October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, the annual event celebrates those who come out as LGBTQIA+ and started 33 years ago. In 2022, when queer topics and issues have become mainstream, it’s important to remember that coming out is still a sensitive, monumental moment in someone’s life. Coming out can be frightening and even dangerous for some.
For Bella Noche, who started the Long Island chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour, coming out as gay was a challenge.
“My coming out story is the kind you wish didn’t happen,” she said. “I come from a religious family and I came out when I was 19 and got kicked out of my house.”
Despite making inroads with her parents, Bella Noche’s parents still don’t know she does drag.
“That’s a whole other conversation. My parents were so not educated in gay culture — they thought me being gay meant I wanted to be a woman, and I was like, ‘no, that’s a completely different chapter of our organization,’” she said with a laugh.
Bella Noche, who has read books at libraries all over Long Island, including in Riverhead, offered some advice to both people who are struggling to come out and their loved ones.
“Just be honest,” she said, referring to people wishing to come out. “Don’t say what you think [a loved one] wants to hear. One of the things I kind of regret is that I wish I would have been more honest about liking boys. Above all else, be open and honest and say your truth and what’s in your heart. If you try to pick your words where it’s so personal to you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s a very important moment for you.”
That being said, Bella Noche said it’s important for someone coming out to know the kind of situation they’re walking into, and that they feel safe doing so.
When it comes to supporting a loved one when they come out to you, Bella Noche believes it’s equally simple.
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak. Don’t interject,” she said. “Let them say what they need to say, then when they’re done you can respond. Let them talk for as long as they need to. Give them the space and respect they need to get out what they need to get out.”
And never ask “are you sure?”
“That’s kind of insulting!” she said. “They mustered a lot of courage and trust to tell you. Don’t devalue it with that question. But Bella Noche also thinks that asking certain questions, such as a loved one’s pronouns, are important and show that you care.
So on National Coming Out Day, extend support to your loved ones and let them know you are here for them.
“Be supportive,” Bella Noche suggested. “Be a good listener. Ask fair questions. And above all, realize it’s their life, not yours.”
Follow Bella Noche on Instagram.