Dear Queer Diary: Coming Out on Paper

Welcome to Dear Queer Diary, a (new!) column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We’ll be cracking open our tiny notebooks and breaking out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px


My first diary was a pink confection that came complete with a tiny key, presumably to hide my private preadolescent thoughts and feelings from the prying eyes of parents, siblings, and nosy stuffed animals. This was the “Dear Dairy” era, when spelling was unimportant and gel pens reigned supreme—and more than I remember actually writing anything in my diary, I remember toting the key around on a ribbon around my neck in order to safeguard the privacy of my words.

gelpens2

Would it be unprofessional to use these delicious-looking gel pens for work?

Just like Gretchen Wieners’ hair, my old diaries are full of secrets. Secrets about who I like liked and the disgraceful and traumatizing time I cheated on a map quiz about the rivers of the Middle East. Secrets about the crush I had on my high school history teacher, and my best friend’s struggles with anxiety, and the creative writing seminar I really, really, really wanted to get into. Yet amidst all these exciting and confidential factoids, there is one big secret that isn’t there.

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As queer-type-humaniods, many of us have, at one point in our pasts, probably had one important secret in common. “I think I might be attracted to girls.” “I have a crush on Kristen Stewart.” “I’m as gay as a rainbow flag plus kale risotto times Jamaica Plain.” “I’m queer.”

That secret is the one that’s missing from my diary.

via Etsy

via Etsy

Of course, this is partially due to timing: I flew into the lesbian dance party headfirst, so it wasn’t until after I suddenly found myself with a girlfriend that I realized the assumptions I’d made about my own desires were shaped by heteronormativity and historical romance, novels rather than my own heart/soul/body.

Yet in retrospect, I wonder if another reason those magic words never appeared in my journals was that they were too complicated, too uncertain—and maybe just too big of a secret for me to write down. Once I had kissed a girl and liked it, I used my diary to work through identity markers and logistical scenarios. Before, there are only the smallest of hints: my choice to prioritize school over boys, my interest in the LGBTQ people around me.

Katy Perry loves to write in her journal when she's not applying cherry chapstick. Via UtepPrintStore

Katy Perry loves to write in her journal when she’s not applying cherry chapstick. Via UtepPrintStore

In many ways, I am inordinately, indescribably, amazingly lucky that my identity never had to be a secret, kept only between the pages of my diary and locked up with a key carried on a ribbon around my neck. Yet I know, my dear queer diarists, that this cannot be the case for all of us. Just like we all experience our identities in unique ways, and we all have our favorite Autostraddle editors, and we all have divergent feelings about pumpkin-flavored beer, we all must have different relationships with our dear queer diaries. When did you come out to your journal? What did you write?

Just one of the amazing photos submitted so far. Via Claire

Just one of the amazing photos submitted so far. Via Claire

In other news: nine hundred bouquets of posies and a dozen molten chocolate cakes to all of you who have sent in photos of your journals! We already have some beautiful shots, and I am happy to report that there are some electronic journals documented along with the pen-and-paper ones.

I’ll keep accepting submissions through the weekend—if you send me a photo after that, I will love it and treasure it, but you probably won’t see it in the upcoming gallery.

feature image via weheartit

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

59 Comments

  1. I’ve never been much for writing in a personal (i.e. my-eyes-only) journal. I tried a few times growing up, but it never lasted more than a couple weeks. But for years now I’ve been keeping a blog that is essentially where I put all my journally-type thoughts. And the funny thing is that last year, as I was going through the whole process of coming out to myself, long before I was ready to come out to the rest of the world, it was actually fairly obvious what I was going through in several of my blog posts. I wrote a post about how homosexuality and Christianity are very much compatible and another about how I was struggling with accepting some unnamed part of my identity. So although I didn’t immediately “come out” to this online journal of mine, I still kind of did.

    And then once I had come out to myself and my closest family and friends, I actually did a post entitled “Coming Out” documenting my experience telling my very conservative family.

    So, yes, I very much came out to my version of a journal, first (perhaps not so subtly) and then very, very openly.

