I Got Outed


I’m gay. I was outed three years ago, and I’ve been facing the impact ever since.

I go to a Christian girls’ summer camp; I am neither Christian nor am I straight, so I’ve already got some strikes against me even before I get there. I’ve gone there since I was eight, and I love it there. I’ve met some of my best friends there, and it’s helped shape me into who I am. It’s been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, but my relationship with camp changed as soon as I realized I like girls.

I was fully closeted except to a handful of people until the end of middle school, and was nervous but excited for high school and the month I got to spend at camp the summer before. When you go to camp with the same people for years, you’re like family to each other, and even though you may only see them for four weeks out of the year, it’s never easier to pick up where you left off than with them. I thought that I had found my group. I thought I’d found the people I could trust.

And of course it happened the summer before my first year of high school. Of course I had wrongly invested my trust in the five homophobic girls in our age group. Of course they lived in Raleigh, just about ten feet from my front door. And of course, they had managed to spread my best-kept secret to what felt like half the camp.

I was hurting really badly for a long time after that. What always hurt me the most was that they took the one thing I thought I had control over. I might be gay, and that might suck when you’re 14 with a lot of internalized homophobia to unpack, and I might not be accepting of myself quite yet, but I get to choose who I tell. I get to choose what people know about me. I needed that control. It was my consolation prize for being like this, and it was stripped away. The one thing I needed at that moment was stripped away from me, and I could never get it back.

For a long time, I tried to laugh about it. I treated it like it was just your average girl drama where someone got caught talking about me behind my back. I tried to act like I wasn’t hurting. I tried to act like I wasn’t afraid to be myself because of what had happened. I tried to act like I wasn’t already so horrible, so mean to myself, and that this just confirmed my suspicions about what other people thought of me.

So I went back into the closet. I was very wary of who I trusted; I don’t think I came out to anyone even a year after it had happened. And I pretended like I wasn’t bothered by it. I acted like I wasn’t terrified every year I came back to camp that I’d be stuck in a cabin with people who had made it very clear they would never accept me. I got lucky and never was, and I still enjoyed camp, but it was always that thought looming over my head. It felt inescapable.

I never quite realized how deep this hurt went until I finally told my dad about it this year. We were driving to camp, and I had never been more excited to go because it was my last year as a camper, and none of the girls who had outed me were coming. And when I really unpacked how it made me feel, how the consequences of what happened that one summer changed my own perception of myself, I realized that this wasn’t just girl drama. This wasn’t just a few homophobic people making my life a bit more annoying; this was trauma. And it was real, and it was scary, and it sucked.

I spent so long trying to separate my own self worth from what other people thought of me. I asked myself, “Why do you still want the approval of people who hurt you so badly?” and I still don’t think I can fully explain it. It’s significantly easier to grow up being gay when you have accepting parents and an accepting community, and I thought I had that everywhere, including camp, but I guess that’s just the naivete of a 14-year-old girl looking to be accepted and not being that invested in the political ideologies of her camp friends. 

It was like a punch to the gut. I didn’t realize how much having an accepting community could really affect you until I didn’t have one anymore, in a place where I thought I did. Subconsciously, even now, I try to be more “straight-passing,” you know, just in case I get hate-crimed when I go to Target. I do that a lot less now, but I still have to force myself back into the closet when I go to camp, and so do a lot of my other camp friends. How is it that a community can feel so welcoming and so much like home, but turn its back on you the minute you divulge something not only incredibly personal but instrumental to how you live your life? It doesn’t feel fair. How can I love this place so much, have friends there that do accept me no matter what, but still feel so unwelcome?

It’s hard to function as someone who willingly and happily exists outside of the confines of a particular viewpoint but then willingly and happily goes to a place working inside those same confines every summer. I don’t even know if I want to publish this article; I’ll be working as a CIT this summer, and someone I do not need to find this article might find this article. The publicization of such a profoundly personal moment may be one of the more unwise decisions I’ve made recently. But I guess this is what it means to heal, a process I’ve been putting off for some time now. 

It’s hard to bounce back from an experience like that. I’m still dealing with the repercussions, and I’ve learned that there’s much more to what happened than just me feeling hurt. These moments change a person forever, and to move past and through it is an uphill battle that’s terrifying and long and exhausting. I’ll let you know how it goes.