer: Can you tell me how you identify?

Najib: Uh, well [Laughs] Yeah, the only thing I know is – I just – I don’t know who I am, but the only thing I know that I know – I just know what I’m not. What I know is that I am not straight but – yeah I identify as queer, gay, bisexual, and… Yeah.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Najib: Well, really, for me, it was not really a coming out because I was – we were just busted, I and the partner I had at that time when we were in action somebody bumped into us. So, yeah and that was reported to my mom and, yes, when my mom asked: “Is it true?” I said: “Yes, it is true. I think I am different.” So, I always call that my coming out, because many friends of mine think that I had the opportunity to say no but, yeah, it was tough, but I never regretted it because, yeah, that’s what who I was.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Najib: Whatever happened was really horrible, but … Yeah – Yeah. In a way, I knew many, many young people at that age who were struggling, who were doing things and without knowing, we’re not anything, we just enjoyed doing things with boys and, yeah, we never discussed sexuality but, yeah, you know when you come out, in a way – and people are abusing you and condemning you, but then there is this group that comes to you discreetly and say: “Yeah, I’m also like that man.” I think, yeah, it’s – So also in a way it’s – yeah, people know who I am, accept me the way I am or leave me. In a way, you feel relieved, in a way I could say.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Najib: When I came out, I was thrown out of my parents’ house and I had to live on the streets, but the most important thing is that I met many queer people on the streets who were surviving or nothing, waking up with nothing to eat, but when they knew, when they heard my story, they welcomed me. Yeah, we slept, ten people in one room, but – and we shared everything that we could, everybody could get. So for me, wow, I was like okay, that was really – yeah look, I heard so many stories and, you know people giving you the little they have sharing a slice of bread. For people and I mean, it’s not enough, but that feeling of the love that people have for each other. I was like, wow, I met a family now.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Najib: I lost – I lost my family. I lost my education because I was a private student at university and my parents couldn’t pay my school fees anymore because, yeah, my mom said: “Yeah, why should we waste our money on a cursed child?” Yeah, so… that was hard. And of course losing- losing your brothers and everybody that you have known for so many years since you were a child. Because yeah, people think, why, he’s gay, he’s not part of us. Yeah, that was kind of hard, but yeah it was hard then.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Najib: Of course, I am an Ugandan, so I know how homophobic some people can be and I know how … people will – sometimes people presume or people have a picture of who a queer person is and being a little bit – people – not so many people will see me and call me queer. Every time I meet new people, especially of my background, I always make myself clear, that, please, I don’t know whether I am gay, or this, or this, but what I know is that I’m not straight, so, please … just to be sure that you don’t say anything stupid. And, when did I say that? last … what was it? Last Satur – not last saturday, but other Saturday because I was at a barbecue, and, a Ugandan barbecue in Amsterdam and I told the guys I was with in a group, yeah, I’m queer, just to be sure that you don’t ruin my evening by saying something unpleasant that will escalate to a confrontation.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Najib: Well, yes, yes. To the young people of the Netherlands and across the Globe. I’ve been into activism since 2007. And that has put me in a position of meeting many people – queer, many closeted, but I tell you, that you owe it to yourself to live – to be yourself. People that we are afraid of coming out to, they are, either, living their happy life as straight people or they are also struggling with their own sexuality. So, the straight are living their happy life and these other people that you may fear coming out to they are waiting for another person to take a step I’ve met many people that are trapped in in marriages, in relationships because of that fear. And I tell you, you live a miserable life And we have one life. So, live it to the fullest by being who you are. People will accept you – those who are meant to be in your life will accept you the way you are and
and those who are not, even if you don’t come out to them, they will find a reason to go away. So leave your – – Yeah Leave, leave, leave, leave, be yourself Coming out is a personal decision, but I implore you, you’ll feel relieved … that you are yourself.

Question 7: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Najib: One thing I would love to say is that, is that, I think we just owe it to other generations because I believe that if the people before us had not taken steps of a coming out however how the situations were, we would not be having this discussion now. So, I also think sometimes that things of coming out and speaking up for rights, for queer rights, it goes beyond us.
It goes beyond personal, we owe it to other generations, that I, myself, I went through some of the things as a queer person,
that I never – I don’t want my daughter, if she ever comes out as lesbian or if a friend or my niece, to ever go through what I went through. And yes, these don’t change by silence, things change by speaking up

Remke's story

Remke (she/her) is a transwoman, activist and board member of the Transgender Network NL. In this video, she’ll tell us what it was like coming out as trans while in a committed relationship and how her family responded to the news.

People in this video:
– Remke, a Dutch trans woman in her sixties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Remke introduces herself.]