  2. ” Before, there are only the smallest of hints: my choice to prioritize school over boys, my interest in the LGBTQ people around me. ”

    That’s sort of the same case with my diary from middle school – high school. It was more fictional LGBTQ people for me, like how I obsessed over the musical RENT a lot, especially Maureen’s character. I never specifically came out on paper, because I still had no idea though.

    But the clues are how I would talk about wishing I had a boyfriend so I won’t be weird anymore. And then in unrelated news, I’d immediately describe how this girl in my English class looked that day, and how brilliant she is. And how she walks past my locker at exactly this time and I’m always hoping she talks to me, and OMG today she said, “Hi” and it’s like we’re almost friends!

    Lol. I was a clueless and obsessed dork for a long time.

  3. When I was 13, I wrote in my journal, “I think I might be a lesbian.” A couple weeks later, I wrote, “I don’t want to be gay because I know it’s a sin to act in a homosexual way.” (Oy.)

    Since then my journals have seen my first kiss and my first girlfriend and breakup and ALL the amazing gay things. :)

  4. Most of my journal entries (spaced months apart) were about who I “liked.” I think the first time I told my journal was after a long long entry about how great a girl named Genevieve was (now, I barely remember her), and then a month later being all, “so, I have a lot of feelings about this Genevieve girl. I think I might like like girls…” followed by a whole bunch of freaking out about bringing shame upon my family (because I live in my own Euripides play).

  5. When I was about 15 I wrote down the title of a movie about lesbians on a tiny slip of paper and squirreled it away in my closet (oh, the irony). Then I processed my feelings by writing a lot of gay Harry Potter fanfiction in pencil and painstakingly erasing it all when I was done writing. But I properly came out in a journal (in pen, I’m pretty sure) about a year ago.

  6. I came out five years ago. At that time i had been really into journaling. I wasnt sure what I was feeling, so I wrote everything down. I wrote about what I was feeling, to me coming out to the people i was closest to. I saved my notes that I got from my friends saying they supported me. Looking back I am so very lucky to have this journal because it shows me just how far I have come. Whenever I need a reminder I can look back and read it whenever I want. Its amazing.

  7. Oh, the days of journaling. I was never very good at journaling in general (with any sort of regularity), but I did have quite the queer journal. I realized I was gay around 12 or 13, and there wasn’t much in the way of girl-dating prospects so I spent a lot of time pining over english teachers and older girls at my school and writing about it. I still have them, too!

  8. I don’t think I ever came out on paper. The first time I realized I liked girls that was huge and scary and I was so ashamed that Jesus knew I had that thought that I pushed it way back in my mind never to be thought again, let alone written on paper. I think the closest I came in my teenage diary was wondering why I like guys but the thought of kissing them, let alone anything more, repulses me. Then in college when I accepted that I was gay I wasn’t journaling regularly, though I did tentatively write “I’m gay” very small in the margins of my notebooks as a way of testing that idea out before I said those words out loud.

  9. Hey, I registered just to comment on this lovely post!

    In 1984, I wrote in a spiral notebook that I was bisexual. It wasn’t a journal, just a notebook in which I intended to record all things queer-related. I cut out a newspaper article from the Des Moines Register about a gay rights march and stuck it in the notebook. A few months later, I destroyed the notebook out of fear of discovery. I was twelve years old.

    I didn’t journal about queerness again until college, when I used the not-very-codelike code “the other side” to describe my feelings for women. I wrote about the old spiral notebook and its sad destruction, too. That journal I kept. I am 41 now, and after a lifetime of passing as straight and denying my truth, I am in the process of coming out to myself and my journal all over again. So you see why I had to comment here!

    Lovely Autostraddle has played and continues to play an important part in my process. I am happy to be here. Oh, and to be queer. Yay queerness!

  10. I revisited my diaries after coming out to my parents on a visit home and was shocked to discover I had written a fair bit about my suspicions of queerness at age 14/15 – especially as it took me another 9 years to accept it. I obviously completely repressed it – because coming out in my twenties felt like something completely new! But when I did finally come out to myself (evidently the second time round) in was by way of a scrawling, tear-splattered diary entry all over again. So at least there’s a nice symmetry to it.

