Coming Out Story, Struggles, & Advice w/ Tristan Kuhn
Hello, my name is Tristan and I recently came out as gay after graduating high school. Coming out has been a huge accomplishment for me because for years I absolutely hated myself for being gay. I was ashamed of it. I am now in college and over the past year I have been able to fully open up to myself, friends, and family about my sexuality and most importantly I can now confidently say I fully accept and love myself for being gay. Reaching this level of self-acceptance has been one of the most amazing and freeing feelings and has made me want to help others overcome their internal struggles and experience the beautiful feeling of self-love, acceptance, and comfort.
To begin, I decided to stare my story and make a coming out video. Seeing how my story comforted and helped others was incredible and the amount of support I got from friends, family, and strangers was overwhelming. I would like to further share some experiences, feelings, and thoughts I went through when struggling with my sexuality and when coming out.
In this article I will review my coming out story, elaborate on some of my struggles and how I overcame them, share additional experiences, and then give an update on what has happened since I posted my video. If you want to know more about my process of coming out to myself, my thoughts, overcoming my biases against LGBTQ people, getting outted to all my friends, and my biggest fear of coming out, you can learn more about those in my coming out which I will link at the bottom of this article.
Coming Out Story and Struggles:
Looking back, I had many gay interests and thoughts my whole life but I would label them in my head as “he’s just a cool guy I’d like to be friends with” or “I’m just curious”. I didn’t realize I was gay or even question my sexuality my until after high school. I believe there were 2 main reasons for this. The first, was that I never felt “different” in high school as lots of LGBTQ people do. I liked sports, I had friends, I fit in, and I felt like I was just like everyone else. I didn’t have gay friends or even know any gay people and stereotyped gay people as “out there” or “weird”. I had nothing against gay people, I just didn’t consider myself one and associated with all my straight, athletic friends. This caused me to not question my sexuality because I didn’t feel like I was “like” gay people (or my stereotype of gay people) and I thought I had to be straight because I acted like other straight guys. I was able to ignore my lack of interest in girls by thinking “I just haven’t found the right one” and ignoring my interest in guys. The second reason stemmed from an experience I had when I was around 11. One day before going to church I remember my mom saying something like
“I believe people are born gay or straight, but not bi. God makes you one or the other, but you don’t get to choose. And even if you were bi, wouldn’t you just pick to be straight because it is easier?”.
That day at church I remember watching everyone walk up and get communion and I remember looking at all the “cool guys I wanted to be friends with”. For the first time I thought “do I like guys? I know I like being friends with them more than with girls”. But then immediately I reasoned “but I also think girls can be pretty so maybe I’m bi”. At that moment I decide I might be bisexual but I choose girls. Thinking I could choose girls caused me to believe that for the next 8 years. If I ever had the slightest doubt in my mind I wasn’t straight, I would say “you’re not gay because you think girls can be pretty” and then I would think “if I’m bi, I choose girls”. From there I would reason that choosing girls makes me straight.
I came to college the week after graduating high school to train with the Illinois Men’s Gymnastics team. That summer I questioned if I was gay for the first time but hated the thought of ME being gay. I would tell myself “I can’t be gay because I don’t act like them”. I still had horrible stereotypes of all gay people and because I didn’t fit the stereotype, I couldn’t be gay. However, in that same summer, I became super close with the entire gymnastics team. After building close friendships I discovered that two of them were gay. These were my first gay friends and I didn’t even know they were gay at first. This helped break my stereotypes. I realized all gay people weren’t how I thought they were. I realized you could be gay and masculine.
Despite this I still didn’t want to be gay and tried to convince myself I wasn’t. The more I wrestled with it the worse my internal conflicts became. I realized this was something I couldn’t handle on my own and I needed help. Thankfully I had a young instructor my previous semester who I adored, and I knew I could trust her. Additionally, she was a psychology instructor so I felt like she would be perfect at helping me conquer the battle going on in my mind. She turned out to be AMAZING help. We met many times and took long walks in the park while she listened to me. She helped me sort through my emotions and thoughts and eventually helped me get to the point where I could say to myself the infamous two words “I’m gay”.
Around that time, I told 2 close friends I was questioning my sexuality and pretty much the worse possible thing happened. Someone didn’t just spill the beans, but intentionally told all 20+ people on the gymnastics team (my best friends) I was gay. It was the most embarrassing and helpless time in my life. I wasn’t even sure if I was gay yet but all my friends thought I was and I couldn’t do anything about it. I’m not going to elaborate on that part much more because talk all about it in my coming out video.
The good thing from being outted was that even though it was forced, I opened up to more people and they were cool with it and didn’t treat me differently. It was an overall positive experience. Additionally, it allowed me to feel comfortable trying new “gay things” around them like going to gay bars and watching drag shows. This allowed me to see the gay community more and fully overcome my gay stereotypes. I became more open and accepting of being part of the LGBTQ community.
However, I still wished I was straight and didn’t love myself for being gay. Accepting myself to the point I could embrace being gay and loved myself for it took some time. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of college, an entire year of being openly gay, that I was able to fully accept and love myself for being gay. That summer I came out to my parents which was an amazing experience. I knew they wouldn’t reject me and would love me know matter what but wasn’t sure how they would react.
Something that surprised me was that after coming out to them, I stopped caring about what people though. Previously, I would tell people I was gay but was scared people would judge me and I cared a lot about what they thought. After fully accepting myself and telling my parents, I no longer needed people’s approval and didn’t care about what they though. I now think “if they have a problem with my sexuality, they can fuck off”. I don’t need their negativity in my life. I can move on and truly not care about their opinion.
I elaborate a lot more about my story in my coming out video. I also talk about the exercises I did to acknowledge (then accept) I was gay and about my biggest fear of coming out.
The rest of this article are some things I don’t share in my coming out video.
Coming Out Late, Signs I Ignored, and Regret:
There were many signs I was gay. While not noticing it at the time, I intentionally friended guys I thought I were attractive. I wouldn’t flirt with them, I just wanted to hang out with them and become friends. The good-looking guys I befriended weren’t necessarily people I would hang out with naturally or had common interests with, they were just guys I thought were cute.