Remke: Hello, my name is Remke Verdegem and I identify as a trans woman.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Remke: The first person I came out to was my first serious girlfriend. After that, the mother of my two kids, who is now my ex. When I met her, she was 16 while I was 21 and I had, uhm well one of those relationships that got more and more serious. We did a lot of fun activities dancing, eating out, going to the cinema. And eventually I came to the realization that I have to tell her I am a little different from what she might think. When she brought up moving in together, I was sure of it. I knew I could not movie in with someone that does not know I am different than what she might think. But in the mean time, I started to love her more and more and, yeah, it found it difficult . I didn’t really dare to tell her this. So I put it on hold for one or two more years. And finally, we were both in a good mood We were sitting on my bed and I thought “this is the moment I can tell her.” So I said to her “Hey Linda” because her name is Linda “I have to tell you something which I find quite difficult” uhm, and she said “well, what is it?” so I said “well, I sometimes like putting on make-up, to paint my nails, or even wear a dress.” I waited for her reaction and she responded quite laconic as to say “oh well, that is very different from my other boyfriends.” And well, for me that felt like a huge liberation and relief. The fact that a secret you’ve been carrying for so long can be shared with someone is already very positive. And on top of that, the fact that she responded very positively, so really, that felt amazing.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Remke: Well, my most supportive coming out was the one with my dad. uhm, I also delayed it for a long time because I didn’t really have a good relationship with him. My dad is very traditional, as to say “no, boys don’t cry.” He saw things very black-and-white. And I only told him when he was 83 years old and I was still in the middle of my transition. And even though I was still transitioning, I wanted to share this with him because I thought “he’s 83, I don’t know how much longer he will be here.”
So I went to him and I told him: “well dad, you don’t have three sons. but you actually have two sons and a daughter, and that daughter is me.” and at first, right after, it was still very difficult for him. But we had a very nice conversation for about two hours and eventually, after two or two and a half hours, he said “well, I’ve always wanted a daughter.” I found that very sweet, and something I could work with. so that was my most supportive coming out experience.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Remke: The hardest thing about coming out was the very first time. For me, that was with my very first girlfriend and that you finally need to overcome your inner-shame you know, that you need to share something for which, at the time, I felt very ashamed about. And to share that with someone else I found very difficult and of course, well, the risk that someone thought it was so strange, that they would break up with me. I found that very complicated and difficult about coming out.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Well, for trans people, that is quite complicated because technically, if you come out and you commit yourself to it, then it’s also visible. That is different from coming out as a certain sexuality because you can hold back your sexuality. But being trans and transitioning, the outside world can tell that you are different, that you are trans. So I can’t really answer the question because different from LGB people, you can also visibly tell that someone is different.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Remke: I would say, don’t dwell on it too long. Because that hindered me quite a bit during puberty, during high school and even during university. it bothered me that I was carrying a secret that I hadn’t shared with anybody. and that felt very arduous.
That truly made high school feel like hell, and that really took a toll on me. My advice would be: tell someone you trust. Whether it’s a good friend, your parents, the dean at your school or a teacher you trust, share it with someone. And especially, don’t keep walking around with it. Which I did for a very long time and which I suffered from a lot. That is really a lesson which i would like to share with you.

Kae's story

Kae (they/them) is a non-binary student. In this video, they’ll be talking about their coming out experiences to friends and family as well as their experience with being non-binary at Leiden University.

People in this video:
– Kae, a Dutch non-binary person in their twenties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Kae introduces themself.]

Kae: Hello. My name is Kae and I identify as non-binary trans.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Kae: The first person I came out to was my best friend. I was really nervous and all I said was: “I’m not sure if I want to use she/her pronouns anymore.” and she asked me a lot of questions and I didn’t really want to answer all of them because I was really scared. I explained to her: “I don’t think the label ‘women’ fits me but I’m afraid that if I refuse to use that label, my life is going to get so much more difficult.” But my best friend told me: “I think you’re going to be a lot happier if you can be yourself in the most authentic way.” So then I told her that I Identify as non-binary and I want to use they/them pronouns.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Kae: It made me feel very relieved. I had been living with the knowledge that I was not a woman for quite some years before coming out and I was extremely scared, and I was almost certain that it would make my life a lot more difficult and coming out would be scary and hard and people wouldn’t understand. But instead, the friends that I came out to were very understanding
and I felt relieved, and like I could finally be myself and I instantly became a lot happier.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Kae: I’ve actually had quite a lot of good coming out experiences. The best one in my opinion was, uhm, we were having some drinks, around Christmas time with a lot of people from my student association. and I wasn’t out to most people at that point and I was talking about a couple of guys no, talking to some guys about flirting with women and they kept saying things like “oh well, you should know ’cause you’re a woman.” and at some point I got really sick of it and I said: “Well, guys actually I’m not a woman so please stop calling me that.” and these guy, uhm, didn’t really know what non-binary meant and they had a lot of questions
and then some other people overheard the conversation and they came over to help me explain what non-binary means and how to use my pronouns and basically do all the explaining for me so I wouldn’t have to so that was really nice.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Kae: The hardest thing is that not everyone is accepting. I had one friend, who turned out to be quite transphobic and he told me “I’m never gonna use different pronouns for you unless you can give me a letter from your doctor, saying that I have to.” which is absolutely ridiculous of course. I had some other friends who didn’t really understand but that got better over time. And I did have some trouble with my family. My parents are still having a hard time trying to understand and my mom, feels like she has lost her daughter and, it can be very hard to talk to my mom because she is in pain. But, it hurts me too. to know that me being myself, hurts my mom so much. I still love my parents a lot and I do want to give them time but it’s still difficult sometimes.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Kae: That was actually pretty recently. I have to come out to people all the time. My most recent coming out was, uhm, I emailed some of my teachers to tell them about my name and pronouns uhm, because I’m having some trouble chaning my name in the university system so to prevent any issues, I decided to just email all my teachers to tell them: “Hi, this is my name these are my pronouns, please refer to me in this way.” They all said “Thank you for telling me, I will keep it in mind.” and I didn’t have any problems with that.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Kae: uh yeah, coming out can seem really really scary and it’s easy to see all the problems you could be having, but don’t forget that it’s also very liberating to be able to live as yourself. And even though some people might not support you, there are a lot of people out there who will support you. And being yourself around those people, is gonna make you feel so much better.

