I never lie. Except that one time, about being straight for 28 years
Why did it take me so long to come out?
I was texting my friend the other day, looking at pictures she sent to update me on the progress of growing out her bangs — a time-honoured tradition among women.
She made a self-deprecating comment about her appearance (equally time-honoured), to which I replied, "You always look amazing." In response, she sent me a picture of a wooden doll with a long nose.
I replied back, "I never lie.
"Except that one time, about being straight for 28 years."
A little over a year ago, I told my parents, then my friends, then everyone else within earshot that I was gay. I was 28 years old. Before then, I had told basically no one, keeping it a secret out of fear that someone, anyone, would find out.
So why did it take me so long to come out?
First, let's review some history.
Ninja Turtles, Pogs and weird rocks
I grew up in the '90s, a time that was not as overtly hostile to the concept of homosexuality as some decades, but was far from supportive of it.
As a child, my main interests were Ninja Turtles, Pogs and weirdly shaped rocks. I had no idea that a person could have a relationship with someone of the same gender.
I was a girl who had short hair and wore "boy" clothes, so I was called a tomboy and a butch. Girls refused to play with me because I wasn't girly enough. Boys would show me their penises, perhaps thinking I had one too.
I never minded being called a tomboy, and I remained dedicated to my short hair and Alcatraz Swim Team shirt, but I did get prickly whenever someone said I was "a little queer."
As I grew up, the comments became harder to ignore. People wanted to know why I didn't wear make-up, why I didn't pierce my ears, why I didn't talk about boys, boys, boys. People I didn't know said mean things to me on the street.
'That's so gay'
By the time I was a teen I had figured out what homosexuality was, but my limited understanding of it was that it was bad. It went against my religion. My family didn't like it. I never heard anything good about it in the news or on TV or in the movies or in books.
After being called "dykey" one too many times, I started growing out my hair. I no longer had the guileless childhood courage to defend my more queer tendencies. The internalized homophobia began to settle in.
I kept my eyes down in locker rooms. I avoided conversations about romance. I never spoke up when people said, "That's so gay," when they meant, "That's so stupid." I outright denied it when people asked.
I started gaining a lot of weight.
That was basically how I dealt, or rather didn't deal, with it for the next 10 years.
'I couldn't stay quiet anymore'
Unsurprisingly, I became depressed. (Whoops!) I tried to kill myself. (Whoops again!)
It was only after a long, long process of research and reflection that I accepted the idea that I was, at least, queer. I was 25.
It was longer still before I let myself admit I was gay. I was 27.
It was more time before I became comfortable with that. But I still wasn't happy about it.
I was terrified of how it would affect my relationships. I worried that my friends would think I was a coward and a liar. I feared my family would reject me. I was 28. I was an adult, sure. But I was also that kid, and that teen. I was scared.
But I couldn't stay quiet anymore.
Telling my mother was the hardest, scariest thing I have done in my life. I have been in car accidents less terrifying. I knew it was a moment that could change everything, forever.
I kept thinking, "There will never be another point where I hug my mother and she won't know I'm gay. What if she never hugs me again?"
'I felt free'
And then … it was totally anti-climactic. She told me she loved me. But she also gently reminded me that in Catholicism, homosexuality is a sin — as if I had somehow forgotten. She said nothing could make her love me less. But also, was I aware of the gay agenda?
It wasn't my worst-case scenario, but I also wasn't totally satisfied with this response. I'm still not. It is what it is. At least I had finally told her.
And all that was left was to tell everyone else.
I made a public post on social media. I started talking about it in my stand-up sets. I made comics about it.
I felt free.
It's been a year, and it's not like my life is perfect now. Coming out hasn't solved every problem I have — I still struggle with depression, I still have anxiety issues, I still work on shutting up the inner monologue that tells me I'm a failure in so many ways.
But it's been a huge step in the right direction. I'm so much happier now. I think Teenage Veronica would be amazed at my progress.
I think tomboy kid Veronica would let me play Ninja Turtles.
'I'm not lying'
As unhealthy as it was to me, my ability to pass for straight during my teens and adulthood did make certain aspects of my life easier. It's said that you should come out in your own time, but many people in the LGBTQ community don't have the privilege of choosing when it happens.
I feel like 28 years of pretending to be straight is 28 years of failure to support the community that has helped me so much since. I'm trying to make up for lost time.
It sucks that I spent so much of my life in fear and isolation. It's unfair that so many queer people grow up to feel ashamed of who they are. I make jokes and funny comics about it, but these issues are close to my heart, and to the hearts of many others.
These discussions are still so important. Support, representation, acceptance and celebration is so important.
If you're someone struggling with internalized homophobia or another mental health issue: You matter. Realizing you have a problem already makes you so brave. You can get through this. Trust me: I'm not lying.