Lately, I've observed a number of tweets likening coming out LGBT to coming out atheist. I find this interesting because I've come out as both and know the similarities and differences. Both coming outs require careful consideration and tremendous courage. However, the biggest notable difference is that there was never any question about my sexuality. I knew I was bi when my feelings for women surfaced at age fifteen, the problem was accepting AND appreciating it.
My discovery of atheism was a much longer process. I didn't "just know" when I began doubting religion in my preteen years. It took years of attending various churches and studying religious doctrines before I concluded that I believed none of it. I didn't want to be isolated from my peers, a common fear of thirteen year-olds. Like my sexuality, I hid it until I was sixteen.
This resistance to acknowledge these integral parts of my identity took a toll on me. At fifteen, when I was still not publicly out yet, I became a self-injurer. By this time, I'd accepted myself but hated who I was. I thought that cutting would be an adequate punishment for the defective person I must be.I came out as bisexual a year later. I thought this might ease the stress of hiding my identity, only to discover the hostility of my peers. I no longer hid who I was even though I was disgusted that my sexuality could not be changed.
Part of me itches to believe in a deity. No worries my fellow atheists, I'm not turning on you. Living in a religiously over-saturated area exerts tremendous pressure to adopt religion, namely Christianity. Your religious beliefs are more of matter of choice than sexuality will ever be. I struggled with my beliefs years longer than my sexuality because, again, I knew of and hated my sexuality but knew it could not be changed. I thought I could somehow force faith in Christianity. Not so. I researched Buddhism, Wicca, Islam, Hinduism, and more. None fit me. I was under the delusion that people would accept me as long as I believed in *something*. I grew tired of this game of pleasing others so they could feel comfortable.
Throughout the rest of my high school years, I dated only men to avoid scrutiny of my "gay side," much like I tried to believe in some religion, whatever it was, so I wasn't shamed .Unsurprisingly, this repression led to more self-hatred and cutting. I harmed myself until I was twenty because I hoped I'd be "normal" someday.
I'm now twenty-one and accept and appreciate both my atheism and bisexuality. Neither "needs" to change. My discovery of these parts of my identity occurred at differing paces, but the core of the matter remains the same: both made me feel inferior until I stopped thinking about what others wanted. There's no doubt that coming out as either atheist or LGBT can result in loss of support from ignorant friends and family. I happened to be born as both. I lost some people I loved, but I gained peace of mind from freeing myself from their restrictive ideas on who I "should" be. That's not worth trading for anything.