  11. All my diary entries from my teenage years were pretty much me getting my story straight (no pun intended).

    I noted which boy I was claiming to have a crush on on in exactly the words I would use to relate this to my friends. Then I would write six page essays on the prettiest girl in our group of friends and what she had said to me that day. And I was still, somehow, clueless.

    It’s also notable that I have described in some depth the incidents surrounding two boys at my church, one who was openly gay and eventually got forced out by the church leadership and one who flew under the radar and dated and a lot of girls while sleeping with the openly gay boy. The entries from when half our youth group went down with glandular fever are amusing now partly because it was all so deadly serious back then.

    • “I noted which boy I was claiming to have a crush on on in exactly the words I would use to relate this to my friends. Then I would write six page essays on the prettiest girl in our group of friends and what she had said to me that day. And I was still, somehow, clueless.”

      That’s exactly the type of thing I did as well!

  12. this! my journal was the first place i ever came out! (though i think i made myself say it into my pillow once before?) i think i was 16? it was quite the terrifying experience to have those words outside of me, on paper, in my house where anyone could see them.

    but then, even before that, when i was in middle school i kept a list of my “obsessions” which included books, movies, people.. mostly female-gendered people who i idolized. lolz shoulda known.

  13. I wrote ‘I think I’m gay,’ in my diary when I was fourteen. I don’t really remember what prompted me to write that–my crush on my best friend? Something I’d read? I probably read ‘Annie on My Mind’ around that time. Did everything just come together in a moment of insight? All I have left now is the diary (small, covered in dark green Chinese silk)and those words. I didn’t do anything with the knowledge for another four years, and I’m not sure I even really believed it when I wrote it down.

  14. I’m really glad I’m apparently not the only person this happened to, because I had a ridiculous moment of clarity when I was 19 — holy shit I’m gay! how did I not know this! — and then I went back and checked my old journals. Turns out that when I was 13 I wrote pages and pages in my diary about how I was really pretty sure I was at least bisexual, and then later I wrote at least two years worth of journal entries and dare I say excellent love poetry about my best friend in high school, all of which I somehow managed to completely forget about in the intervening years.

    Or not forget, really — I mean I was really in love with that girl in high school, you don’t quite forget that sort of thing — but somehow all of that completely dissociated itself from the idea that I was queer. It’s like my brain was running on two different tracks, and on one I was holding perfect and complete the idea of myself as a straight girl, and on the other I was busy thinking about queerness and falling in love with women. Coming to terms with myself was probably inevitable, but if I hadn’t been a compulsive journaler it’s possible I might never have realized how far back my queer self stretched.

    • “I mean I was really in love with that girl in high school, you don’t quite forget that sort of thing — but somehow all of that completely dissociated itself from the idea that I was queer. It’s like my brain was running on two different tracks, and on one I was holding perfect and complete the idea of myself as a straight girl, and on the other I was busy thinking about queerness and falling in love with women.”

      YES, THIS. so much.

    • what! yes that happened to me too. i was 13, i wrote about how i thought i was bisexual, i forgot all about it, yet it was obviously there all along. i simply didn’t put it into spoken words until i was 17, and that was only the second or third or fourth of yet many more steps. and i mean that was the year i wrote love poetry for my best friend (and actually gave it to her). it was a beautiful year for me but i wonder how i’d remember it in the absence of my diaries. i am relieved to have these old diaries still, i feel i make up so much of what is happening around and inside me that those very possibly made up things that i then record somehow become anchors, retroactively.

  15. Yeah, the only time I kept a diary/journal regularly was middle school and early high school, and that is very conspicuously absent any mention of the soccer coach (female) I was crushing on, or the girl on my summer basketball team, or how much time I spent paying attention to the girl who was going out with the boy I supposedly liked.

    Idk, I didn’t ever come out on paper, but after I left my husband (at age 35) I started writing about wanting to kiss girls. It wasn’t really a “guess what?” thing more like just finally writing about my real thoughts and not omitting the things I was too scared to face / was repressing.