Question 7: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

[laughter] uhm- well, I’m always quite proud of how I came out to someone I was dating. Actually my boyfriend now. uhm, [laughter] Because we started dating before I was out as non-binary. I started coming out around the time that we started dating. But I was really scared to tell him because I didn’t know if he would also like me if I wasn’t a woman. So, we were actually in bed and we were talking about LGBT stuff and there was a lot of stuff he didn’t know. So I told him what non-binary meant and what that was. And he was like: “Yeah well, I don’t really understand very well but I don’t know anyone who is like that.” So I put out my hand and I said: “Well, nice to meet you.” And that felt like badass move. [laughter] Right after that I got really scared because I was afraid he would react negatively but, apart from the confusion, a lot of confusion [laughter] it was actually fine and he got used to it very quickly and he, uhm, he still likes me. He loves me a lot actually.

Looi's story

Looi (he/him) is a gay, cis man who is a lecturer at Leiden University. He’ll be telling us about his first coming out experiences to family and friends and how he ensures his classrooms are a safe and open environment for all.

People in this video:
– Looi, a Dutch gay cis-man in his thirties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Looi introduces himself.]

Looi: Hello, my name is Looi van Kessel and I identify as a gay, cis man

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Looi: hat is actually-, well I first came out when I was 14. So that was, uhm, pretty young I guess and the first person I came out to was my mentor in high school. Uh, she was also my science teacher and, uh, I trusted her a lot and she was- she gave a lot of positive energy so I also felt very comfortable uhm, telling her or coming out of the closet to her But, uhm, everything afterwards happened so quickly so, I think a week after telling my mentor I already also came out of the closet uhm, to my friends, to my parents, my brothers, uhm it was like ripping the bandage off I guess, uhm like, coming out immediately, uhm, or doing it as fast as possible so that, that part of the process was over with.

Interviewer: And how did they respond?

Looi: Uhm, everybody actually responded very positively I-, uhm, I have few negative experiences with coming out. A lot of the people were very supportive and very understanding. and-, well since I was kinda flamboyant in high school, not a lot of people were actually very surprised by it either.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Looi: It was a relief. I had been, uh, well, working through my own feelings, uh my own-uh, for quite a while, uh before that already and, I always thought that people would, uh, respond positively. But, as long as you’re never sure, there is always that little doubt in your mind that voice at the back of your head that says: well, but what if, uh, people don’t accept you for who you are. Uhm, and that’s a very scare voice and that’s a voice that also kept me from coming out even earlier, right. uhm, but as soon as I came out of the closet, and I saw those positive responses and the love and acceptance, uhm yeah I felt relieved.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Looi: I think it’s an indirect experience, uhm but after I came out to my parents, my, uh, my parents told it to their parents- so my grandmothers. uhm. and I remember very vividly that my mom came up to me and she said she had that conversation with my grandmother and my grandmother, uhm, was an older lady and uhm. And my mom said that her response-, and she’s a woman from like, the countryside I didn’t really know or imagine how my grandmothers would respond to it but my mom told me that my grandma said that “well I’m very happy for him and I hope he’s going to be really happy with whomever he finds.” That was something that, uhm, I didn’t necessarily expect from that generation. So I was very, uh, happy with that response.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Looi: I think the hardest thing, for me about coming out was really the struggle with my-, that inner voice that that little grain of doubt that- uhm, that tells you “oh maybe it’s not good enough maybe uh, they won’t accept you as you are.” Uhm, because of course, I had been teased a lot, uhm for being effeminate. So I’ve been called gay a lot, already in primary school, also in high school before I came out of the closet. Uhm, so I had quite a few experiences with people using gay as a slur, in a derogatory way and that does give you, uhm the feeling of-, or the idea that it’s not good enough, if you’re gay or you won’t be good enough, ever if you’re gay. And even though, I knew that my family, my friends would never have a problem with it, uhm, hearing, uh people use gay as-, like a derogatory term, as a slur does, uh, yeah, instill this fear of coming out in a person Even though, you know your friends and family will respond positively you also have to reckon with yourself and you have to be able to accept it for yourself so yeah have to be able to tell yourself I am good enough, regardless of who I am

