Shannon Beveridge is the vlogger behind the mega-popular YouTube channel,Now This Is Living, where she shares videos that range from updates on issues facing the LGBTIQ community to lighthearted chats with her friends and exes. Last year, she was recognized at The Shorty Awards in the LGBTQ+ YouTube Channel category. Ahead, Beveridge shares her experience coming out in a conservative community—and offers advice to others facing the same challenge.
I was in high school when I first began thinking I might be gay. Growing up in Texas, though, my immediate thought was, “This can’t be the case.” I was young and just not ready to accept who I was or deal with what that meant for me. So, instead of dealing with those bubbling emotions, I went to the most conservative school I got accepted to: The University of Oklahoma. I even joined a sorority to “straighten myself out,” as they say.
During those years, I realized I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my sexuality, even though I was questioning everything. I was really stressed out and pretty depressed. That’s when I found myself spending time online. I started a blog on Tumblr where I began sharing bits of my story. Soon enough, I began gaining a lot of followers. I didn’t expect anyone else to be interested in my story and I actually didn’t want any extra attention.
“I’ve joked that I was the Gay Hannah Montana because of this life I had on the internet and how closeted I was in my community.”
In fact, I was like, “Oh shit, this is going to ‘out’ me somehow and people will know who I am!” My followers then began telling me that they were coming out because of the things I was writing about. I was like, “This is so ironic because I’m fully in the closet and in a sorority and not ready to come out at all.” I’ve joked that I was the Gay Hannah Montana because of this life I had on the internet and how closeted I was in my community.
Eventually, I came out to my family first, which I know is a little unusual since a lot of queer people choose to come out to their friends. But I felt more comfortable speaking with my family since they’re from Pennsylvania originally and not quite as conservative as some other Texans. I’d had some friends make homophobic comments in the past and I was really nervous about how they and others would react.
And I kept sharing my story online. It quickly became obvious to me that it was important for me to risk being “outed” because I was helping others on their own journeys. Helping other people was making me feel more comfortable being myself, too.
“Helping other people was making me feel more comfortable being myself, too.”
Eventually, I began coming out to my friends (which, I’ll admit, sometimes embarrassingly happened after I’d had a few drinks). I knew I needed to be just one person. And you know what? They understood.
Suddenly, it was like a mask had been lifted and I began living my life more fully. From that Tumblr blog, my conversations with people organically moved to YouTube, where it’s been easier for me to keep talking with the queer community through my channel, “Now This Is Living.”
It’s been six years since I began “Now This Is Living,” and I’m still talking about all aspects of life as a young, gay woman in America. Coming out is different for everyone. What worked for me might not work for you, but I hope my experience can help you in some small way. Here’s what I learned:
Give your friends and community some credit
I realized after I started coming out to my friends that I never really gave them the credit that they deserved. I thought that they would never be okay with my sexuality because they’re religious or conservative or from Texas. That was so unfair to them. I had assigned them these personas that actually ended up not being the case at all. This past summer, I was a bridesmaid in one of my sorority sisters’ weddings! You’ll never know what your friends actually think unless you start talking.
Sometimes it helps to write it down
I was able to tell my mom exactly how I felt, but, for some reason, I was having such a hard time finding the right words with my dad. One day, he was going on a business trip and I was like, “Okay, I have to do this.” I’m going to just write him this letter and leave it outside of his room. He’s going to read it, he’ll go on the trip, and have all this time to process the information. Done.
I went to leave it by his door in the middle of the night and then at six in the morning, he comes into my room. He sits in bed with me and he’s like, “You know, I could never love anyone more than I love you and I could never love you any less.” It was just the most perfect thing.
But understand people sometimes need time to process it
So, immediately after my dad read my letter, he asked me to go to the airport with him. I thought I was going to get away with having this lovely moment, but then we had this 30-minute conversation in the car. It wasn’t the best. He didn’t say anything wrong, per se, but he hadn’t had time to process it completely.
He told me about some woman he’d worked with at his company and how he’d never known she was gay until 10 years later. I got the feeling that what he really meant was, “You don’t have to tell everyone, it’s okay.” He definitely didn’t know that anything he was saying was detrimental and I’ve since learned that some of our communication challenges were generational. I’m glad that millennials are changing that.
Movies don’t show the whole picture
There are a lot of movies about how difficult it can be to be queer in America. I think we also need to see a shift away from this tormented gay character that we’ve now seen like 100 times. It’s like, “Yeah, we get it, it’s hard.” The coming out part is hard. And then life is so great afterward.
Make sure you’re in a safe space
Go to your local LGBT center because they are so helpful. There are sometimes serious consequences to coming out, and your situation will likely differ from mine. Understand whether you have somewhere to go if you’re young and need housing. Do you know what resources are available to you? In the queer community, know that there’s a pervasive idea of having a “chosen family,” where if your coming out process gets out of your hands, you have somewhere to go.
The queer community is a welcoming community
The queer community is one of the coolest, most loving, most beautiful, eclectic, weird, different groups of people in the whole entire world. It’s amazing to have an immediate bond with so many people I never would have realized I had anything in common with if it weren’t for this one piece of my identity. I think that it bands us together in a way that you can’t understand unless you are a part of it. It’s so powerful that even if things go terribly, terribly wrong you have this community of people who will help you forever. Chosen family is so real.
Remember, there’s no “right way” to come out
Coming out is totally yours. It belongs to you. There is no right or wrong way to do it. It’s not like you send a text, or you write a letter, or you tell them face-to-face. The only advice that I have is that I believe everyone should come out. At some point, no matter when it is, no matter how, you should do it. Your life will be so much better if you can be yourself.
Trust me, it’s worth it
You have this one life that you are given. People will say that it’s a choice to be gay, but the only choice that you have is whether you are going to live your life authentically or if you are going to live this lie to satisfy the people around you. Everyone deserves to fall in love. Everyone deserves to be able to feel like they are breathing and living this authentic life, not wearing a mask.
—As told to Theresa Avila