You never forget your first

Fonseca is a super senior from Lincolnton. She is the co-president of Choice USA.

Sarah Fonseca

Whether you’re a freshman in your first semester at Southern or a political spectator nail-biting over the recent governmental shutdown, autumn’s made for risky behavior. Maybe you’re simply debating swapping out your boring old latte for a pumpkin spice one. Go for it. This season is for the taking. It’s fitting that National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, takes place during autumn.

While Harvey Milk urged, “You must come out,” a few addenda are necessary. One, come out when you’re ready and not when you’re pressured. Make sure your coming out won’t jeopardize your safety, sanity or ability to fund your education. Two, accept that you’re going to have to continue to do it over and over: To the OB/GYN who wants to know if you have a boyfriend, to the guy who slips you his number while you’re studying at Club Henderson. Three, there’s a huge difference between acceptance, tolerance and tokenization. If the people you come out to treat you as a hassle or fashion accessory, realize that it isn’t good enough. Four, you’ll know you’re ready to come out when you feel like a shaken bottle of Coca-Cola, fit to bursting.

Coming out initially seems like an impossible feat. However, much of the anxiety that precedes coming out is eliminated when you tell that very first person. That singular moment when you open your mouth will not only be one of the most memorable ones of your life, but also the most freeing. You might just wonder what you were so worried about to begin with.

I came out so long ago that I feel like I should be telling this story while readjusting my dentures. My “bursting moment” transpired in a Spanish lecture when I impulsively found myself scribbling a note to Ebony, the best friend seated a row over from me. That day, I passed her my spilled ink and guts on a sheet of folded college rule. I told her, “this is who I am,” and, in her own uniquely loud and sassy way, she responded with what we all, regardless of gender or sexuality, long for: acceptance.

You can’t really come out unless you speak up. But you also can’t do it unless someone’s willing to listen. To my LGBT allies out there, be fearless and intuitive in your acceptance this month; someone might just need it. To those ready to come out, make use of this autumn and take the leap. Winter will be here before you know it.

Ebony Cullars

October 6, 1987 – September 28, 2013