Voices of Audible: Coming Out Stories
Listening has helped our team members embrace their authentic selves and empathize with the journeys of others.
October 9, 2020
Saying who you are out loud for the first time is one of the most powerful experiences anyone can have. In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, some of our Audible team members took a few moments to reflect on how coming-out experiences—whether their own or those of friends and family—have affected their lives.
Who we are and how we express ourselves, in everything from sexual orientation to gender identification, affects how we work, play, live, and love. And at Audible, we always come back to listening. Read on to hear some of the ways that our listening adventures have helped us come to terms with our own experiences and empathize with those of the people around us.
Sam, Corporate Communications
How did the experience of coming out change your life? Coming out isn’t really a moment—it’s a complete realignment of how you express your identity across every possible situation. It’s, frankly, a titanic action, one of the biggest self-directed changes a human being can make, and it’s completely transformed my life. Deciding to live authentically as a gay man has transformed who I am and allowed me to have genuine relationships: romantic relationships, family relationships, professional relationships—everything. I’m happier, more loving, more successful, more authentic. I sleep better. I laugh more. Everything is better.
What would you say to someone who is struggling with the coming out process? You don’t owe anyone anything, no matter who they are, especially not an explanation or defense of who you are. You are the world’s leading expert on you and how you think and feel, and you have the right to do what you need to do to build the life you want for yourself.
What about someone who wants to be a better ally? Don’t be afraid to jump in. LGBTQIA+ identities feel like new territory for many prospective allies, who may have inputted a lifetime of societal messaging that didn’t include accurate information about who we are. I believe that all of us, including members of our own community, have the responsibility to support and stand up for each other every day, at home and in the workplace. The good news is, there’s more information than ever before on how to be a good ally just a click away.
What title has been especially powerful for you? Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a rare example of a single book that changed the way I live my life. The characters aren’t anything like me or at all reflective of my lived experience, but the essential message—that the tiny moments of epiphany, joy, and beauty are not just compensation for the hardships of life but rather the entire purpose of living—was transformative for me. “There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.”
What has coming out looked like for you? I don't necessarily have a “coming out” story, and it’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable with where I fit in the LGBTQIA+ community. I used to think there were all these rites of passage that went along with being queer and that I didn't really belong because I hadn't checked all the boxes.
Then I started learning more about the idea of bisexual invisibility. It helped to see that I wasn’t alone in feeling like my identity as a bisexual woman wasn't always seen as valid or legitimate. Especially since I'm married to a straight cis guy. I can pass as straight which gives me lots of structural privileges, but it has also made me question my place in the queer community.
After learning about bisexual invisibility, I decided I wanted to be part of the solution by making my identity more visible. I started talking about being bisexual more openly at work—like in this article!—and got more involved with LGBTQIA+ advocacy. For me, “coming out” is a choice that I make over and over again in different situations. National Coming Out Day is a chance to celebrate that.
Is there any audio that speaks to you on this topic? We’re starting to see more stories by and about bisexual people, and I hope we’ll keep seeing a lot more. One of my favorites so far is Meaty by Samantha Irby. It’s full of darkly hilarious essays about her romantic mishaps with both men and women as she considers giving up dating altogether.
Omayra, Customer Care
What coming-out experience would you like to share with us? My daughter recently confided in me that she might be bisexual. I have a great relationship with my “Lil Chip.” Even though this was unexpected, I supported her. She is unsure if this a phase, but regardless, I will always support her. I am grateful that she came to me! Our relationship is so much better and she says that I am her best friend. I am just happy she talks to me and comes to me for advice. I always want my kids to know they can come to me about what’s going on in their lives.
What title would you recommend to someone who is struggling with coming out? No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell Moore. He’s a great friend of mine and has done phenomenal work for social justice in my great city of Newark. I love how he shares his life in the most charismatic way and just lives his life purposefully. I love when people live in their truth.
What was coming out like for you? Coming out was incredibly difficult as: a) I had to fully grasp, understand, and accept who I was, and b) I knew that coming from a very conservative, Catholic family wasn’t going to make things easier. Growing up in the Catholic Church, we learned that being homosexual was a grave sin. I kept it inside for a long, long time, and always doubted and fought with myself that this “being” couldn’t be possible, and certainly wasn’t for me! Forcing relationships to “comply” with being heterosexual and living a life that wasn’t me, was incredibly difficult. I had a few family members and friends who seemed to be “OK” with everything, but I was very unsure, myself. I recall one day saying that I just didn’t care anymore, and needed to come out and share who I am. It truly was a feeling of relief! I did have a lot of issues with family members and some (now former) friends, but coming out helped take a huge weight off of my chest.
Has someone close to you ever come out to you? Interestingly enough, I had a very close friend come out to me prior to me coming out. Cliché to say, but I had no idea this person was gay, so it was a shock to me! We’ve been great friends since we were children, being in Boy Scouts and serving in church together. When we came out to one another, it was an interesting sense of a “homecoming-like” situation. We were very close back then, and even though he lives in Florida, he is one of my best friends. He wasn’t sure how I would take his “news,” as he wasn’t fully aware that I was a member of the community, but we continue to be very close, and have helped others come out as well.
What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with the coming-out process? Know that you are not alone, and there’s a ton of resources and folks to speak with. There’s someone else out there who is going through a very similar situation, and they may need your help just as much as you may need their help. Reach out! Join groups! Accepting oneself, to me, was the most difficult part about it all, and realizing that you are not alone can help with the “process.” I’d offer my contact info to someone struggling with coming out.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a better ally? Listen! Oftentimes, we are just looking for someone to hear us out and hear our story. When we stop and listen to others around us, we can get a better grasp as to what’s happening.
