In this op-ed, Mia M., a 17-year-old Texas high school student and part of the Youth Voices program at It Gets Better, recalls their coming out story and offers tips for other LGBTQ+ youth for National Coming Out Day. Mia’s last name is being withheld for privacy.
Life in my early teens was pretty hard. From the outside, it seemed I had it pretty good: a loving family, good friends, and a safe and supportive school community. But inside, I was battling extreme feelings of grief, confusion, and sadness. On top of puberty, I was entering a new identity crisis involving my gender, sexuality, and religion, which turned my sense of self completely upside down.
Were the warm, fuzzy feelings for my friend just platonic or were they something more? Why did I never share my “boy crush” at sleepovers? I liked to dress in pink and do my makeup, but any label I tried using to define my identity felt wrong.
On top of these thoughts, I was often confused about the messages of Islam and religion, like that not being heterosexual may be considered haram, or a sin. I often heard from my community that it was okay to have thoughts about being queer, but acting on it was forbidden.
So, until high school, I tried to play the “good girl.” I got good grades, I said yes to boys who asked me to dances, and I never brought up my feelings about sexuality when my family asked if I had a boyfriend.
But the more I tried to hide, the more miserable I became — until I decided to tell my older sister Mikaela that I might be queer. With hugs and late-night talks, we came up with a plan to tell my parents. My sister held my hand as I gathered my family, explaining the feelings I was experiencing. There were a lot of tears (mostly from me), and my parents did not immediately understand my point of view. But over time, they’ve been able to see and support me for who I am.
Being a Black American, Muslim, and LGBTQ+ teen in Texas has been incredibly hard. I’ve experienced doubt and discrimination from all sides, often being told my identity is just a “phase.” I remember leaving my home absolutely scared for my life because of the outwardly homophobic and Islamophobic people who protested every day by the grocery store, shouting slurs and ugly words at anyone who dared pass by. I was horrified. How could people be so hateful and violent toward their own neighbor? But when I brought it up, people would say, “That’s just the way it is.”