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Looi: In a way, I think we’re, uh, coming out all the time always, all the time because we’re always telling something about ourselves to people uhm and that people might not have known, uhm, that you find sometimes difficult to tell and this doesn’t necessarily have to uhm, be about your sexuality or your gender identification I think we come out all the time in various different ways uhm, and I always-, even though uh, it might not be very surprising to hear that I am a gay man, I do every time I introduce myself to students, talk about my gender identification and my sexual identification because I think it’s important for students to hear uhm, hear that that conversation is possible, in my classrooms. Uhm, so I always introduce myself in a very first lecture of a lecture series “My name is Looi van Kessel, I identify as gay and my pronouns are he and him.” so that students struggling with their own sexuality and gender identification, uhm hear that my classroom is a safe space to talk about gender and sexuality. Yeah.

Interviewer: Have you ever had any negative experiences when you did that?

Looi: In my classroom no. My students, uhm, respond very positively to it and definitely also when we do a round of introductions, students also pick up on that. So, students also say “oh I’m so and so and these are my pronouns.” uhm. and that creates an atmosphere of, uh, of being able to talk about it together of not, uhm, trying to shun the discussion about gender and sexuality. We would ideally uh, uh, live in a world where we did not have to come out of the closet uh, a world in which nobody asks questions or looks down upon people who identify differently and who frankly do not necessarily care because everybody should be able to identify themselves however they want to identify themselves without being looked down upon by other people. But before we get to that world, before we live in a world where we no longer need to come out of the closet I think everybody should come out of the closet. Whether you’re gay, straight, asexual, bisexual, pansexual whether you’re a cis man, cis woman a trans man or a trans woman or non-binary. If we make the conversation easier for everybody, we’ll also start to realize that it should not matter that much that people should just be themselves regardless of their sexual or gender identification. I think this is a large part of the conversation, coming out is not only about the person who is coming out of the closet. It is also about, uhm a society that still thinks of LGBTQIA+ persons as not being the norm as being other than the rest. And as long as this, big contingency of people uhm, is treated as other, as different, uhm, then yes, we will always need LGBTQIA+ activism and non-LGBTQIA+ identified people need to work harder to make society more accepting.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

That is a very difficult question, uhm. I would say, take your time. Uhm, because you should tell the story about your gender or sexuality when you’re ready for it and not because others want you to tell that story uhm, so take the time to, uhm, get comfortable with yourself and with your own gender identity and your own sexual identity. uhm and what helped me, uhm was the internet. Uh, when I was first figuring out how I identified and how I felt, I was very happy that there were uh, websites
and fora that I could read and that,- on which I could meet people that, uhm, shared the same struggles and shared the same identification. uhm And so it’s really good to look for help and to learn about yourself uhm, via channels that might not be your immediate friends or family.

Eliza's story

Eliza (they/them) is a non-binary and queer lecturer at Leiden University. They’ll be sharing their experiences about coming out in a professional environment and what it is like being a non-binary teacher.

People in this video:
– Eliza, an American non-binary queer person in their thirties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Eliza introduces themself.]

Eliza: Hi! My name is Eliza Steinbock, and I identify as a non-binary, transgender person, who is also queer.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Eliza: The first person that I didn’t really mean to come out to, was my mother. She was reading a letter I had addressed to my brother, who was away, actually doing like a military training. Ehm, so she got the letter, intercepted it, and… Ehm, she was very interested, and kind of understanding what I meant, when I said a girl liked me, and whether it meant that I also liked other girls. Ehm… But of course there was some concern, because I was only thirteen at the time, and she wasn’t entirely sure what this would all mean for me, her child. Yeah.

Interviewer: So that was the first person that you came out to as queer. How about coming out as non-binary?

Eliza: Yeah, that, I feel I continue to do, eh, all the time. [laughs] Eh, but maybe, ehm, it felt a little bit official when, ehm, I was starting to use it as my signature, ehm, also as a researcher. So, it was signaled mostly by a change of pronoun, and I did some, let’s say, trying out, of putting this in my bio notes, professionally. In my personal life, it was, ehm, already a known thing to those around me. Ehm, so I don’t really have a very good story about that, but… ehm, at least using it in the public realm, for me, felt like much more of a, kind of, professional coming out,
than actually a gendered coming out.

Interviewer: Yeah, I get that. And how were the reactions to that official coming out?

