Coming out during a pandemic

Pandemic and coming our during quarantine
Illustration by Evan Koenigs | The Signal

The way people celebrate Pride looks different for every individual, especially during a pandemic. While the typical parades and large parties are missing this year, many LGBTQ+ people have found their own pride through self-reflection.

Coming out of the closet, also known as coming out, is a way to describe the process of LGBTQ+ people sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The past year and a half have allowed many students the opportunity to pause and reevaluate their values and futures. One such student is senior Jonathan Smith, who used the pandemic to uncover some truths about himself and his identity as a gay man. 

To Smith, pride means living his authentic truth, no matter how hard it is, and inspiring others to live their truths. This has meant coming out to his family, who weren’t the most accepting at first but have gradually put in the effort to change.

“At the end of the day, the joy I feel outweighs the troubles that sometimes come along with that,” Smith said.

Smith came out around late May of 2020. Before the pandemic, he wasn’t out to anyone and including himself. He says that he would fill his time with school and work. Smith had his entire schedule filled. He never had time to look at himself intrinsically. 

“I  never had so much free time to just sit in with my thoughts and so much time to question and talk with myself and realize I wasn’t fully accepting all who I was,” Smith said. 

After coming out, Smith says that his life feels drastically different as he is now living as his most genuine self and can now build stronger relationships with others. 

“I feel more accepting of who I am and how I love and who I love,” Smith said. “I feel like my smile and my joy is more authentic.”

Atlanta celebrates Pride both in June and October to coincide with National Coming Out Day. The October celebrations include the famous Atlanta Pride Festival in Piedmont Park. This will be Smith’s first Pride as an openly gay man, where he has the chance to join in on the different festivities. 

“I’m looking forward to October because I remember before when I wasn’t out to anyone, including myself yet, I was always trying to find an excuse for not going,” Smith said. “But now I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to be there to experience it all.”

While Smith says that he’s relatively new to the LGBTQ+ community, he’s experiencing all the different ways that love exists. One way he is doing this is by using his future career to help spread love. As a writer with a dream of becoming a children’s book author, Smith wants to use his talent to create a book called “Love Makes Me A Superhero.”

“I think the world could be a much better place if everyone’s hearts could just be open to love in any form,” Smith said.

As for other students who may be struggling with their identity and coming out, Smith has a message as someone who was once in that place. 

“At the end of the day, your journey is yours and your peace is yours and you’re entitled to feel it all and to be loved for it all,” Smith said. “So take your time. There’s no rush. Surround yourself with those who love you unconditionally, and find what that truly means for you. Just find you.”