Sort of Out: Coming Out Through Studying Abroad

A lot of my LGBT* friends knew pretty much their entire lives, or at least since puberty, that they were queer. I wouldn’t say that figuring out I was a lesbian at 20 is completely late to the game, but comparatively to my queer circle, I felt like I showed up to the party pretty late.

Of course, it would take me traveling half way across the world to figure out my sexuality. In hindsight, the signs had definitely been there for me. I had considered boys aesthetically pleasing, but I thought then if I waited long enough, the physical and sexual feelings would emerge. Also, looking back on my female friendships and my obvious crushes, I still shudder and shake my head.

I finally let myself start to see the truth of things when I was studying abroad my junior year of college. There were only five of us in our program, and luckily we all got along; we all became very fast friends. There was only one boy in the program, and I started on my usual course trying to convince myself that I had a crush on him. As much as I tried, nothing more than friendship felt right. There was, however, a girl in our group that I was very attracted to, I just wasn’t admitting it to myself. This girl was smart, kind hearted, and hot, very hot. Again I tried to convince myself that a same-sex attraction was just close feelings of friendships.

The trip was life changing , so obviously I felt strong emotions toward my new friends. Afterwards geography separated me from of the group, and I almost convinced myself of my success.

It finally took an interaction with an old high school friend a month after returning that led me to my sexual revelation. Not initially of course, because that would have been too easy.  We snuggled the whole weekend while in the mountains, but it was finally that Sunday coming home that reality smacked me upside the head.

People have asked me why it took me so long for me to register, and I have asked myself the same question many times. Why did it take a study abroad trip across the world and back for me to figure it out? Why was I keeping myself blind to my obvious reality? There were points in high school that I flirted with the idea of being attracted to girls, but I buried it away from my conscious thought.  I didn’t want it to be an option, so I made myself not see it.

Studying abroad made me see, learn, and re-learn things about who I am as a person and what I wanted to get out of life. This experience mapped out my passion for education, development, and non-profit work. Most importantly, it made me feel again. For too long I blocked myself off from my emotions and the world. By traveling abroad I let myself go free, and I let myself be. It was the beginning of a long and continuous journey of learning about and loving myself.

I’ve found that when I am the most open and true to myself, the happier of a place I am at. Being true to me has been amazing, terrifying and difficult, but absolutely incredible. I am eternally grateful for the experience I had. I shudder to think about the shell of person I would be today without it. That semester was the catalyst toward finding myself through all of the facades I built.

Some people in the LGBT* community have known since the beginning, others, it takes a little bit longer. For me, I almost had to be smacked upside the head with my own sexuality. We all have different journeys. For me, it took the long way around the bend, I couldn’t be more grateful.

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