Photo of National Student Council Member Imani Sims

The closet door. While to some it is just a piece of furniture, the closet door is very symbolic to closeted folks in the LGBTQ community. Coming out (of the closet) can be a special moment. In Love, Simon, which comes out March 16, we follow Simon’s coming-out journey. We see Simon through his highs and lows, and just like me, Simon “came outfine!

As a fellow queer youth, I am very excited to see a movie about some of the same experiences I went through! Love, Simon provides a clear representation of a high-school student coming out, which is rare in mainstream media. It’s important that we continue to have representation and our stories shared widely so that LGBTQ students feel affirmed about our identities.

I want to share a few thoughts around my coming-out process in hopes of supporting other students’ coming-out process and the conversation that Love, Simon helps start. While coming out can be nerve-racking, it’s very nice to keep in mind a few things:

1. Come out when you want to.

You don’t have to rush this process. Don’t feel pressured to come out on LGBTQ “holidays” such as National Coming Out Day or National LGBTQ Pride Month in June. You can come out whenever you feel it is right for YOU!

2. You don’t have to come out to everyone if you don’t want to!

This is very important, especially if you don't particularly feel safe. It’s perfectly okay if you want to come out to certain family members or friends, because coming out is about your personal wellbeing and safety. I came out slowly, starting with the people closest to me. As time progressed, I told portions of my extended family and even some of my friends. There are still people I haven't come out to, but I believe these things take time.

3. Have a coming-out party! (if you want)

The best part about coming out is you can be as extra as you want. Throw a pride parade for yourself. Come out to your family at Sunday dinner as you pass the potatoes. Invite all your friends to a coming-out party! Remember: This is about you. Whether it’s low-key or extra, it is yours! My coming-out experience involved me, my mother, and two maroon couches that we both sat on. While there were no party balloons present, I really appreciated the intimacy of the conversation because it made me feel more comfortable!

4. You don’t have to come out for anyone.

When you’re extremely close to someone, you get used to sharing everything with each other. Your friends and family might even encourage you to share things, or share things a little faster than you might like. REMEMBER: you come out for you, not for anyone else. I always felt like I was lying to my family about my sexuality. To me, every day I was “acting straight,” until I came out. As time went on, this mindset became very toxic, and I started to realize that being “honest” should not come at the price of my wellbeing.

5. You can come out as many times as you like.

Maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender or sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as another gender or sexuality. Or, maybe you came out the first time as a certain gender and sexuality. Then throughout the course of your life, you have changed and now you identify as a different gender with the same sexuality you came out previously with. Both of these are okay! Coming out isn’t always a one-time thing.

I identify with the first scenario. I first came out to my family as bisexual, but I soon realized that I felt attracted exclusively to girls instead. After coming out as a lesbian, I used to beat myself up about my change, but sexuality is FLUID, and sometimes it changes and sometimes it doesn’t.

I hope whoever is reading this feels calmer about the coming-out process even when it can make one feel the opposite. I would like to end these considerations with one last important point.

6. You don’t HAVE to come out.

You don’t hear this one very often, so many don’t think that it counts as an option. But you truly do not have to come out. Coming out is not something everyone can do for safety, emotional, and mental reasons. If you feel it is not your time to come out, know that you have that right. You have the option to say no. You are not a coward; you are strong because you know what's best for you. And that’s all that matters.

I hope that you get to watch Love, Simon, to see a high-school coming out story on the big screen. Also that you feel like LGBTQ visibility and representation allows a piece of your story to be shown on the big screen, too. To bring Love, Simon into the classroom, GLSEN partnered with 20th Century Fox to develop a discussion guide and lesson plan to foster conversation on themes from the movie, such as coming out, identity, and safe spaces.

Representation is so important. I want to continue to see more stories, and complex stories, and diverse stories that highlight our different narratives of coming out in the LGBTQ community.

Imani Sims is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

Love, Simon is coming out to theaters March 16! 

This post is sponsored by 20th Century Fox.