Eliza: Ehm, I did have somebody tell me mazel tov [laughs] Eh, which is a nice phrase in Jiddish, it means ‘congratulations’, and I tend to also, although I’m not Jewish, eh, use that with other people, because I think it can be seen as a blessing, ehm, also that maybe something for yourself is a little more resolved, or you have found the vocabulary, or the language that’s adequate to your experience, at least for the time being. Ehm, yeah, so overall it was very positive. Ehm, a lot of questions, as well, Ehm, that I needed some time to also figure out how to answer. Particularly about, well “what does this mean?” “Where will this lead?” I think when you come out as a queer person, most people think, ‘Oh, okay, well then, you know, you’re open to queer relationships and love and nowadays maybe even marriage, there’s no reason you couldn’t have a family’, ehm, but with transitioning you have a narrative, that is really also opened up. And people want to know what sort of things are you going to do, will you, ehm, go along with the dominant script.
Ehm, and so, my answer was I don’t know! [laughs] And that’s gonna have to be good enough for now.

Interviewer: I think that’s a really important message to hear, that it’s okay if you don’t know and you have the time to figure it out.

Eliza: Yeah, absolutely. And it can go in different directions. So, if you don’t know, you can also you know, do some wandering to the right and come back and do some wandering to the left and that’s also okay. Ehm, very often it’s not about a moment that is a moment of deciding, but it’s more about – my friend Sam Feder, who’s produced and directed the documentary ‘Disclosure’, he explained in an interview that it’s a drip-drip-drip effect and at some point your bucket is full and you go: ‘Oh!’ ‘That’s what that was about!’ So it’s a slow growing knowledge.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Eliza: Ehm, well there’s always a moment of trepidation, Eh, ‘Oh, okay, what now with this new framework’, Ehm…
will change, but there’s also that excitement ‘Ooh’ [laughs] ‘What possibly could change in my relationships?’ Ehm, so there’s many more opportunities eh, when you have vocabulary for connecting with people, ehm, joining different communities, or maybe communities you were part of that now you have greater understanding of what was your connection to or association with, why did you feel at home there? That was this especially for me, because I had been working within trans communities, professionally, but also in my private life, I’d had relationships, intimate and also friendships with trans people and so for me that realisation that I’m also on the trans spectrum and that I’m trans enough was really a beautiful kind of coming home.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

I think when I was interviewed in Mare, or maybe it was the humans… Humanities at Leiden University, that I got… Oh, I’m gonna get all emotional, but ehm, I got emails from colleagues, Ehm, also in a similar kind of, you know, mazel tov
eh, vibe and people had said you know, ‘this is great, that I know this about you now and I know how to address you correctly’ and I think for me, that’s, ehm, a sign that it’s worth, always it’s worth taking the risk.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Ehm… the hardest thing about, I think when you kind of, re-describe your identity, ehm, is that… ehm, people who you might be intimate with, eh, often times are like, ‘hey,’ you know, ‘why didn’t you feel comfortable… …telling me this before?’
And of course, identity is made in relation to others, ehm, but there’s no real answer to that question it’s not necessarily about the other person. And I would say, like, probably the same level of difficulty is correcting people on their wrong assumptions. Ehm… And that emotional labour and that also goes when people assume that you’re straight or that you’re not, so it can be a misrecognition but for me, I think correcting people on my pronouns they/them, or die/hun in Dutch, ehm, that’s never been easy.

Interviewer: Do you think it will get easier?

Eliza: I hope language use continues to evolve, and become more widespread, it’s certainly gone mainstream, and, ehm… it allows our community to also… [stammers] use these pronouns, or identify as non-binary, I think it will give them also a sense of safety and I think our numbers, in terms of visibility, will grow eh, so I certainly hope that that will, eh… [laughs] that the conditions will improve. So we can just live our lives.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Eliza: I just started teaching five new courses and I have a lot students, that, eh… I’m kind of saying ‘hello, I’m your new teacher’ to, and so, yeah September 8th, 9th, I did it all over again for another whole semester. So, in that way, especially when you have pronouns that are different than he/she, ehm, or you have people who just, ‘no, there obviously is just two genders’ and then you’re like ‘well, actually there might be more’ so it’s, I think, an educational moment so I’m glad that I can do this in university and I know how much it means to my students as well, to actually have a person that might be a little bit like them. So I don’t mind.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Eliza: The struggle is real. [laughs] Eh, there’s no timeline that’s, ehm… ideal, you have to really decide for yourself, to whom are you able to speak your truth, and at what time do you want to speak your truth to other people? Ehm, that circle eventually, hopefully, will get wider and you will, ehm, come to trust that the risk is worth taking.

Debbie's story

Debbie (she/her) is the chair of COC Leiden and identifies as lesbian. She’ll be telling us about her early coming out as well as talk about her experiences at work and as a part of the COC.

People in this video:
– Debbie, a Dutch lesbian woman in her fourties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Debbie introduces herself.]

