Love Letters to the Closet

Love Letters to the Closet

We asked students to tell us about their experiences of being anything but the straight cisgender. Many students have used university as a time to be honest with themselves about who they are, and the reactions they receive from their friends are overwhelmingly positive — as they should be. Here are their letters to us.

Dear Lesbians,

You’re so cool.

I was in denial since I was a little boy about being a lesbian. Up until first year of varsity. I dreamed of kissing and holding a girl close one day, but never ever planned on even saying it aloud. I was afraid of rejection from friends and embarrassing my family. In hindsight, there was nothing to fear, just wasted quality Tinder time.

I discovered my sexuality when I got fanny flutter for a female. A friend who still has no idea I liked them. They were upset their boyfriend dumped them … I was so happy.

I never understood my feelings fully until I was exposed to others who were gay through sport and living in a city. Being around them made me feel super comfortable with the idea that I was most likely gay. I say most likely because at 19 I still hadn’t been with a boy.  I wasn’t going to knock it till I tried it, so jumped on board and quickly thought the whole thing was overrated. But then … I kissed a girl and I liked it. It turned out they were gay, so we “watched a movie” then I turned into a bunny rabbit!

What gave me the courage to come out? My little brother. He came out while at an all-boys boarding school. I remember being pretty restless during lectures while he was at school after people found out. I was scared for him and would park outside his school ready to help him if he needed help. But it really wasn’t necessary because all his friends and teachers were so supportive! Other boys even shared their sexuality with him, and his friends had a petition signed so he could take a boy to formal. He became a role model. Especially to me.

Without my little brother, I’d probably still be trying to play the straight card. Thanks, dude, xo.

To anyone considering coming out, do it. Once you do, you hit an emotional state pretty quickly where you’re past caring what anyone thinks, and it feels freakin’ good. Be humorous and proud of your sexuality. Tell a handful of friends you trust. People might ask “is Carol gay!?” Your closest friends will naturally defend you and tell them to back off!

Ask your mates not to be defensive, to smile about it and say “YEA, she is super gay! Cool, ae?” Don’t make it a big deal and it won’t be a big deal. Keep being you and you will be known just for you.

Also, get Tinder — even if you don’t want a “relationship”, lesbians are quality friends. You can relate to each other, hang out and use the money you saved from contraception to buy a cat.



At my single-sex high school, it was tough for a while, as girls worked under the false presumption that I fancied every woman who walked past. As I got older, that faded away as people realised that I couldn’t care less what they thought about my sexual preferences.

My second coming out as genderqueer was much harder. My family don’t know. I’m still in that process of acceptance and exploration. I think a lot of me is still afraid as transphobia is so much more rampant than any homophobia I’ve experienced. If I leave the house dressed as a man, I am constantly watching my back, on edge and afraid, trying to avoid being noticed. But I also feel more free than I ever do in high heels and a skirt.

You’d think that gender would be easier than sexuality, but it isn’t; sexuality is all happening behind closed doors, but gender is constantly on display for people to judge and make assumptions about. I don’t want to have to hide out of fear, but the news is always full of horror stories of the abuse of transgender people worldwide and sometimes it’s easier to live the lie of cisgender.



I am bi. It still feels weird to say that after being in the closet for so long, but there you go. I first came out a couple of months ago after a floor BYO. I made a joke about how I liked girls when walking back to my hall with a group of friends. One of my friends took me aside and asked me if I was serious, and that was it. Kind of anticlimatic, but I didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the night. When I got back to my room, I cried because I was so happy. It sounds cliché, but it really did feel like a massive weight off my chest. I’ve come out about eight times now (twice while sober! apparently drunk me really wants people to know I’m not straight) and I haven’t had a single negative reaction. A couple of my friends even want to take me to a gay bar.

I still haven’t told my family though; I’m kind of hoping one of them will see this article to save an awkward conversation. I know they’d take it really well though — and a shout out to my Dad for always asking if I had a girlfriend whenever he asked about boyfriends! To be honest, I always just thought I’d call home, like, “Mum! Dad! I’ve got a girlfriend!” when I was planning this in high school, but I haven’t had much luck on the girlfriend (or boyfriend) front yet.

High school was pretty shit. I went to a local school which was quite religious, and I think there was one girl in the whole year group who was out. One of the teachers who everyone loved was really strongly against same-sex marriage because of his religion, so I’d avoid him as much as I could. I was just ashamed about not being straight and was kind of scared that he’d know I was one of “The Gays” if I talked to him for too long. None of the students ever did anything which was actually fully homophobic, but there were a lot of little things. “Dyke” was the go-to insult, and things weren’t just uncool — they were “like, super gay”. I can remember dropping PE as soon as I could because I was terrified that someone would accuse me of perving on them (not that I ever did) and ask me if I was gay. 

I might have made this sound like I always knew I was bi and was just waiting to get to university so I could out myself while drunk, but that isn’t true at all. I first realised that I wasn’t straight when I was around 13 or 14, and I only figured out I was bi last year, when I was 17. This meant that for most of high school I really had no idea about a pretty important part of my identity. A lot of that came from not knowing other sexualities even existed. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I realised there were sexualities out there other than straight or gay. Finally something fit. I actually marked the date in my diary as the first time I stopped feeling so shit about my sexuality because I discovered that there really are other options out there.

