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.
My senior year, I was one of few seniors in A lunch. B lunch was the lunch for all athletes. Being a club gymnast, I didn’t do any sports in school. Because I was in A lunch, I had to sit with people I didn’t usually hang out with. There was a good-looking guy who I was acquaintances with, but not close friends and I decided to sit at his table. He was a very fashionable guy who was interested in photography, watches and clothes. Even though I have never had much of an interest in these things, we talked about these topics often. The reason I enjoyed hanging out with him was not because I liked photography and fashion, but because “I just thought he was a cool guy”. I know realize my natural draw towards him was because I liked him and thought he was attractive.
He was very artsy, and ironically, I thought he might be gay. Here I was, unaware of my sexuality, yet hanging out and liking a guy who I thought might be gay. I now find it funny that I enjoyed hanging out with a guy who I thought might be gay, and somehow never realized that I was the gay one (FYI, he’s not gay). I guess you could just say this was my first “gay crush” even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I think “befriending guys I liked” was one reason why I came out so late. I was extremely busy in high school and would busy my mind with things other than sexual thoughts. I told myself the reason why I don’t date is because I am too busy with other things. However, it was because I wasn’t interested and any guys that I liked I would just label as “a friend”. Additionally, believing that I could choose who I liked was another reason I came out so late.
When I talk about how I “came out late”, I am talking about coming out to myself. I feel like most people are more aware of their sexuality at a younger age than I was. I regret not realizing my sexuality when I was younger. I feel like I missed out on that “young, innocent, and immature relationship” part of life. I see kids coming out at 13, 14, 15, 16 and am amazing at their confidence. I realize that coming out to oneself at 19 is young in many peoples’ eyes (I know 50 year-olds just coming out) but I just wish I realized my sexuality when I was younger.
The Gift of Coming Out – Come Out When You’re Ready:
When coming out, it is so important to come out when you are ready. You don’t “owe” coming out to anyone. You are not obligated to tell anyone your sexuality just like you don’t have to tell anyone what your favorite color is.
I view coming out to someone, as giving them a gift. Knowing someone personally is a gift. Each part of yourself you share with someone is a gift. Sharing your feelings, fears, or secrets with a close friend is a gift. In the same way, sharing your sexuality is a gift.
You only have to come out to people you want to share that gift to. When I came out to my high school friends and family, I thought of it as giving them a gift. I literally said something like this to my parents when coming out:
“You know me very well. You probably know me better than anyone in the world and I love you very much. However, there is one thing about me that you don’t know. It’s not much, its only like 2% of who I am but I think it is a gift to know who people truly are and that is why I want to share this gift with you. ‘I just want to let you know the I’m gay.’”
While I was late to come out to myself, I feel like I was pretty quick to come out to others once I came out to myself. I mean, I was outted to all my close friends before I was 100% confident, I was gay, but after that I willingly came out fairly quickly. I came out to my 2 best high school friends that summer (about 3 months after being outted to my team) and after that I pretty much openly shared my sexuality with anyone whenever it came up, besides my family. I wanted to tell them, but I wanted to do it in person. Since I go to school in Illinois, and they are in Texas, it took a while to find a good time. However, just a little over a year after coming out to myself, I finally came out to them.
Chickening Out – Lying About My Sexuality After Being Out for a Year:
For spring break my sophomore year of college, I went to Florida with a group from my business fraternity. At this point, I was out to anyone who asked or whenever it came up in conversation. About 5 people from my business fraternity knew, but there were about 150 people in it. I am friends with everyone I my business frat and I think they are awesome people (I honestly with I was closer with more of them), but I have just put more time and energy into my relationships with guys on the gymnastics team. Because of this, many people in my business frat didn’t know I was gay even though I was open about it (or so I thought).
Anyways, me and 15 other people from my business frat spent and amazing week together in Florida and got really close. We had an absolute blast as we spent our days building a house for H4H, our afternoons on the beach, and our nights partying. Then, on the very last night we were playing a drinking game where you say things you haven’t done and if you have done that thing you have to drink. Anyways, someone said, “I’ve never kissed a guy” and me and the 5 girls there took a drink. Before I realized it, everyone was staring at me and one person asked “When, what happened?”.