Debbie: Hello, my name is Debbie Helaha. I am 53 years old, I live in Leiden and I identify as lesbian.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Debbie: Well for me, that’s been a while. I think, I wasn’t sure but I think it was my mother, and maybe my best friend. With my best friend, it went quite quickly. I, uhm-, yes it was very positive and very, uhm, and it was very supportive. They said they already saw it coming. With my mom, it was a bit more difficult because I really had to explain to her what it meant.
Before this, I had been with a man. I was married and I, well, at some point, the relationship didn’t work out anymore and during those final days, I fell in love with a woman. That was the first time that happened to me. That was such a revelation. So I thought, well, I have to tell my friends and family so, well, most importantly I had to tell my mother and my brothers
With my mom, I went to see her and I came out to her And that was, uhm, in itself that went quite well looking back however, she was quite surprised. She was crying but later she said: “you are my daughter, and whatever happens, you will always be my daughter whomever you are and I love you.” So that was actually very sweet. And, well, coming out to me is associated with being hidden or that you have to hide something but I never really had that feeling. I did have, uhm, the thought of “hey, this is who I actually am” to me, that was more significant
than the thought of having to hide something no, that didn’t apply to me.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Debbie: Well, like I said, it was very, uhm, I did find it a little bit daunting because at that point, I wasn’t really part of the LGBT community and well, that was all new for me. On the one hand, I was quite anxious but I also felt very happy because I was very in love with my girlfriend at the time. I ended up having quite a long relationship with her so I was very happy. But I also found it a little bewildering sometimes, as to say, are people going to notice? or do I radiate something different now? And well, all those questions you get from other people. People tended to ask very crude questions. But apart from that, I never had- well, there were multiple things going on in my life at that point and I think those felt more significant to me
than the thought of liking women and that being something odd. So I always felt really content with it.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Debbie: Well, I do think that uhm, the experience of coming out for me was part of falling in love with that one woman with whom I’ve had a very long relationship. She was my first real girlfriend and what I thought was very positive about that, was the general response of people. Never in my immediate environment, whether with friends, family or acquaintances, I never got any negative comments or experienced any unpleasantness. Also not with colleagues so that was very nice and I also realize that’s not the case for everyone. For a lot of people, it can be an obstacle to tell people and also to be who you are. So I was lucky in that it went quite smoothly. But I still know that it keeps you preoccupied. Because you have to come out time and time again. and that is something I have noticed which is also very prevalent within the LGBT community. Because you often talk about coming out among each other, and among heterosexual people, that’s not the case. You are always aware of it. At work for example, there are colleagues I don’t know and they may ask about your private life and I’m always very deliberate in answering and well, right now I’m not in a relationship but in the past I’ve deliberately said I have a girlfriend
and usually I slipped it into the conversation. Secretly also to figure out how people would react. Another positive experience would be that uhm, I had to come out at work, where they didn’t know me very well and I had to introduce myself during an introduction round. Later, someone came up to me and said: “I think that’s so amazing, that you just told everyone like that.” So I responded: “oh, and what is so special about that?” and she said “well, you’re just so open.” I say “well, I don’t have much of a choice.” So apparently for that woman, that was a kind of eye-opener. As to say, yes of course, why should we hide something like that? So step by step, people will get used to it.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Debbie: Well for me, the hardest part was telling my mother. My father has passed away a long time ago so she is my only parent that is still with me. So I did find it very daunting because I didn’t know how she would respond. For all we know, she could’ve gotten angry or rejected me. and luckily that didn’t happen. The most difficult part then was more in regards to myself, admitting that it’s true. Because even though I think I’m very open-minded, being open-minded towards myself still made me question a lot. So I was constantly questioning myself asking “is it really true, am I really like this?, uhm, is it not a phase?” All those types of questions were running though my head So that was maybe the most difficult. But eventually, because I was in a long relationship, I grew as a person too, I developed more. So, uhm, well, I had many nice people around me. Good friends and people who supported me. So eventually I was able to leave that behind me. So that was the hardest. If you ask, “what was the most difficult?” That was the experience with my mom where I was still quite scared but also the battle with myself.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Debbie: [laughter] I was just thinking about that, uhm, and I don’t actually remember. [laughter] Usually you come out to people whom you just met. I think it was probably at work with a new colleague and you introduce yourself and well, ask if they’re in a relationship, where they live, and I think told them then. But no, I can’t really recall when that was. But it was probably at work.

Interviewer: Yeah, I remember last year, we were together at the EL CID and then you indirectly come out. Because you deck out your stand in rainbow colours and everything.