Speaking of listening, what audio recommendation do you have for us? Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman. I didn’t watch the movie prior to listening, nor did I know one existed. This title spoke to me in a lot of ways. No, I didn’t grow up going to a mansion in the Italian Riviera, but I had a friend who I was very close with, and we ended up spending a ton of time together, though neither he nor I were “out” at the time. Elio and Oliver developed this relationship that spoke to me, as in many ways this was how my relationship developed with my friend. We would sit and talk for hours, spend a lot of time together, do our own “things,” and then come back together again. Elio and Oliver kept the “secret” among them, which was something my friend and I did for a very long time. Call Me by Your Name is an LGBTQIA+ love story that resonates with me about my youth, coming out, and a relationship with someone that I never would have expected to happen.
Sam, Content Discovery & Engagement
What does National Coming Out Day mean to you? Last year, I used National Coming Out Day to officially come out to some friends, and Bisexual Visibility Day (September 23) to do the same with family. I came out in my 30s while already in a committed opposite-gender relationship, so the idea of announcing “hey, I’m bi!” unprompted always felt a bit daunting to me. Days like these are so important for visibility and visible acceptance—and provide an excellent excuse for folks like me who were maybe 95% ready to open up, but needed that extra nudge. An excuse, if you will. They serve as opportunities to say the words that may otherwise feel difficult to express.
If you are someone who has come out, how has that experience changed your life? Visibility is what helped me finally recognize my own identity, so for me, finally being visible myself feels like a huge win. I feel like I’m able to be my whole self.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with coming out? Take your time. I spent a long time agonizing and actively trying to find the right way to express my identity, until finally, it clicked. Timelines and deadlines are imaginary. This is your own journey and you deserve to experience it as fully as possible.
What title has spoken to you on your coming out journey? For me, it’s less about one title and more about representation as a whole. Bi representation is unfortunately still a bit tough to find—though the tides are turning! I look to writers like N.K. Jemisin, who often so perfectly incorporates a range of gender and sexual identities throughout her work. Recently, I enjoyed The City We Became for that reason, especially because that range of identities was written to represent New York itself, my hometown. I love the idea that the very fabric of a place contains that many multitudes—and that my own identity is an intrinsic part of that.
Astrid, Customer Experience
What was your coming out experience like? The first time I ever came out to anyone I was about 10, and I told my best friend that I had a crush on a girl in our class. When she asked me if I was a lesbian, I just shrugged and said, “I think so, yes.” The second time I came out to the same friend when we were 15, and she laughed and said, “Tell me something new, please, because I’ve known this since 5th grade.”
It took me a little longer to come out to my parents, as I was raised Catholic in a conservative society. I had just started dating my first girlfriend and came home from college for the weekend. I told my mom that I met someone “…and her name is Eva.” I expected everything and nothing, feared for the worst, but my mom just looked at me and said: “All right, sounds good, let’s get going and get the cars washed.” If I remember correctly, that was the last time I came out by “confessing” to anyone. An incredible burden fell off of me. I was not only able to be who I am with my friends, but also finally with my family. Only weeks later my girlfriend celebrated Christmas with my family and me, and all the fears of being abandoned for being queer diminished.
How did that experience change your life? It’s not one experience, but a repetition of experiences. They changed every aspect of it—after coming out to my parents, I was never not out at any workplace or friend group, or afraid to bring a girlfriend to a social event. I recently joined my local Rotary Club in New Jersey, and a long-time member hesitantly told me, “You are the first out member of this club.” At that moment I was reminded of the importance of coming out—of being visible, and in doing and being so, helping others who might still be struggling with coming out.
What title has spoken to you on your coming out journey, and why? It might not be what you expect, but Ann McMan’s Jericho, which is “just” a lesbian romance series. For once, it’s not full of desperation or sadness because someone is queer; it’s about two grown women falling in love, and sharing this with the small town they live in, and it all ends well and the fact that they’re two women falling in love isn’t the main source of the issues. This fact has touched me, deeply, because I grew up in a small town in rural Germany, Catholic to the bones, with everybody knowing everybody. And it basically reflected my experience, that it doesn’t have to be dramatic and no one has to be miserable, and you don’t have to be in a big city to live a happy queer life. It’s a positive, wonderful love story, funny and sweet and with superb narration.
Ruth, Corporate Affairs
Has anyone close to you ever come out to you? I was on a bus leaving the Port Authority for a weekend trip with friends when I got an email from my cousin coming out as transgender. After the initial surprise, there was a sense of clarity—as if she were a blurry image that was coming into crisp focus. Though it had never occurred to me that she was trans, there was an immediate recognition of the truth of it and I remember thinking, “Ah! That makes sense.” And while our relationship isn’t different, my understanding of her, and her ability to be her true self with her family, is entirely changed.
What title has resonated in your experience as an ally? Stick with me here because this might seem like a stretch at first: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, the first book in Jemisin’s award-winning Broken Earth fantasy trilogy. I was listening to it on a long walk this summer when I was struck by the manner in which Jemisin’s narrator discovers, and processes and accepts, that a character is trans. It was so matter of fact, delivered as if the narrator were realizing the character was balding or had a deep, abiding love for cats, that it stood out for its utter normalcy—that this wasn’t something anyone needed to make a big deal about. While it is a small moment in the narrative, it is one I rarely see for trans characters in literature, and it showed how powerful acceptance is while also providing a model of behavior we can all mirror in the day-to-day reality of our lives.