Tufts students tell how they came out to family and friends—“It’s an identity I’m proud to have.”
This Wednesday, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. First observed 35 years ago, it celebrates the lives of LGBTQ+ people everywhere and their coming out with positivity to family, friends, and colleagues—and the world. To mark the occasion, we asked four Tufts students to share their experiences coming out, helping others to understand their journeys.
Emmett Adams (he/him), Class of 2025
I was really lucky coming out to my parents because I knew they’d be supportive, but I procrastinated right up until the night before I moved to Tufts. Coming out is seen as this necessary step of the LGBTQ+ experience. In retrospect, I don’t think I realized how much it changes how other people view you—even if it’s in a positive way. It’s something you have to be prepared for ahead of time.
Realizing I was gay was something I did on my own, since I was going through certain experiences but didn’t have any friends who were LGBTQ+ that I could talk to. It was a lot of internal processing and repeating it over and over in my head until one point or another, I’d accepted it.
About a year after that was when I told my parents. I had gotten back home past midnight from a party with some kids from my high school swim team. As I was saying goodnight to my parents, I let them know I had something to tell them, and I said, “I’m gay.” They looked a little surprised, because I don’t think they’d expected me to come out to them at such an odd moment during the night, but they assured me they’d always love me and support me.
Being gay is definitely a big part of my identity, but it doesn’t fully encapsulate who I am. If I wanted people to describe me, I wouldn’t want that to be one of the first things they say. I’m friendly and accepting and hard-working. I’m a swimmer. I’m double majoring in clinical psychology and music. Those are all ways I’d introduce myself and I hope others would, too.
When I do something, I’ve had people say before, “That’s not a very gay thing of you to do.” But I’m being myself—I’m not “being gay,” I’m always just being me. Even though I know they don’t mean it like that, I don’t want people to think or feel like being gay is this box you have to fit yourself into.
Being gay doesn’t mean you have to be anything. You can just be yourself, and being gay is just a single part of that whole. Don’t try to shape your identity around anyone else. What’s most important is being comfortable with yourself.
Ashton Gerber (they/he), Class of 2025
I came out as queer when I was 12 and as trans at 16. For me, coming out has never been a really intimidating experience. I’ve always been visibly queer, so it’s never shocked anyone, which helped reduce some of my fear around it. I’ve also been lucky in terms of where I grew up, to have never been faced with backlash as the first queer person someone met.
I always had a strong sense there was something different about me from other people. I remember being at sleepovers when I was younger and everyone around me talking about crushes but always feeling separate from it. Growing up, I had a hard time connecting with a lot of the critical moments of girlhood.
When I came out as queer to my parents, my mom wasn’t really surprised. Apparently, when I was four, I’d asked her what a lesbian was because of Ellen [DeGeneres], and after she explained, I’d responded, “I’m a lesbian.” Coming out to my dad was a bit more awkward. He ended up being accepting, but I was younger than the age he’d thought was when people began understanding their sexuality.
Coming out to my parents as trans was something I thought about a lot more beforehand. I scripted it and planned it out with my therapist, but it turned out fine. It was even easier telling my friends, since many of them were also queer or trans.
I think a big part of what impacts my queerness and transness is the fact I’m autistic, which shapes a lot of my understanding of relationships and gender as a social construct. There’s also a heavy intersection for me between my gender and sexuality—transness informs my sexuality in ways that can be hard to describe.
The way we typically think of sexuality in terms of being attracted to certain genders and the attachment to labels that imply someone’s gender get subverted with transness—especially being nonbinary. Something I had to deal with for a long time was what attraction meant for myself and others if I didn’t fit into the fundamental structure it’s based on. But things are just different when you’re trans and that doesn’t necessarily require any additional labeling.
At a gay youth chorus in high school and at a National Coming Out Day event, we were asked to tell our stories. I remember someone saying, “The most important coming out experience I’ve had is to myself.”
That’s an idea I love.