  16. I am pretty terrible at keeping journals (I gave up after middle school), but in the college years and beyond I have taken to writing one-off rage/boredom/depression-induced Word documents or TextEdit rants when I need to get things off my chest. I remember having low self-esteem during my crappy first relationship (with a boy) and writing about how I wished I could be stronger and more assertive, and I’m pretty sure I invoked the badassery of Ellen Page in Whip It (who I knew my boyfriend loved). The first time I ever wrote about being queer was when I was pouring my guts to TextEdit a few years later about the level of sexual frustration I was experiencing in roller derby… something along the lines of “I used to want to be like Ellen Page and now I just really want to bang her.” Coming full circle, I suppose.

  17. the first thing I can remember writing with strong gay undertones was before I got into journalling, when I was maybe 12 and had just gone to see Les Miserables. I wrote all the lyrics to ‘on my own’ on a piece of paper with a little summary of Eponine’s narrative and some love hearts, and something along the lines of: “WHY DOESN’T MARIUS LOVE EPONINE SHE’S THE MOST PERFECT PERSON EVER, HOW COULD HE NOT BE IN LOVE WITH HER”

    fast forward 5 years to when real life lesbian things start happening and that’s when I start journalling properly. mostly it’s intense metaphorical poems that are all about how in love I am with this girl, without mentioning love or a girl at any point. In one entry I have a bit of a breakdown and abandon the poetry to say “I think I might be in love… she is so fucking amazing”, which I’ve later annotated with “NO. I just said that because I was bored”. this was a lie.

    then a year later she breaks up with me and I write down what she said: “you’ll find a woman who makes you happy”, and I write that that makes me happy. And a year on from that, the first time the actual words are divulged: “today I told a room of 40 people that I was GAY”

    which brings us to the present day, when probably 80% of the things in my journal refer to homosexuality in some way, because I spend at least 80% of my time thinking homosexy thoughts. and thus concludes my coming out on paper story

  18. I never kept a strict journal, but I wrote endless pages of stream of consciousness poetry about my first girl crush when I was 16 and piecing together my sexuality. Normally I deal by talking with people, but I was so afraid of telling anyone. I wrote more that year than any other. Through an extensive letter I explained my feelings for my friend. She became my first girlfriend and we wrote one another lists of things that we liked about each other, places we should go, movies to watch together, ways we liked to be touched, things that made us uncomfortable, and questions to answer when we were together. Along with the cute stuff there are pages of major freak outs about potentially being gay and sections of confusion and self-loathing. Now I have a notebook of all of the highs and lows of my first queer year. :)

  19. So happy that I’m not the only person who really obviously liked girls but lived in stringent denial for approximately 8 years after almost admitting it to myself at age 12…ah middle school.

    I never kept up with a diary or journal but this post makes me really want to. The closest thing I have is my blog, where I’ve kind of documented my coming out step by step (science people problems)and annoyed everyone I know in the process. :P

  20. I wrote a lot of stories (that were all about princesses/female nobility) with issues when I was younger. When I was 9 or so I wrote this thing -not really a story, more a description- of this woman I had seen from really far away and I went on in great detail about how hot she was. For some reason at the end of it I felt the need to announce “I’m not gay.”

    Ironic because when i was in high school I came out -first to myself through/in various journals – and then two friends (mostly my best friend, who is also gay) as bisexual. I think i started questioning my sexuality junior year of high school, when I was 16 or so. I remember a journal entry I wrote senior year around the time this former friend went around spreading rumors that I was a lesbian. I was already out -at least to myself – by this point. It wasn’t me coming out. It was more me trying to convince myself that being attracted to girls didn’t make me a lesbian and then going on in great detail about how hot one of the French exchange students the previous year had been.

    • I did the same thing! I wrote a story about a girl who ran away from home to be a knight when I was 9. And every night before I fell to sleep I would fantasize about a world of page-boys (or girls) and princesses. As I grew older the knights were replaced with highschool type situations. However, when I was coming out the realization that all these years, the antagonist (the object of desire of the person who’s point of view I shared in the story [messed up in retrospect, but it was completely logical then: I didn’t even think about it and never told anyone]) in my stories had been a girl, felt like a major piece of corroborative evidence that I had been a lesbian my entire life.

