This is a guest post from a writer who wishes to remain anonymous.
Growing up, I had two best friends I did everything with who I had known almost my whole life. I met one girl in pre-school and the other one on the first day of kindergarten class. We were an inseparable trio. Everyone knew that we were a package deal – you couldn’t be friends with just one of us, you had to be friends with all of us. When we weren’t in class together, we were hanging out after school, almost every weekend, and of course during all the holiday breaks.
For most of these years, our similarities held us together. We were all involved with the same extracurricular music programs at school, we had similar tastes in film and music, and we loved gong to the same movies and concerts. We were also tied by the length of time we had known each other and how we had basically grown up side by side. When we signed each other’s yearbooks, I cried reading both of their messages, somehow knowing that we would embark on different paths in life the following fall. Still, if you told me six years ago that our friendship would fall apart, I would have called you a liar.
We all ended up going to different colleges, and the time apart gave me an opportunity to reflect on our friendship dynamics without either of them being physically present. I started to notice a pattern: I would feel upset about an issue, and would prefer to confront them in person, but then I never actually had the courage to go through with it.
One of the biggest issues was our difference in opinion when it came to some controversial topics. For instance, one of them frequently engaged in slut-shaming and the whole “I’m-not-like-other-girls” nonsense. The other, who identified as a feminist, would join in too. I was fully engaged in hookup culture and I was having fun being single in college, but I couldn’t tell them about it because I knew they would slut shame me… and I never addressed the problem.
On top of this stress, I had been questioning my sexuality and rethinking how I felt attracted to women. In the last few months, it became more and more clear that the feelings I’d felt more towards women were more than platonic, and I soon began to use “queer” as a label for my sexual orientation. I felt comfortable and happy with my newly understood sexually identity, but in the back of my head, I worried about what my two closest friends would say. Would they call me a slut for wanting to experiment? Would they say I was just going through a phase? They made homophobic comments from time to time, and this made me feel totally isolated from them. It was two against one, and wanting their approval delayed my coming out. I was struggling with the internalized homophobia I had faced growing up, and now I couldn’t open up to my best friends. It crushed me and kept me from coming out to anyone for years. I was too afraid.
As time went on, I spent a lot of time guilting myself into dismissing the issue and invalidating my own feelings. I only saw my friends on a few occasions, I thought, so why make it about me with this revelation? As a result of this, I bottled up my emotions until one day I completely broke down.
When I finally decided to come out to them, I did it by fleshing out my queerness into a few text messages in our group chat. I told them how I felt and explained the definition of queer: “an umbrella term for sexual minorities who are not heterosexual.” I told them it was an identity I related to, because I saw my sexuality as a fluid spectrum rather than a straight line.
I had finally taken the huge step in coming out to my best friends, and it felt… great. After sending the texts, I felt an incredible rush of adrenaline. Everything felt good, my secret was out in the open. Sure, I was exposed, but I also felt relieved that I didn’t have to keep it to myself anymore.
These positive feelings didn’t last. Rather than sending supportive comments, like “thank you for telling us this,” I was invalidated. One of my friends said, “Expect people to think you’re a lesbian when you say you’re a queer.” This jabbed me in the heart and erased my spectrum of an identity. I quickly told her this wasn’t the kind of response I could tolerate from a best friend. She wasn’t having it, and worst of all, my other friend took her side. They both said horrible things, and then five minutes later, the friend who spoke up first blocked me on every form of social media available. I didn’t expect her to be pleased with my announcement, but I was shocked by her level of ignorance.
Later on, my other friend wanted to talk about why the other girl felt that way. I didn’t want to try to understand or hear her out, because it felt like I was coddling everyone’s emotions but my own. She told me I was close-minded because I refused to listen to the excuses. I knew I had made the right decision, but that didn’t stop me from experiencing a wide range of frustration, anger, disappointment, and even some self-hatred.
But soon enough, I noticed a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. The bad feelings towards my friend decreased; I found that I didn’t care anymore. After all, I didn’t want to be friends with someone who would “break up” with me so quickly, and over something so important to me.
The other friend still kept in touch with me, but it didn’t last. She seemed to play nice after our initial conversation, but it still hurt me that she hung out with my other ex-best friend. It was like they were both complicit in invalidating me. Then, just like that, the feeling of unsettledness rose again, and I ended up cutting off contact with the other friend a few months later. She was upset with me about my decision because she felt attacked and she didn’t understand where I was coming from. All I could think was that it was time for her to taste the betrayal I once felt months ago.
On the bright side, this whole situation has helped me realize how great my other close friends are. They were surprised to hear about how it all went down and assured me they’d never be so dismissive about my feelings, and even encouraged me to confront any disagreements with them directly, right when they happened. I truly believe that breaking up with my best friends, who I’d known for nearly 20 years, was the best decision I could possibly make. In the beginning, it had been difficult to imagine life without them, since they had always been there, but it quickly became apparent that I was better off.
I learned that it’s always important to hold your friends accountable no matter what. I clearly failed to do that for a long time, and in the end, it contributed to allowing my emotions to get the best of me. I don’t regret how I confronted them, but it did cause me to think twice about letting go of things that make me feel uncomfortable. I learned how important it is to stay loyal to your feelings instead of letting others say whatever they want.
You know the saying: breaking up is hard to do. I think it’s even trickier to break up with a long-term friendship than a romantic relationship. Breaking up with a best friend is so, so hard. It might feel like your world is falling apart in the moment, because you can’t picture a different life with a different best friend. But use my story as an example: if a friendship feels unbalanced and not right, you’re better off without them.
Can you relate to this story? Do you want to share your own difficult coming out story? Tell us in the comments.