Last Friday was National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration of personal expression for members of the LGBTQ community.

For many students at Missouri State University, the event served as a reason to look back on their own coming out experiences and offer words of advice and encouragement to those who have yet to come out.

One of those students was Brittany McAfee, junior early childhood education major, who said her parents found out about her sexual orientation well before she was ready to actually come out to them.

McAfee said things were difficult between her and her parents for the next few years, which was hard for her as she finished middle school and moved to high school. Her parents weren’t very happy about the news, and she said she constantly felt on guard, even at home.

After a long conversation with her mother after her freshman year of high school, things finally began to improve, and McAfee said their relationship has gotten stronger since.

“I like to joke and say that I have the quintessential poster child ‘It gets better’ story,” McAfee said. “We made a major one-eighty. She is one of my biggest allies.”

McAfee said if her mother could change how she felt so drastically, she has faith that a lot of other parents could do the same for their children.

Courtney Alonso, freshman astronomy major, was another student who shared her coming out story. She said one of the more difficult parts of coming out was doing it a second time.

In her early teenage years, she considered herself bisexual and found herself supported by friends and family. She said she can hardly remember bringing up her sexual orientation with her mother because it wasn’t a big deal for her.

Some time later, Alonso realized she was gay. Although she would come to find that those close to her were just as willing to support her, it took her a while to reconcile her new identity with herself. She said it felt as though she had trapped herself in a box by first labeling herself as bi.

Alonso said while she now thinks it’s important for anyone to be comfortable with their identity before they come out to other people, it’s just as vital to understand the identity might change in the future.

“When you come out, you should just be comfortable with knowing ‘This is who I am right now. I know I can change this later, but right now I’ve decided this is who I feel I am,’” Alonso said.

Jasmine Woods, sophomore psychology major, said her coming out experience has been fairly positive primarily because she is selective about who she comes out to.

Woods described herself as a generally private person, particularly when it comes to her sexual orientation. Coming out is an ongoing process for her because she decides whether or not to share her identity on an individual basis.

She said continually coming out in this way can sometimes be exhausting, but being able to avoid awkward or uncomfortable situations because of her selectivity is a substantial bonus.

For Woods, there are three main points to consider before coming out. Safety is the biggest priority, followed by convenience. Someone considering sharing their identity with another person should make sure that they’ll be safe, and they shouldn’t feel obligated to come out if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient.

Woods said flexibility is also important to her. Like Alonso, she said it’s important for people to understand they can feel free to change their mind if their current identity doesn’t completely fit them in the future.

Because of National Coming Out Day, MSU’s Spectrum hosted a discussion on the topic, with several people sharing their personal experiences as well as their feelings on coming out in general.

For the students there, coming out meant a variety of things. Some felt it was primarily about making a statement to the world about one’s identity. Another idea was if someone comes out, they’re essentially saying they’re comfortable enough with their own identity to share it with others.

Coming out experiences can vary greatly from person to person, as some people might find more support than others. 

“If it’s something you want to do and it’s something you want to do for yourself because you want to share that part of you, you want to show how proud you are, or you want to make that statement about who you are, absolutely do,” Woods said.