This was the perfect opportunity for me to simply say “because I’m gay”. I had told a couple dozen people I was gay, but for some reason at this moment I crumbled and lied. I didn’t tell them I was straight but didn’t tell the truth either. I responded with something like “some drunk gay guy asked to kiss me, and I was drunk too so I said yes”. It was a stupid lie, and everyone knew it. There was a long, awkward moment of silence as they thought of what to say. Then a girl replied “cool” and none of us have spoken about it since.
Why I Lied – My Biggest Fear:
I knew exactly why I lied. It was because I was scared of what they would think of me if they knew I was gay. We had just spent a week getting close and I didn’t want them to think of me differently because of my sexuality. Additionally, we had been sleeping and changing in the same room and I didn’t want them to think that was weird because I was gay. I talk a lot about this in my coming out video, but because of a bad experience, my biggest fear when coming out was losing my ability to be a “bro” with my straight guy friends. I want our friendships to be the same and I don’t want things to change once they know I’m gay. It was my biggest fear every time I came out.
I think this fear was extra strong at that moment because I was around 8 guys I just became close friends with. I didn’t want to lose that. Ever since them I have never lied about my sexuality. As I mentioned above, I also don’t care about what people think anymore so that fear isn’t as strong.
After My Video:
Since posting my video, I have become even more confident and proud of my sexuality. I have received so much support and it has been amazing! Many people in my business fraternity have seen my coming out video and then voiced their support which was a great feeling. You could say I am out to all of them now. On my mom’s side of the family, the news spread like wild fire and within a couple hours I was getting text from all of them voicing their support. My grandpa even wrote me a nice letter which was incredible. People have been overwhelmingly more supportive than I could of imagined.
I am still not dating anyone but open to dating. I guess I just haven’t found anyone yet. I go to school in a pretty small town but hopefully when I move back to Austin, Texas this summer I’ll be able to meet more people.
I also got to help some incredible people who reached out to me while in the process of coming out. That has been a great experience. It has made me realize how easy I’ve had it. My parents, and pretty much everyone around me has been accepting. Talking to others has made me realize the significant amount of parent who aren’t supportive of their kids after coming out. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if my parents or close friends rejected me for being gay.
Who I’m Not Out To:
While I’ve been saying that I am fully out, that actually isn’t 100% true. I am not out to my other set of grandparents. While I don’t hide the fact that I’m gay, I haven’t gone out of the way to tell them. I will tell them whenever I have a serious boyfriend or whenever they find my coming out video (which they might have seen and just not said anything about).
My reasoning for this is just because they are extremely traditional, religious, and have a history of ignoring things they don’t like. None of these are bad, it’s just who they are. What is bad is I have heard them say negative, demeaning things about LGBTQ people. While I don’t give a fuck about what they think about me, I think they would sleep easier at night assuming I’m straight. I know they love me and that’s why I think it would be really hard on them if they found out I was gay. I think they believe I won’t go to heaven or something. That is why I don’t plan on telling them until I have a serious boyfriend, they see my video, or they go to heaven and find out for themselves. I guess you could say I’m not ready to give them the gift yet.
If you are questioning your sexuality all I can say is talk to someone you can trust. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, maybe turn to an online resource. There are plenty of groups/councilors out there willing to talk to those questioning their sexuality.
If you are struggling to come out to yourself, I’d recommend you spend some time reflecting on all the sexual thoughts you’ve had over your life (I talk about this in my coming out video). I wrote every sexual/romantic thought I have ever had down, and it really helped me realize my sexuality. If you’re struggling to come out to others, I recommend you watch coming out videos of people who were in a similar situation to you. I have probably watched 50+ coming out videos and each one was helpful, reassuring, or at least comforting to watch.
I recommend you gauge how someone will react before you tell them. Ask some questions to get a feel for things. It might help prepare you for how/if you are going to tell them. Keep in mind not everyone will react favorable and things might get worse before they get better.
Lastly, I just want to say this is your journey. Coming out shouldn’t be rushed or slowed down. It should happen on your time. Come out when you’re comfortable and feel safe doing so.
I hope you have found this article informative/helpful. Feel free to reach out to me on email/instagram if you have questions.
If you want to watch my coming out story, here it is: