October 11 is National Coming Out Day (NCOD) and HBS will be participating in events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community throughout October as part of the broader LGBTQ+ History Month—a month focused on acknowledging and celebrating the history, political activism, and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer communities.

Here, current HBS students share their personal stories through the National Coming Out Day storyboard series organized by the HBS PRIDE Club. We accept everyone in any stage of their coming out process and hope that you will be inspired by the stories of these students. Visit @prideathbs on Instagram for more information and features about the LGBTQ+ community at HBS.

Eduardo Avalos (he/him/his), Class of 2024

Te quiero, mijo.”

When my six-year relationship ended in 2020, I felt distraught and lost. Growing up in a traditional, religious, and sometimes, machista Mexican culture, this relationship allowed me to accept and embrace the relationship with the men in my life. I dared to love bravely and vulnerably in an environment where doing so is often taboo.

Family is an important pillar of Mexican communities. After my breakup, I resorted to the love and support of my family, only to realize that the people who are important in my life, like my dad, did not know truly me.

This was not a product of his lack of curiosity. I kept him at the peripheries of my life because Mexican men were often raised to mask emotions and shield moments of openness.

Was I really a proud and openly gay man if everyone, except my dad, knew?

My apá is a stoic man; he has never been a man of many words or emotions. Like many immigrant parents, his hands are tired, but his eyes are kind. Most importantly, his heart is filled with love.

I never quite knew if there would be an ideal or convenient time to tell him. I never knew what to say to him. My dad was raised in a very different world than my own, but in this moment, I needed solace from the man who first taught me how to love.

I ultimately decided to write a letter. I wanted time to carefully craft the words I would use. I wanted to give us both time to reflect and process. Selfishly, I wanted to spare myself from a potentially negative reaction.

“I hope this doesn’t change anything between us. I am still your son, but I’m gay,” I wrote.

Te quiero, mijo.”

“Why would it ever change anything? You’ll always be my son, and I love you just the same.”

He didn’t share many words beyond that, but my heart was happy. In my mind, this story would always take a wrong turn; it would sever our relationship. During a time of such distraught and loss, I could no longer afford to lose more people I loved.

I have a few takeaways for those navigating difficult impasses in their lives, whether coming out or not. First, do not apologize for being yourself. Too often we are made to feel like we need to apologize for our existence. You can exist and thrive at the intersections of who you are.

Secondly, do not assume the worst of those around you or shut people out of your life. They might just surprise you and become your strongest supporters. I was always afraid that by coming out to my dad, I would lose my relationship with the most important man in my life, but it brought us closer than ever before.

Te quiero también, apá.”

Michael Brunman (he/him/his), Class of 2023

The summer after graduating high school, I was 18 and curious about my sexuality, I decided to give myself seven days of freedom. I searched the internet for a place to connect with others at my age who were also exploring. I found a well-known gay dating website, where in the first time in my life I spoke with multiple guys my age and felt relieved to know that I am not alone.

On the last day of my “seven days of freedom” I was invited by one of my new friends from the website to join him for a Saturday hangout and visit the LGBTQ+ youth center in Tel Aviv, Israel. I hesitated and stayed home that day. As I was watching the evening news, I learned that an anonymous murderer entered that youth center and murdered two of its visitors. To this day he hasn’t been identified or caught.

Feeling that the gun had been aimed at me too, I was scared and felt alone in this world. No one knew what was going through my mind these days, because no one knew that I could have been there myself that night.

While I was scared about the meaning of being true to myself, a few weeks later, I decided that it’s a price worth paying, and came out in front of my family and friends. I allowed myself to continue and live my life truly, not just for seven days. A few years after the shooting, I returned to that same center as a guide, helping other youth cope with the challenges of coming out of the closet.

Patric Cao (he/him/his), Class of 2023

Growing up in Arizona and being raised by Catholic, Vietnamese immigrants, I felt like I just couldn’t be gay. To me, there were other identities that I was supposed to juggle. In my mind, only the identities that were tied to “true” and “important” responsibilities – like being a good son or having a financially stable career for instance – deserved the sunlight.

For 26 years, this meant putting a lock on my self-expression. I only applied to colleges on the East Coast far from Arizona. With my loved ones, I rarely if ever shared the ups-and-down of my friendships or relationships. I drew lines between who was allowed to know and who wasn’t. And in my career, I shamelessly allowed myself to work for people who did not affirm who I was.

Doing all this… having to accommodate for others’ prejudice against me… sucked.

So this summer, amped by the fatigue of it all and a lot of introspection here at HBS, I came out to my family. And while there’s a lot left in navigating these newly tenuous relationships, I feel beyond liberated.

This NCOD, I want to share that coming out can be a catalyst for your own clarity in so many unexpected areas. For me, I now have a better compass at defining who my loved ones are – including my PRIDE family at HBS. And it’s also surprisingly given me a greater resolution on my career, in the form of non-negotiables for who I work with or for. Really – we should all celebrate who we are! Because that celebration prompts a chain reaction for so many other good things to come.