  21. And in the online journals I’ve kept since middle school I only talked about how I thought I might not be straight for like two entries. I started questioning it and then proceeded to not think about it for a year.

  22. Also I was really really into those gel pens (Gelly Roll pens FTW) when I was younger. They were kind of a fad for a while at the middle school I went to.

    Several people were convinced I was a lesbian because I had photos of female celebrities in my locker. I wonder if the girl I went to middle school with -who supposedly is now a lesbian (or maybe she always was) – ever used a journal in her coming out process.

  23. “I read over the email she sent, again. It’s just a note, checking in. But it gives me a glimpse of her, her day, and her thoughts. It brings her a little closer. And that’s what I need right now. I know I should not miss her this way. I know that. She’ll be back in three weeks and I get to be the one at the airport waiting for her. And, anyway, they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But I don’t want my heart to grow any fonder. It might just burst – explode with fondness everywhere – and make a fond mess of it all.”

    That was the first time I ever put any of my queerness on paper. That “she” has been my girlfriend for over a year, now. But the entry I have from the night she asked me if I was attracted to her … it’s a doozy. Whew.

  24. I don’t have anything in journals pre-college. I was so so so deep in the closet even to myself…but somehow, despite being in the closet to myself, Brittany Murphy ended up being listed as a potential spouse in a mash game when I was 14. I recently rediscovered this piece of paper hidden in a notebook…deep in my closet and it made me laugh.

  25. I understood my sexual orientation before my gender identity. I didn’t journal as I was discovering my love of girls. But I was constantly journaling as I worked my way through figuring out my gender. In fact I feel I’m still am doing it, and now that I have, it will be easier to do in the future.

  26. As a little kid, and then as a big kid, I could never say it or write it down. I couldn’t even think it. I’m coming out to everyone I know in about a week (National Coming Out Day) but prior to the big day on October 11 the first time I ever indicated in print — of any kind, anywhere — that I like girls was when I set up my Autostraddle profile a few months ago. HOLY CRAP. I’m finally coming out.

  27. First place I came out was my journal..I wrote letters to family letters but didnt want them to see it til i was ready.. but mum went in my room while i wasn’t home.. so it kinda forced me out. but I couldn’t be better now!!

  28. I’ve always kept journals. Throughout my entire education I’d be writing in my notebooks all through the class, whenever I was bored.
    But me being gay is totally absent from my journals (before age 15) on purpose. I was always terrified that someone would steal my journal, Harriet the Spy style, and I’d be outed. I remember once writing a journal page about being worried I was gay (when I was about 12) then ripping it out of the notebook, ripping it up and flushing the pieces down the toilet. When I was 15 I started writing about the hypothetical situation of me being gay and then, when I was 18, I fell in love with my best friend, which of course ended up getting written about a lot.

  29. The once made a “Am I?/Am I Not?” List. Guess which side was easier to write…

    Ever since then, my pocket journal has been filled with questions, small observations, RANTS, and finally triumphant moments of my coming out.

    One page just has “queer” scribbled all over it, because I like the way it sounds.

    And of course, there’s more than a fair amount of words dedicated to That One Girl. The One Who Started It.

    Good luck, fellow journalers :) May the ink flow freely.

  30. I love this post. Journaling was SO important to my coming out, which happened for me at 29, a few years ago. If I hadn’t been able to write everything out, all of the confusion and heartache I was going through, I don’t know how I would’ve come through it (relatively) sane. At first I kept all of my writing private, but after some time had passed, I found it really cathartic to put it out there and make it public, freeing it, freeing all of the pain and letting it go. I know that a few people have actually been helped by my journaling, other than me–they’ve been able to see that their not alone in their struggle and confusion, and that it gets better. I’m sure that so many of our words share so many of the same journeys. <3

  31. i always wrote it down a lot before i came out to people other than myself. all the time, i’d just write “i’m queer” or “i’m gay” on, like the edges of homework or tests absentmindedly, the erase it. i just wanted someone to know. i wrote a poem about the girl i loved but kind of not about her, it was about a separate coming out, when i told her i didn’t believe in god (we were at church camp and the pastor was talking about how the only ones who aren’t going to hell are those who belive in jesus and i wanted to cry)and she told me she didn’t either and i remember wondering if it was a dream bc it was so reliving i didn’t belive it was true and i just wrote it down so i wouldnt forget one of the happiest/most emotional expirences of my life and it actually never mentions the whole gay thing but those two things are so together in my mind i think of it that way.

