Celebrity

“How I Came Out”: 5 Canadians Describe Their Experience

Back in FLARE's June 2014 issue, cover star Ellen Page told us what it was like to come out. Here, five other cool Canadians—including Tegan and Sara's Tegan Quin—share their own experiences

celebrity coming out story
Tegan Quin, Tegan and Sara
I lucked out; it’s a family joke that Sara came out first. She took the brunt of the blow from my coming out. My perspective was different because I thought everybody knew I was gay. I just didn’t think it was necessary to come out until I was in a serious relationship. For me personally, I started dating someone and flew her to Calgary to introduce her to friends. There was a collective, “OK you’re gay.” All the dramatic and intense feelings people think will happen when you’re preparing to come out just go away. There’s an incredible sense of relief that feels so much less upsetting than those feelings of self-hate. Inner homophobia is way worse than what you experience on the outside. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be.

When we were younger it was more about gender than sexuality. We were tomboys, hanging around boys, but we weren’t boy crazy like our girlfriends. As a teenager, I felt this intense longing to be close to my girlfriends. By 18, I came out, chose not to go to university, my parents were like, WTF? My mom felt I [deliberately] hadn’t told her; she was a therapist and open minded, and her response was [to be] kind of hurt that I didn’t tell her earlier about my lifestyle. But my family was so supportive, I did go through a phase where I felt a little annoyed that it wasn’t more dramatic.

My parents had paved a path: we were social, well loved, and they were just worried that we wouldn’t be accepted. The fact we had chosen to be musicians and chosen this alternative lifestyle, I think everybody thought of it as a pilgrimage. In the first year or two we came out publicly, there was so much support and understanding from other musicians and the music industry that it really normalized the community. Some people thought we wouldn’t be successful… but then we were on tour with Neil Young.
celebrity coming out story
Alyssa Pankiw, writer and director
I came out after I moved to Toronto when I was about 19; I was tired of living a split life. There’s honestly nothing more exhausting than having to avoid pronouns when you’re talking about the new “person” you’re dating or having to check out of conversations altogether because you can’t remember the latest lie you told about your love life. For me, it came down to wanting my friends and family to get to know the people who made me happy. At first, my mom was a bit upset about the whole me-dating-a-girl thing, [but] I just had to remind her not to worry and that I’d still have a really expensive wedding one day.

celebrity coming out story
Carlyle Chan, visual merchandiser
On a hot July day, I stole my sister’s camera to capture the uncharacteristic Vancouver sun against a sea-to-sky backdrop. It was spontaneous, albeit juvenile. After previous instances of “borrowing,” my family, finally fed up, called a meeting that involved a lecture on theft. Although I’m close to my parents and sister, I felt so persecuted. They criticized me over supper, judging my beliefs, my friends and my rash lifestyle. I don’t recall what possessed me to come out, but feeling vulnerable and exposed, I confessed over clattering cutlery: “I like boys.” My mom wailed as I was wept tears of exasperated relief. After two awkward minutes, my dad said, “You are my son, and I love you. How could you think we would disown or think any less of you?” The inexplicable shame and fear I’d festered for twenty closeted years streamed from my eyes.
celebrity coming out story
Daniel Byrne, graphic designer
Before coming out to my father at 16, I thought, Will my parents still pay my university tuition? While [my dad] took it surprisingly well, it took a few years for my family to readjust their perception of me. At school, two other dudes came out around the same time, and it was the camaraderie got me through the initial stages. By 17, I’d come to terms with myself and once I entered university, I stopped thinking about it entirely. And yes, my parents financed my education.
celebrity coming out story
Jenny Watson, graphic designer and DJ
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t really come out until my early 20s. It took me a long time to see it, but when I look back, I can see I had a lot of girl crushes, from my first best friend to my camp counselor. I don’t remember whom I told first, but I do remember coming out to my mother. I used to live in the Italian area of Vancouver. My mother loved to come visit me, because she spoke Italian and loved any reason to speak it. Whenever she came by, we always went to this Italian cafe. This time, I had just fallen in love for the first time and couldn’t hide it. I began to tell my mother about my new love, and she started to tear up. Suddenly, she shouted ‘Mama!’ I stopped my story, and my mother said, ‘This song, this song, Mama!’ There was a song playing in this Italian cafe, one that reminded her of her childhood, a song called ‘Mama.’ It completely lightened the situation, and we laughed, cried and hugged it all out. It was a huge relief, and enabled me to be completely honest about my personal life from that day on.

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