Stories By: Abigail DesVergnes
The colors of the rainbow are most vivid in October. That’s because this is LGBT history month.
First celebrated in 1994, it recognizes the present day LGBTQIA+ community, the history of Gay Rights and the Civil Rights movements.
National Coming Out Day was celebrated Oct. 11 when people across the country took to the Internet by storm, posting to social media about “coming out.” For some, it was their first time; for others it was a celebration of the day they came out to family and friends.
“Coming out allows people to present their authentic selves to their community,” said Maura Rosenthal, a gender studies professor at Bridgewater State University. “And it’s the community’s job to be accepting.”
Meet Jason Grenier, 15, of Attleboro.
Jason enjoys hanging with his friends and drama club. But most of all, he enjoys being himself.
Last year, Jason decided to come out to his friends and family as a female transitioning to male, something that he always knew he wanted to do.
“Ever since he was a toddler, he would dress as a boy,” Jason’s mother Christy said. “We would walk into the store, and he’d immediately go to the men’s section.”
Throughout his life, Jason dressed in boy’s clothing, but he was never truly confident as himself.
After repeated nights questioning to himself who he truly was, he found the answer.
He was Jason. It was who he was all along and still is today. And this past spring, he decided to change the female name he was given at birth.
When Jason told his parents that he was transgender, they took to the Internet to do some research.
They educated themselves by watching online videos, consulting with a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital, then hiring a lawyer to change his name. After all the paperwork was completed, Jason’s life began to be his own.
“I was finally me.”
Even though Jason received an abundance of support from friends and family, it wasn’t an easy path and it’s still very hard.
Jason said that he often suffers from social anxiety, depression and struggles with what many people would consider simple things, such as deciding which bathroom to use.
But when days are tough, he is comforted by an extensive support system and the knowledge his decision was carefully considered.
“This was something that was very difficult for me,” he said. “There’s no way I’d do this for attention.”
In the future, Jason said he hopes to be an advocate for transgender rights and offers help out any way he can.
“We should all be able to be ourselves and love who we love,” he said.
Meet Sarah DeFlaminio, 17, of Attleboro.
A senior at Attleboro High School, Sarah found this to be a year of new beginnings.
Coming out as bisexual was something she always knew she wanted to do, but didn’t know how or when.
“I perfectly fit the cliche of always knowing that deep down that this was the real me,” she said.
Before telling her friends and family she was bisexual, she would lose sleep over the thought of never being truly open — even with herself.
But this past May 28, she decided it was time.
Before leaving to attend a concert with friends, she left a letter to her parents laying out everything. When she came home, she found two supportive parents.
“I received the utmost support, which is not the story for all kids,” she said.
Phase 2 kicked in when she decided to come out to the world — that is to say, the Internet.
Now Sarah is confident in herself, and ready for anything.
“Coming out was the best and most brave thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “I don’t regret a single thing about it.”
Meet Delenn Martin, 18, of Franklin.
Delenn describes her coming out as “casual,” just low key conversations with friends and family.
“I had been denying my sexuality for years, saying ad nauseum that I was straight and had no interest in girls whatsoever,” she said.
Coming out to her Roman Catholic family as queer and bisexual was one of the most difficult parts of the process.
It wasn’t until she started dating her first serious girlfriend at the beginning of her sophomore year in high school that she decided to tell them what was going on.
At first her parents thought she was “confused” and that she was just “experimenting.” And, while they were hesitant at first, Delenn said they soon came to terms with her decision.
“I am lucky to have loving and understanding parents,” she said.
Her advice to anyone thinking about coming out: “Remember that it is your choice. You can come out to everyone at once, to only a few people or not at all.”
“We all need to remember that each person’s sexuality is as individual as their personality.”
Meet Julia Semple,16, of Attleboro.
A recent graduate of her online high school, Julia enjoyed this past summer attending many concerts with her friends.
For her, coming out went as smoothly as can be. No “coming out horror stories” for her, she said.
“I wish I had an interesting coming out story,” Julia said.
She was only 13 when she told her mom during a car ride that she was gay.
At first her mom assumed she was joking, but Julia assured her it was a fact.
Then, came unconditional support.
“She told me that she loved me no matter what,” Julia said.
And that same support she received from her mom, was matched by the rest of her family and friends.
But, coming out isn’t a one time announcement, unless you’re famous.
“You don’t just do it once or twice,” Julia said. “You’re doing it constantly, for the rest of your life, to almost every new person you meet.”
Her advice to anyone thinking about coming out: “Wait until you’re ready and in a safe environment to do so. Listen to your gut. If it feels right, then do it, and if not, then give it time.”
Meet Hunter Araujo,18, of Attleboro.
A freshman at UMass Amherst studying political science and economics, Hunter said growing up he always knew he was somehow different from a lot of other boys.
“Although I didn’t know what it meant to be gay, I had this feeling that something about me was just different,” he said.
He recalled one night lying in bed, and saying out loud: “I’m gay.”
“I cried myself to sleep that night because it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” said.