To be honest, I am still angry about this. I felt like shit about myself for years because of something it would have taken ten minutes to skim over in health class. For fuck’s sake, tell kids that these labels exist! They can Google it at home if you don’t feel comfortable explaining gender and sexuality to a couple of fourteen year olds, but please just tell them that there is more than straight or gay, or man or woman. Tell kids that they don’t have to feel just one way or the other. The depression and suicide rates are so much higher for LGBTQA teens than straight teens, and this is a part of it. Yes, there’s gay pride, and gay characters on TV, and openly gay celebrities but that’s it. There is nothing for the asexual kids, or the trans kids, or the bi kids.

We exist, and we need this representation and acceptance as well.


Dear Critic,

I turned up at uni happily “out” to everyone I knew, so I’ve not seen any need to hide my identity since I’ve been here. I take pride in who I am, which is why we use the term “pride” so often. Telling my friends was a daunting task, but I’ve primarily had friends in artistic circles for years, but it was telling my parents that filled me with dread. It took me five months to work up the courage to tell my mum. We spend so much time focusing on the negative possibilities that we get caught in this cycle of fear that we engineer ourselves. “What if …” is the worst thing we can do to ourselves and has the potential to make you very unhealthy. I can attest to that.

Well, there’s never an ideal time. Regardless of when, it still feels like you’re just blurting things out. Mum, however, thought I was getting depressed, so one day when I was home and we were watching a movie on TV she turns to me during the ad break and just goes “What’s wrong?”… I tell you, all that stuff they say about having psychic powers is probably true … When she started her wee rant though, I just cracked up laughing! “Mum, I just like a guy!” This stopped her short. And my mother being the woman she is just goes, “Are you sure you’re not just NICE, remember your grandfather, he was nice but he got depressed near the end …” “NO, MUM, I’m just gay! Well, and nice, but still gay.” The only other thing she had to say on the matter is this: “Well, I’m sure you’ll fit into whatever kind of relationship you like.” Mum, I for one hope so, otherwise it’s not much of a relationship. Being yourself is nothing to fear, and in my view true friends and family will stick by you. As for the others, if there are any at all, then it’s purely their loss!

College, university. A time to experiment and get to know yourself, really discover yourself. Let’s face it, if you’re not “straight-acting”, “discreet”, “downlow” (the terms go on …) — basically if you’re comfortable with yourself — chances are you’ll feel excluded from the rest of the student body to some degree. It’s an ironic truth. When you’re comfortable with who you are, it’s other people that make you feel uncomfortable. University is great in that the academic approach means that your intellect and mind are what matter the most. Unless you are asked (or display your sexuality openly somehow like I do in pretty much everything I do), then the majority of students aren’t going to either know or care. The University of Otago is largely a heteronormative environment, that is to say that being “straight” is the norm. But there is also this awesomely surreal openness about campus as well. The acceptance we all secretly crave. Parties, SPACE, social causes and get-togethers bring the “community” together and allow us the freedom of expression that is dampened elsewhere. Sure, campus can be intimidating at times, and we may not always feel comfortable at the major events, but we have each other. The support network at uni is great, and you should make use of it. University is a place where you can form bonds and connections that will last your whole life. So make the most of your time here. Ignore the little insecurities of others who are still trying to figure out who they are — they’ll get there eventually.

Be yourself,



I’ve been fairly open about my sexuality for the last year or so, though I’m not out to all my family. My high school was quite open about this kind of thing, and a lot of the students were queer in one way or another. I’ve found uni to be pretty much the same, though the lecturers sometimes still have hetero as their mental default, which is to be expected, I guess. The other day in a songwriting lecture, the lecturer stressed that love songs are gender specific, and if the singer is a different gender to the writer, they have to switch the pronouns around so it makes sense. I was sitting there laughing because I had just submitted a love song about a girl, with mention to my previously having a thing with a guy.

I don’t like my sexuality being part of my introduction. I don’t meet people and say “Hi, my name’s Aelyth, no that’s with a ‘th’ at the end, yes, I know, it’s very odd, oh and by the way, I like all genders”, so I’m not sure that a lot of people in my classes know. Which is something I’m torn on. I don’t want it to be a big deal where I sit down all my new friends and explain pansexuality in depth, but it would be nice to know that people know. A lot of my friends from high school are at uni with me, and obviously they know.

I have had some really good guesses on what pansexuality is. One guy I was talking to at a gig — I did the whole talk on how sexuality isn’t a binary, it’s a spectrum, etc, and he replied with “So it’s like bisexuality, but you like objects?” That is the point where I gave up.

Pansexuality makes more sense if you understand that gender is more than just boy or girl, there’s a whole bunch of people who fit in between those two parameters. Basically being pan means that you don’t bother with gender when you’re attracted to people. It just doesn’t come into the picture as a relevant detail. Some people have stronger preferences for certain genders, and that’s totally valid. You can be pan but mostly attracted to men, or very rarely attracted to non-binary people, or whatever! The most important thing to keep in mind with labels is that you make them fit you. They aren’t a box you have to squeeze yourself into, they are something that helps other people understand who you are.

Lots of Love,


This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2015.
Posted 12:37pm Sunday 17th May 2015 by Critic.