Debbie: Yeah I see what you mean. In those moments, I can also feel it. Whether I’m at Pride or in De Kroon (local LGBT+ bar)
for a specific party or just going out, then I still think to myself, “okay, this is us and I belong with them, this is my habitat.” Uhm, and I also feel at home there. But at the same time, I know others might look at us differently so you are always aware of that mechanism. And what you said, during the EL CID, thousands of studens come by our stand and, uhm, the moment that you are actually there,
you also imply something about yourself. That is something that has to do with your identity. That makes it inspiring, but also occasionally difficult.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Debbie: Yes, [laughter] for sure. I only wonder, whether coming out is still an issue? I’m not sure whether that’s the right word but I think- and this is something I’ve heard as well- that people from my generation-, I’m already a bit older, deal with their coming out differently than people in their twenties or 15, 16, 17 years old. Not because they don’t face any struggles, but because our society and context is different so that may be a difference. But in terms of it being something you struggle with, and that you think to yourself: “I’m afraid or I’m unsure.” I would say: “look for any role-models. Go to Instagram or I don’t know- TikTok or other social media.” There are a lot of role-models or people who have inspiring stories. The COC also works together with the GSA Network, who work in high schools they have their own Instagram accounts where they post all their information and they also have their own chat group so you can see that within the network itself, they find a lot of support among each other. So make sure to look out for that. And most importantly, don’t let anyone pressure you. I also know people who say “you have to come out because we can already tell.” But your coming out will always be in your own time. Whenever you feel good, whenever you feel ready. And even though you find it difficult, it is still your moment. And, well, if you find it difficult, try to find someone you can trust and if you’re a student, try to find-, at least in Leiden, Leiden Pride or the COC, who also do a lot for people. So there are plenty of organizations and networks you can go to. But most importantly, don’t let anyone pressure you and only come out whenever you feel ready that’s my advice [laughter].

Rafael's story

Rafael (he/him) identifies as a gay man and tells us about his coming out experiences during high school. He also gives some great advice for other LGBTQ+ people who might be struggling with their coming out.

People in this video:
– Rafael, a Portuguese/French gay man in his twenties.

[Graphic description: the words “Leiden Pride presents coming out day 2020” fade into view as the camera pans right and shows the outline of a door. The door shakes twice as if it’s being knocked on before opening up and showing the progress pride flag with the standard six rainbow colours and a Chevron with five colours representing people of colour and trans people. Out of the door shoots a rainbow. The camera follows as more rainbows shoot by filling the screen. As the last rainbow goes off-screen, Rafael introduces himself.]

Rafael: Hello! My name is Rafael and I identify as a gay man.

Question 1: Who was the first person you came out to, and how did it go?

Rafael: It was Mortimer Goth in The Sims. You think I’m joking but I’m not. Before I came out to anyone, I had to come to terms with being gay myself. And that I had to do via coming out in The Sims. Because I didn’t have that many friends [laughs] at the time. So, um, I installed a mod in The Sims just to come out to a bunch of Sims. And most of them were very accepting which definitely played a role in my decision to come out in real life. But the first one was Mortimer Goth who completely rejected me, and that was not fun. [laughs] The first person that I came out to, um in life, was my mum, actually. We, at the time, were living in a teeny, teeny, tiny 20 metre apartment in France. And uh, I still was not comfortable saying that I was gay. I-I couldn’t say, I couldn’t find the words to express that. Even though, um, I knew the words to do it, I just- couldn’t pronounce them. So what I did was that I wrote this very, very long letter. To my mum, who literally- We share the same room.
Um, and before I left for school I just left it near her bedpost. On my way to school she just sent me a text message that she was worried because she thought that I had run away but like, it’s fine that I’m gay because she loves me just the same. So, it could not have gotten better, because I kind of knew that she wouldn’t have a problem, since a lot of her colleagues are gay, openly so, and she never had a problem with it. But, I still was scared to face the fact that I’m gay. So, basically, I’m coming out to my mum, but I was also coming out to myself in a way. Just admitting that I was gay was, um pretty big step. And I don’t think that, um, it could have gotten any better. Nothing changed in our relationship she just automatically accepted the fact that I was gay, with no questions asked. In fact, she told me that my parents, before they had me they had the discussion of “what happens if our son is gay?” And they both agreed that, like, no. Nothing happens. So, that is basically it.Uh, I think I’ve had a pretty- extraordinary experience in this regard.

Question 2: How did coming out make you feel?

Rafael: It made me feel weird at first because I was not used to “being gay” in real life. Being gay in the closet is a bit different than being openly gay. Suddenly it felt like, I was, uh a completely different person. I was a person that- I could only have been in The Sims, or uh, in my own head. Uh, suddenly it was just- The dyke’s bursted open, I guess, and uh
It was a freeing experience, in my case. It just felt like all of a sudden, I just didn’t need to care about what I say
about the way that I sit, about the way that I gesture, because I’m gay. I-I can do whatever the fuck I want, like It’s not an issue to be had. At least in my case, it wasn’t.

Question 3: What has been the most supportive coming out experience for you?

