Angela grew up in Germantown, Wis. with a rather typical family: a mother, father and little brother.
When her parents separated when she was around 8, her family started to grow. Her stepmom came along with two older step brothers, and about four years ago, her biological mother met someone and got engaged to him a year ago.
Angela was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school until ninth grade when she switched to public schooling.
Her trek into discovering herself began at quite a young age, when she tried to kiss her childhood best friend at the age of 7. But the identity didn’t really stick until she was 15 — a freshman.
“I was meeting all these people that were gay, lesbian, nonbinary, transgender, bisexual, and I thought, ‘This is so cool,’” Angela explained.
In her junior year of high school, she came out as bi for the first time.
However, the Christian roots led her to believe that dating anybody of the same gender wasn’t accepted.
“I got really weird messages about being gay,” Angela explained. “I remember when I was told what it meant to be a lesbian, I was really freaked out by it, like, ‘That seems wrong.’ … I kind of buried it for a while; I didn’t want to acknowledge it.”
So, in middle school, she started dating a guy who was reciprocating feelings toward her.
“It was something that made me feel like [I had] a security blanket,” she said. She also recalled thinking that perhaps this relationship would change how she felt about being attracted to women, that maybe it was just a phase.
The two were together on and off, albeit consistently, through the rest of high school and into college for a total of six years.
But her boyfriend at the time felt uncomfortable with Angela having come out as bisexual, so she ended up “taking it back.” They broke up for a short period of time after the fact, and she came out as bi once again.
“It felt like I was hiding this part of me,” she said. “I stayed with him because I thought it would fight everything [I had been taught].”
However, when she was a freshman in college this past year, Angela realized that perhaps bisexual wasn’t the right way for her to identify.
“It was like something wasn’t right in my soul — like I wasn’t being honest about something,” she explained. “I really knew I was just hiding, that I was just gay.”
One day in April, Angela was getting dropped off by her now ex-boyfriend at home from college with the thought in her mind that she had to talk to her dad. After she got out of the car and the boyfriend drove off, she called her dad crying.
“Hey, how are you?” her dad answered.
“Dad, I think I’m gay!”
His response to this was just an OK. However, Angela explained that this “OK” wasn’t a bad one.
It wasn’t the “OK” that sounded as if it changed things between them; it was more so a way of him to ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I think he gave me the whole, ‘I love and support you’ bit, but my mind tuned that out with the panic,” Angela explained. “I knew he was the one person I could talk to and he would say, ‘I support you, I’m in your corner, nothing’s going to change,’ and that was really reassuring.”
Shortly after her conversation over the phone with her dad, her stepmom was put on the phone. She was accepting and said that labels didn’t matter as long as she did what made her happiest.
That being said, Angela was quite relieved at the early acceptance by her dad and stepmom. But though her stepmom said that labels didn’t matter, Angela knew that identifying as a lesbian was comforting.
“I needed to come out because this was going to change things in a really good way for me; I could tell,” she explained.
A couple days after calling her dad, she talked to her mom. They were watching TV together, and Angela asked her what she said was the stereotypical “You love me no matter what, right?” question.
Her mom replied “Yes, of course.” So Angela continued on to ask if she would still love her even if she was gay. Her mom also replied yes, to which Angela said, “OK, well this is my coming out. I’m gay.”
And she was also very receptive to it and accepting.
After coming out to her family, Angela was quite open with her identity.
“I [came out to] my friends through a TikTok, which was very 2020-esque,” she laughed. She remembered that the audio in the TikTok was of Doja Cat.
However, she was hesitant with some distant family as one of her more conservative family members saw her coming out TikTok.
“My kind of conservative cousin followed me and messaged me saying, ‘I don’t know if you should be putting yourself out there like that,’” Angela explained.
Now, everybody knows how Angela identifies, and she said she hasn’t had any other instances of hatred or having someone tell her they weren’t accepting of it.
Angela is now dating her high school best friend, Alex, and they’ve been together about six months.
They met in 2016 in passing, but after hearing from a friend that her father had passed in 2017, Angela stopped by her in the hallway and gave Alex her condolences.
They didn’t talk for a while after that, but they both got invited to a mutual friend’s party one time. Alex couldn’t make it, but after a mutual sent something in the group chat they were both in, Angela recognized Alex’s name and reached out.
After that, they became best friends and did everything together.
“It was a really passionate friendship that was just so good,” Angela explained. “I went to her [high school] graduation and she went to mine; we helped each other move into our dorms.”
Alex confessed her feelings for Angela while she was with her boyfriend at the time.
“I said thank you, but listen, I’m with someone. And she totally respected that.”
After this, the two separated and drifted apart because of school and life. But when Angela came out in April, the two started talking and once again became inseparable.
“I started having a dream and thinking about how grateful I was for her in my life, and I had this moment of like, ‘Man, I love her. … Oh my God I love her,’” she explained. “I remember she came to my last high school choir concert — my boyfriend was there, my family was there — I didn’t care, all I wanted was her.
“I remember asking my brother, ‘How do I tell my best friend that I love her?’ And he said that you have to be subtle, and I’m like, ‘I’m not subtle and she knows that.’”
So, on the phone with Alex, Angela tells her that she has a crush on this girl from school, hoping that Alex would ask who it was. But she wouldn’t, Angela explained. Alex kept asking how Angela feels about her, when they met, how long she knew she liked her.
Then Angela asked, “Well Alex, what do I say to her?” and she replied, “Say ‘Listen, I gotta tell you I have feelings for you and it’s okay if you don’t reciprocate. I hope we can still be friends but I just had to put it out there.’”
Angela pauses for a second after Alex suggested saying that, and it was long enough for Alex to make sure she was still on the line.
“I have feelings for you.” Angela could hear Alex’s dog barking in the background.
“What?” Alex heard her, but wanted to be sure she heard her correctly. But Angela said it again, and she said it was a very sweet moment of realization.
To those who can’t or choose not to come out, Angela said that it’s completely OK.
“You are always safe and there’s always going to be people who support you,” she explained. “If it’s not the people in your family who support you, then try to build a new family. There’s always going to be spaces, there’s always going to be voices, and when you are ready to share your voice, we will listen.
“I’m sorry if you feel you can’t come out, or it’s not safe. You are always welcome in the queer community. And if you have to stay in the closet, we will guard the door.”
Editor’s note: This article was originally posted February 2, 2021.