In this op-ed, Mia M., a 17-year-old Texas high school student and member of the It Gets Better Youth Voices project, recalls their coming out story and provides information for other LGBTQ+ youth on National Coming Out Day suggestions. Mia’s last name has been withheld for privacy reasons.
Life was very difficult when I was a teenager. On the surface, my life seemed good: a loving family, good friends, and a safe and supportive school community. But deep down, I was struggling with overwhelming sadness, confusion, and sadness. After adolescence ended, I entered a new identity crisis involving my gender, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs that completely upended my sense of self.
Are the warm, fuzzy feelings for my friend just platonic or is there something more to it? Why do I never share my “boy crush” at sleepovers? I loved wearing pink and wearing makeup, but any label I tried to define my identity felt wrong.
In addition to these thoughts, I am often confused by Islam and the religion’s message, such as not being heterosexual may be considered haram, or a sin. I often hear from my community that it’s okay to have thoughts about being queer, but acting on it is forbidden.
So, until high school, I tried to play the “good girl.” I had good grades, I said yes to boys who asked me to dance, and when my family asked me if I had a boyfriend, I never brought up my sexual feelings.
But the more I tried to hide it, the more miserable I became—until I decided to tell my sister, Michaela, that I might be gay. Through hugs and late-night conversations, we came up with a plan to tell my parents. As I gathered my family, my sister held my hand and explained how I was feeling. I cried a lot of tears (mostly my own) and my parents didn’t immediately understand my point of view. But over time, they have been able to see and support who I really am.
Being a Black, Muslim, and LGBTQ+ teen in Texas is tough. I experienced suspicion and discrimination from all sides, and was often told that my identity was just a “phase.” I remember leaving my home absolutely fearing for my life as seemingly homophobic and Islamophobic people protested in front of grocery stores every day, yelling obscenities and nasty things at anyone who dared to walk by. I’m scared. How can people be so hateful and violent towards their neighbors? But when I ask that question, people say, “That’s just the way it is.”