After coming out to himself, he came out to his mother.
He sat down next to her as she was watching TV, and said, “I have something to tell you.”
After bursting into tears, his mom assured him that, no matter what, they’d be fine.
And, to his surprise, she told him that she “already knew.”
Then, to take some of the pressure off him, she told most of their extended family.
“I am very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family who love me for me,” he said.
Meet Skyler Harvey,19,of Providence.
Skyler came to terms that he was a trans male about four months ago. After years of struggling with his identity, he can finally say he’s comfortable in his own skin. He would just as soon forget his former female name.
Living in his own apartment and working three jobs, he calls himself a workaholic.
When Skyler isn’t working, he’s writing music and playing some of the 16 instruments he’s learned over a lifetime.
“In my free time, I’m a rock star,” he quipped.
But this rock star/workaholic hasn’t had an easy life, and not everyone accepts who he is.
“When I walk in the girls bathroom, I get glared at. When I walk into the mens bathroom, I get glared at. It’s hard to feel accepted when you don’t know where you belong.”
Skyler says his parents are having a hard time with their “daughter” coming out as transgender.
“When I’m with them, I’m not able to be the real me,” he said. “I know that this situation is difficult to understand, but it’s who I am.”
Since middle school, Skyler was always more masculine than feminine. He would always shop for boy’s clothes, and preferred short hair.
“Dressing like a man has always made me feel comfortable,” he said.
But that “double life,” he said, was “exhausting.”
Skyler said when he hears his former name, he becomes depressed.
It’s people like his girlfriend who have helped him stay true to himself.
His advice to anyone planning to come out as transgender: “Trust your gut, remain open to your loved ones and always be yourself — no matter what that may be.”
Meet Brenton Holmes,19, of Attleboro.
Brenton came out as bisexual to his friends and family in seventh grade, and later as gay during the summer going into eighth grade.
When he came out in seventh grade, the harassment was brutal. Rumors spread through school that he was a “fag,” and that he “liked boys.”
Suicide crossed his mind, but never for long.
“When I got that low, I just thought to myself that if I die now, how will I find my future husband, get my dream house, have my dream job and have a family of my own?”
Brenton’s parents found out he was gay after one of his classmates wrote him a letter saying he was sorry for calling him a “fag.”
His mom hadn’t realized he was gay until she read the letter.
“She was very supportive and understanding,” Brenton said. “Finally, coming out was a flow of emotions.”
Although his coming out story had a rocky start, Brenton says he’s happier than ever now.
“Don’t let anyone steal your sparkle,” he said.
Meet Jocelyn Reyome,18, of Attleboro.
Currently, Jocelyn is a vocal performance major at Holland College in Prince Edward Island, Canada, through the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
She says her “light bulb moment” — when she realized she was queer — came at age 13.
But, it wasn’t until high school that she felt confident enough to come out to her parents.
“I just wanted to establish a new level of trust between my parents and I,” Jocelyn said.
There were many times she almost let on to her parents, but would catch herself before slipping.
Then, on March 11, 2013, after a high school basketball game, Jocelyn came home and came out to her parents.
She remembers saying: “Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something. I know that you’ll love me the same way. It’s not that I don’t like boys, it’s just that I like girls, too.”
Although Jocelyn’s parents were accepting, she said it might have taken some adjustment for them to realize her life wasn’t going to turn out the way they had planned.
But the hardest part, she said, was the “internal struggle.”
It’s difficult for many people to understand the LGBTQIA+ community, she said, because “society puts pressure on girls to be the perfect housewife and for men to be the protector of their wives and children.”
As she has matured, Jocelyn says she has come to understand who you love isn’t a big deal.
“Same-sex love, opposite-sex love, non-binary love, it’s all the same love — just experienced in different ways by different people,” she said “And some advice for people struggling: You’ve got a friend in me. There’s a whole bunch of people ready to embrace you with open arms whenever you’re ready.”
Meet Lori Carless, 49, of Providence.
Lori is a math teacher at Attleboro High School with a passion for education and a leaning to make every student feel comfortable under any circumstance.
When she moved from Michigan to Providence with her “roommate” of eight years, she accepted a job offer at AHS. Immediately, she was surrounded by supportive colleagues who made her and her “roommate” feel comfortable.
“We finally felt out, and it was OK. We could live life and talk about it just like any other couple would,” she said. “The East Coast rocks!”
Lori and her wife recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary and 30 years of being together.
Lori said it was difficult when she came out at a younger age because of “my own internalized homophobia stemming from my upbringing.”
“I was uncomfortable making others uncomfortable, so it was easier to just not talk about it,” she said.
It’s easier now to come out now, she said, because there are famous celebrities, athletes and politicians who just happen to be gay.
“When I was growing up, there was no one else like me out there,” Lori said. “Now, it’s more normalized and younger people, especially, are more tolerant and accepting.”
Her advice to anyone coming out: “Be brave. Stay true to yourself. Understand that change is difficult for everyone involved, but love should prevail.”