Rafael: That is a good question, because, um I grew up in a very, um Nice neighbourhood, with friends, and in my case, I, being gay, was never treated as a a big deal, it was just a part of life, and you were equal to everyone else. But I think that, that was exactly the support that I needed. Uh, in terms of dealing with the fact that I was gay. Because, in the media, especially in countries that don’t have such a high acceptance of LGBT people, um it’s very hard to come to terms with it, and, um sometimes it reaches even young people’s minds. And it certainly reached mine. Even though my surroundings had nothing to do with that. So I think that the most supportive experience that I had was just being openly gay throughout highschool. I never hid the fact that I was gay. I didn’t need to. And when people ask me I will say, “yeah”. “So, what?” Um, and that really made me much more confident as a person about my sexuality because, it just made me feel, like I’m not only normal, I’m just myself
and that is good enough. I don’t need to try to be straight. I don’t need to follow these archaic rules that many people tend to pretend are natural. And, especially, I also don’t need to be a “gay stereotype” I don’t need to be anything that society tries to impose on me. I just have to be Rafael, and that is good enough.

Question 4: What has been the hardest thing about coming out?

Rafael: I think that the hardest thing about coming out was, um letting go of my obsession with how people see me? Um, suddenly I was not really in control of how people perceive me as a person, and I wasn’t in control about how people would react to me being gay. Some people reacted better than others. Um, but, in my experience, at least, it was- It has been overwhelmingly positive. Just that, yeah, it’s- That probably was the step that took the hardest to take in terms of coming out was, just letting go of the value that we hold of the views of others. Regarding ourselves. That was probably was, um the hardest thing that I had to do. Especially when it’s people we care about, like our parents, our close friends, who may already have
preconceived notions of you. But, then you’re about to burst in and say “Actually some of these preconceived notions are wrong”
“I’ve been hiding this” And, you don’t want to make them feel like you’ve been lying to them because you haven’t. But at the same time, it’s uh, a bit of a fearful situation to know how the reactions will go. So it’s a, I think the hardest thing is just to build up the courage to deal with that fear. To face the bullet, I guess.

Question 5: When was the last time you came out to someone?

Rafael: I don’t remember. Because, uh, ever since I was around 17 I stopped, uh, coming out. And by that I don’t mean that I hid being gay, no It’s just that I just treated it like it was normal. All around me I was surrounded by people that did not care.
That the fact that I loved men, and uh they just treated it like, “oh, sure”. It was treated the same way as if I were to say “I’m Portuguese”. Nobody really cares. Um, and, as a result It, uh, made me feel like okay I don’t, being- like, the coming out system for me no longer really applies because I am openly gay. If people come to me and ask me if I am gay, I am gay. And I don’t feel like I am coming out, I am just like, stating a fact. It became to natural for me, it’s like uh, someone coming to me and asking if I like sushi. It became that- automatic and, uh, integrated, into my daily life. I’m just gay, it doesn’t, uh, infiltrate every single part of my life. But it’s a part of it.

Question 6: Do you have any advice for LGBTQI+ people who are struggling with coming out?

Rafael: Plenty, so, uh My first advice is: Read. Because uh, I’ve noticed, in my experience, that some people unfortunately are not as lucky as me, and don’t have parents that are that accepting. But there is a learning curve. There are two types of people when you come out that don’t take it well. There are people who just don’t understand when you come out they may not be familiarised with what really being gay is. They maybe have been fed lies throughout the years, I mean academia has made some great research to show that there’s tons of misconceptions about it. Uh, and then there’s people who willingly don’t want to understand. And that is what, at least for me, I find more scary. But, just- when you come out, remain open. And remain a source of information about your experience as a LGBT person but also, uh, try to explain how this impacts your daily life as an individual, to the people who you, uh, care about. It doesn’t have to change your entire life. I think that, if people really, truly love you, they will understand. It may not be automatic. It-it may take some time, it may take some discussion, and there may be some tensions surrounding the element, but- in due time, you will see where everyone’s priorities lie. And if you are someone’s priority in the end it will get better. Now, the second advice that I have to give is that you don’t have to come out unless you want. If you want to come out, that’s great. But you don’t need to come out to everyone at once and you don’t need this, um, weight on you. For example, when I first came out, I strictly only came out to my parents. Because I just did not feel comfortable talking to, um, my friends about it, since this was middle school. We all know how that goes. Uh, but afterwards when you do feel comfortable about it Slowly consider and ponder your options, “should I come out?” You don’t need to come out straight away, you don’t need to pressure yourself to come out. You just need to feel like, okay, this is a step that will ameliorate my life, this is something that I would like to say, and this is something that I would like to be made known. So that is my advice, just remain a source of information for those who want to listen to you. And learn about your experience as a LGBT individual But also, give them time to process and adapt to the change because, um, it’s not an automatic thing. Sometimes there are going to be one or two mistakes there, but in the end things that were meant to work out, will. And, just don’t stress about coming out. Relax. -about it. Just casually think it through in a calm mindset. Without being forced to come out. Especially not to everyone. You can come out just to the people you want to.

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