Zhun Che (he/him/his), Class of 2024

My mother moved continents for me – not knowing the language, the people, the trajectory of her own life, just so that I could have an opportunity at a life much better than hers. In coming out, I was afraid of rejection, or perhaps worse, silent contempt from the woman who quite literally and figuratively gave me the life I know.

I remember approaching one of my best friends in her room, just absolutely bawling. I wanted to come out to my mom but couldn’t. We went back into my room, and I sat there in my bed, phone in hand, for minutes before doing or saying anything. She was the one who made the first move – she held my hand and told me that “I was the bravest person she knew.” By now she was crying as well and so together; we called my mom.


“Hi mom…”

“Is everything okay?”

“I need to tell you something, okay?” “Okay.”

“I just wanted to tell you that…...I’m gay.”

I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation, but I will always remember the comfort I felt as she held my hand while I talked to my mom. I didn’t think I was brave. I felt like a coward. She was brave – for having such empathy that my pain had become her pain.

This National Coming Out Day, I reflect on my experience, and leave you with two thoughts. First, no matter what challenge (coming out or otherwise) you may face in your life, you never have to do alone. While I had the fortune of having a friend who was physically and emotionally present, I also found solace in the metaphorical community of those who came before me, on whose shoulders I stand. Secondly, remember to be kind to yourself. Sometimes, you don’t have the strength to hold yourself up, and that’s okay. The community around you will have the strength to lift you up when you can’t do it yourself. Just like how Jenny did for me, and how I will do for Jenny infinite times over.

Teresa Danso-Danquah (she/they), Class of 2024

My earliest memory of questioning my identity stems from Sunday morning church lessons on love and marriage. I struggled to reconcile sermons that emphasized that we were all made in the likeness of God yet only half the population was available for me to fall in love with. My pan identity evolved from my recognition of the beauty in everyone around me and that my romantic attraction is not tied to one’s gender identity.

Yet growing up at the intersection of multiple identities as a Black, disabled, genderfluid child of Ghanaian immigrants, it was hard for me to stand proud in my queer identity. I felt that my gender identity and sexuality were added layers that ostracized me. I was too much, too different, too unique. I didn’t want to stand out anymore so I began to shrink myself.

However, I realized that the more I take up space, the more I create space for others to step into their own light. There’s beauty outside the confines of labels and definitions.

We often think that when a person comes out, they have reached a final destination. But understanding your gender identity and sexuality is part of a longer journey in understanding yourself better and reflecting that image into the world each day. It’s a similar process to the one we face when we arrive at HBS. Many of us assume we must be perfectly packaged goods, with perfected elevator pitches of the industries we’ve come from and where we aim to go next. My queer journey reminds me that I am still constantly evolving – in business and in life – testing my assumptions, and putting in the reflection work to understand who I truly am.

Aaron Edwards (he/him/his), Class of 2024

Throughout my childhood living in a small Kentucky town my parents raised me to do three things: ask questions, be happy, and help others. While the first lesson came naturally to me, the others took significantly more time to learn... recognizing early on that being able to help others would require helping myself first. The path to find my own happiness took me through 21 years of being a closeted gay male, feeling like an “other,” and having no visible role models to emulate or anyone to help me navigate a society in which I didn’t feel safe or welcomed. It wasn’t until I met my first partner senior year of college that I found someone that could begin filling those gaps in support I so desperately craved, eventually giving me the confidence and strength that I needed to begin my own coming out journey over a decade ago.

Visibility, or lack thereof, played a significant role in my life, and telling my story on National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to pay it forward and live true to my parent’s final lesson of helping others. Toni Morrison put it best: “If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” I not only recognize the privilege of being an out and proud gay man, but I also see an inherent responsibility to enable others to feel comfortable to come out in their own way and on their own time. To those out there still struggling: know that you are valid, know that you matter, and know that you are important.

Saurabh Gupta (he/him/his), Class of 2023

Growing up, I thought some of my friends were cute but I didn’t know what these feelings were. At the time, same-sex relationships were criminalized in India and the word “gay” didn’t exist in my dictionary. Over the years, I got attached to my best friend but couldn’t articulate physical and romantic attraction towards him. I was scared of facing myself so I bottled all these thoughts deep down. In 2019, when he started dating his now wife, it felt wrong. I started losing hope, and was diagnosed with minor depression. Through therapy, I came out to myself and understood my feelings. I started feeling a sense of relief.

After a few dates with men I met on dating apps, I met my partner Akash. He has been my cornerstone through ups and downs for the last 2 years and 9 months since we met. I slowly came out to my people—in the order of highest probability of acceptance—friends, sisters and then parents. I received love from everyone but didn’t make everyone happy. My parents are still processing the grief. They feel a sense of loss as they had planned for their single son to carry forward their lineage in a traditional way. They feel lonely thinking my life would disintegrate from theirs as they grow old.

