Jolien van Middelaar, 28, Amersfoort, The Netherlands
The first time I came out was to a friend of mine at school. I had been feeling off for a while and she noticed. She asked me to talk about it. Before I knew it I said that I liked girls. I didn’t know that I was going to come out, I don’t think I was completely aware of my true feelings at all. But here I was coming out, so much weight fell off my shoulders, I wasn’t even aware that I was carrying it around.
I felt so relieved I told a couple more friends the same day. As happy and relieved as I felt the day before, as sad and betrayed did I feel the next day. Everyone was staring at me. It was the first time I had the feeling that ‘lesbian’ was written on my forehead. Soon I found out that the entire school knew about it. Even people I didn’t know were staring at me. One friend had talked about it out loud in the class. I was the first openly gay person at school.
The second time I came out was to my family. Although my family wasn’t especially surprised, it seemed that my mom had a bit harder time than my siblings and my dad. I knew that my grandparents had divorced because my grandfather was gay. But I figured that made it easier for my mom, but I guess I shouldn’t have assumed. But over time my mom started to become more comfortable. She always accepted it, but there is a difference between accepting and being comfortable. Years later I finally felt like my mom was comfortable with my sexuality.
My girlfriend at the time and I had walked hand in hand through Paris, while my mom and her friend were walking behind us. Her friend later had asked if she didn’t find it strange that we had walked hand in hand. My mom said that she didn’t even noticed. When my mom told me about her conversation with her friend I started to cry. I finally felt like I could be me around my family.
Being a lesbian means having to come out with every new person you meet. The first two experiences with coming out weren’t ideal for me. So every time I changed schools or work, I dove back into the closet. I didn’t want to be stared at again. I didn’t want someone I cared about being uncomfortable with me. I guess I also didn’t feel completely comfortable being myself. I didn’t have a lot of relationships.
But things changed when I went to the university. It took me a while to come out, but I never went back into the closet. My new friends were great, very accepting. But I never wanted to go back into the closet when I got a girlfriend. Why hide something that just makes you so happy? When we started dating, I decided to tell the last people in my life who mattered to me but didn’t know yet. Although that relationship ended, I think I got something really great out of it; feeling comfortable with my sexual orientation.
Furthermore, I realize how lucky I am being born in The Netherlands. My ex-girlfriend is from the USA, a country where marriage isn’t open to all couples yet. Where the LGBT community is fighting really hard for their rights. Especially when we were dating a couple years ago. Also her family is not as accepting as mine is. It really put everything in perspective, and made
me realize how great my entire family is. My mom feeling uncomfortable just meant she needed some time. She never told me I made the “wrong choice”, or anything of that kind. I guess I got lucky with my family and friends.
Coming out might be hard in the beginning, but it feels so great to just be you, without any restrictions. When I think about coming out, I always think about that quote by Harvey Milk: “Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better” And that is something I truly believe in, but I understand it’s hard. Don’t give up. If it’s difficult, you can always reach out to other people in the LGBT community who understand your struggle. I know you can always reach out to me.
What tv show did you look to for comfort and inspiration when you were feeling alone or that no one understood you? When I first came out I was really into ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ I also felt a great sense of comfort watching ‘Fucking Amal (Show me love)’. It was hard finding lesbians on TV. Glad that has changed. Yay, progress!