I think sometimes when we talk about coming out, we understand it as a conversation between two people—this revealing of oneself to someone else. But I think there’s something so beautiful about this notion of discovering queerness for yourself, for that most important moment to be one you have in private.
Being gay doesn’t mean you have to be anything. You can just be yourself, and being gay is just a single part of that whole. Don’t try to shape your identity around anyone else.
Sophie Rice (she/her), Class of 2024
While playing a Pokémon game when I was younger, I realized I wanted to play as a female character and had to grapple with what that meant. I put that thought on the back burner even though, deep down, I knew I was a transgender woman. I just couldn’t admit it to myself because coming out would’ve been social suicide in the conservative place I grew up.
The first person I came out to was my sister right before college. She was really supportive, and even offered to go shopping with me for clothes and makeup, but I wasn’t ready yet.
When I came to Tufts and found openly trans people and the LGBT Center, I figured if I was going to come out as transgender at some point, the best time and place to do so was here—a safe environment. Sophomore year, I started going to LGBT Center events and introducing myself with my chosen name and pronouns at the Trans and Nonbinary Group. That spring, I came out to a small circle of friends.
On the main page of the Tufts Student Information System, you can change your name and select your pronouns. I updated mine junior year, but months later, I still saw my deadname on other Tufts systems, which was really frustrating.
Coming out to my parents took even longer. I’d planned to have a professional conversation with my mom, but instead, I burst into tears. When she asked me what was wrong, I said, “There’s something I need to tell you, but I’m scared to say it.” She immediately jumped to worse conclusions, and I reassured her they were wrong before telling her I was trans.
It was another year before I came out to my dad. I’d even set a deadline—the date of the show of my Jewish a capella group, Shir Appeal, that my parents would be attending. I knew I’d be introducing myself as Sophie and didn’t want my dad to find out from the audience. On the drive to Tufts before move-in junior year, I blurted it all out: “I’m transgender, my name’s Sophie, and I use she/her pronouns. I’m out to everyone at Tufts and have been for a long time.”
All he said was, “Okay.” We haven’t talked about it since.
I think both my parents are still figuring it out. But last summer, three years after our initial conversation, I went clothes shopping with my sister, which was really nice.
My transness is the identity I hold closest to my heart and that most affects my relationship to the world. When I was younger and still figuring things out, to me, transness was this idealistic goal of one day being a girl. Today, it’s an identity I’m proud to have, knowing I’ll carry it with me for the rest of my life.
Zosia Stafford (she/her), master’s student, School of Engineering
I’ve come out multiple times in my life—it’s a continuous process.
I identified as bisexual until the end of high school, so the first time I came out to my family, it was with that identity. It was only once I came to Tufts and got involved with the queer community that I began questioning again. My housemate started going to Aro/Ace Space meetings and invited me to come, since they thought I might relate to what people were saying. The moment I went, I immediately felt such a strong sense of connection with everyone there.
For me, and a lot of other asexual or aromantic people, it can take a while for you to come into your identity, because what you’re identifying is an absence of something and it’s harder to name something that isn’t there than something that is. It took me a year after that Aro/Ace meeting for me to actively identify as aroace, because I didn’t want to rule out the possibility that I could have certain experiences in the future.
When I came out to my mom, I called her and told her about going to Aro/Ace space meetings on campus. She ended up being really understanding, even though I was coming out to her a second time, but she was curious about what that identity meant for me. My mom also brought up grandkids; I know from talking to some friends that one of the most difficult parts about coming out as asexual or aromantic is the idea of feeling obligated to your family to get married or have kids.
When I came out to my dad, he said, “I just want to make sure you’re happy. Will you be happy if you never have a partner?” There’s a worry you’ll have an unfulfilled life if you don’t have a partner. I’ve never felt that will be unfulfilling for me, and I explained to him that it means I will value my platonic relationships that much more.
Clubs like the Aro/Ace Space are so important to me because I’m able to talk to other people who share my identity, and even though they have different experiences with it than I do, we all can come together and know we’re part of a larger community. Our conversations reassure me that there’s no “wrong” way to be aroace.