There are moments when the image of my parents crying would haunt me, moments when I am grateful for the love I have received from my partner, friends, and family that not many of us receive, moments when I accept the circle of life and the little control I have over my parents’ happiness.

In all these moments, I am proud of who I am.

Rick Lacerda (he/him/his), Class of 2023

I spent my whole childhood preparing for coming out. I suppressed my queerness and focused on excelling in the highly competitive military school in Brasilia, Brazil knowing this was my path to college and, more importantly, absolute financial independence from my family. While I succeeded, that came at a price: my identity could be summarized as just a high-performance student and displaying the performative masculinity which reigned in Brazilian military settings. That got even worse when I unexpectedly lost queer people close to me due to targeted violence.

Just before getting off the car at the airport on the last day of a trip to my hometown, I told my family “I’m gay” and left. I was not afraid anymore. Some of them freaked out, but I had purposely limited the time for uncomfortable Q&A. I kept my phone off for some weeks to remove the hassle.

I would still consider publicly coming out to be the easier step, at least compared to fully embracing myself. It took me much more time and many more therapy sessions to work through my internalized homophobia, to learn to engage emotionally with people, and to understand that my life could be as long and as happy as those of non-LGBTQIA+ people. Losing some other friends and seeing politicians treat people like me as public enemies added even more difficulty to this journey.

Only recently and at HBS have I started to have a group of healthy friendships with queer people and to view my queerness as a source of extreme happiness in my life, rather than pain…

…And, if you are wondering, I believe you can feel like that too.

Nicolle Richards, Class of 2023

When I first came out as bi - to my best friend, then my male partner at the time, then my parents - I thought I’d done the hard part. “I’ve come out now,” I thought. I thought I was done.

When I came to HBS, I decided I didn’t want to have to come out, and so I would just be out. From the first day of school, I was proudly queer. I advocated for LGBTQ+ issues in class. Queer women became my home. I became the co-president of PRIDE.

Then, I started dating a man. Suddenly, it seemed, I had to come out all over again. “Aren’t you gay?” I was asked, everyone around me clearly confused.

What no one told me about being queer is that since I am bi - or whatever label I can use to explain that my sexuality doesn’t fit in a neat box - I don’t get to come out just once. I will have to come out over and over again, countless times, for the rest of my life.

My first task is to accept this. Accept that my sexuality often feels like a contradiction, and use this to accept the ways life is a contradiction: messy, confusing, complicated, inconsistent.

My second task is to find joy in it. To say with peace, with love, and with conviction: in my queerness, I have the freedom to defy expectations. In my queerness, I have the freedom to defy my own expectations.

Savannah Rush (she/her/hers), Class of 2023

My hand shook as I held the phone, telling my mother a secret I had kept hidden for quite some time.

“Mom, I like women.”

Those words have changed my life. At times, I thought, for the worse. Now, though, I can confidently say they represent the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

My first experience being “fully” out was here at HBS. On the first day of RC year, I mustered the courage to come out to my entire section—and I’m so glad I did. Being the most authentic version of myself both inside and outside of the classroom was the biggest gift I’ve given myself and the 94 others of Section G. The freedom that I experienced after letting the world in on what was once my little secret was nothing short of transformative. It allowed me to break out of my shell, embrace vulnerability, and challenge deeply held beliefs about family, religion, and community.

Most importantly, coming out has introduced me to my second family. Even before I was widely out, the queer community embraced me with open arms, shepherding me through new experiences and the toughest of moments. That same queer community, including me, is excited to welcome you into our loving, vibrant, global family.

Huhe (Jack) Yan (he/him/his), Class of 2024

I came out in a moment of spontaneity on the last New Year’s Eve before turning 18. My family were gathered around the TV watching the countdown. I remember a deafening silence took over the room, and the fireworks were unbearably loud.

Day 1, they thought I was joking. Day 2, the talk – tears and table-pounding. Day 3, I scrambled my way out on the earliest flight to Shanghai at the break of dawn.

It’s been 7 years. My mother stayed in my life but that’s the one subject she wouldn’t touch. My father stopped talking to me, except during sporadic episodes of theater we put on in front of friends and relatives – we’d each act our part of a happy, normal, family. Mid-show he’d sneak in a question or two here and there. “Are the hours better at your new firm?” he’d ask. Perhaps it’s all part of the act. But most likely he did care.

I’ve grown to look at my relationship with my parents with more forgiving eyes. As a gay man, I’m lucky to have support systems to lean on. But as parents, in getting through this grueling journey to come to terms, the societal context they’re embedded in meant that they are very much on their own.

“Nothing real can be threatened (...)” (Marianne Williamson) I don’t doubt that there’s real love in my family. That keeps me going, and that’s how I know we’ll eventually get through it all.