  32. I tend to have rational discussions with myself on paper – I first realized my position on/feelings about a wide variety of things only after I tried to put them into words. In that context, my coming out went something like this: “Every time after I’ve spoken to M, I feel like thinking about life, living life more intensively, just so I have stories to tell her. Could you call that a Muse? If I call her my Muse, does that make me a lesbian?” followed by a two-page introspective essay on the notion that I might be a lesbian, what it actually was I looked for in a potential partner (the romantic ideals), and which part of that was sex-specific.
    After that, the thought didn’t leave my head. I googled lesbian, and watched a movie I had seen advertised by my university’s LGBT club – that pretty much sealed the deal :)

  33. Gah, this post bought back all the feels! <3 I agonized over being bi in my high school diary – was it okay? how should I come out? I came out during uni and it wasn't until after uni that I admitted to my diary my one big secret: I liked multiple people and that wasn't going away. Seeing it written on paper gave me the courage to talk to my partner about it … and now we're so poly I forget how it felt to keep a secret and feel trapped and not even know how to express it in words. Now I'm too busy with my life and all my partners to keep a diary (lol #polyproblems) but I'm thinking maybe I should start one again. :)

  34. My grade 6 journal is full of love poetry to the girl I had an obsessive crush on, and the occasional erotic story. And then various weird feelings. Years and years of the weird feelings that kept me from actually coming out, and I didn’t even write anything so direct as “I’m queer” in my journal until I was in my mid teens. But even in grade 2 I wrote about how I wanted to marry this girl in my class. She had the best hair and was super, super pretty. I think I drew a picture of her hair? I didn’t identify as queer until I was 12, but I can see bits of it even in my schoolwork in primary school. The lists of which girls in my class were really pretty and how much I wanted to braid their hair and hold their hands (innocent, but did straight girls do that?) and the rage over having to be a pink character and then “marry” a blue character in LIFE (the board game) stick out as pretty queer early diary entries.

  35. Journaling has always been the most helpful tool for self-discovery in my life, so my coming out process is well-documented in my journals. I can relate so well to many of these comments!

    The earliest I can remember writing about my homosexuality (in unstated, implied language of course) was my junior year of high school. I had a crush on a new friend, who I decided I was going to witness to (I was also a bit zealot… she was Mormon). When writing about getting to know her and preparing to get my gospel-sharing on I wrote, “I do have to be careful with that other thing…” ‘That other thing’ was, of course, my habit of thinking lustful thoughts about her, not unlike the lustful thoughts I knew I’d had for many, many other females in my life. Ohhh good times.

    Yes, my journal knows it all!

  36. When I was coming out to myself, I never dared write it down. I was too afraid that my parents would find it. But I did write many journal pages about this one friend and how amazing she was and how I longed for her etc. etc. — completely oblivious, years before I started questioning my sexual orientation.

    Also in fifth grade my friends wanted to write our own poetry anthology, and they decided there should be various categories of poetry. I forget what the others were, but one of them was romance, and I wrote a love poem for a girl in my class. I used female pronouns and everything, but it never occurred to me that there might be anything non-heterosexual about this (probably because I don’t think I knew there was such a thing as non-heterosexuality) — I just was like “oh I’m writing a poem from the perspective of a boy.”

  37. I must have been more self-absorbed than most people because I always imagined that someone would be reading my diaries after my death, (I would of course be famous by then for having done something great), and so I censured myself. Some major events I wrote down in a way that would let me remember what happened upon reading it years later, but that nobody else would understand. There is just no way that I would have written down something as “shameful” as my huge crush on Angelina Jolie. My diaries are so unauthentic it’s sad really.
    At least real-life-me is finally out!

  38. I wrote, “I really like this girl [name]… I’ve always known I like girls more than I should, but I’ve never LIKED a girl. I don’t know what to do about this.

    And now here I am. Gay as a rainbow.

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