National Coming Out Day is October 11, 2021, and HBS will be supporting and participating in events that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community throughout October. Some students come out before business school, some students wait until they arrive on campus, and some who participate in events choose to keep their LGBTQ+ status private. We accept everyone in any stage of their coming out process and hope that you will be inspired by the stories of these students as they continue to grapple with a world that is not always accepting of who they are. Wherever you are, we hope you take a moment to celebrate those around you and celebrate yourself.

Here, students share their personal stories through the National Coming Out Day student storyboard series organized by the PRIDE club. Visit @prideathbs on Instagram for more information and features about the LGBTQ+ community here at HBS.

Tim Cho (he/him), Class of 2022

“August 2, 2020 was the start of my Coming-out-iversary, the first time I told the world, ‘I’m gay.’

Despite knowing I was different since adolescence, conservative religious and societal pressures prevented me from coming out and authentically living my life.

Early into starting at HBS that fall, I showed up to my first PRIDE club happy hour and walking into it, I was the most nervous I had ever been in any social setting. It felt like an unveiling of this deep, hidden aspect of my identity and I had a feeling of ‘there’s no turning back now.’ And yet, as I got to chat with my classmates who all just happened to be queer, I felt at home.

A lot has happened over the past year since coming out. I’ve made my first queer friends, marched in my first pride parade, and taken a leadership position for the HBS PRIDE club to name a few firsts. Despite all these steps pushing forward my identity, I’m still processing what it means to be a ‘gay man’ in today’s society, romantic relationships are still hard, and my family is not fully accepting of my new reality.

Yet, I am proud of who I am.

I look forward to my ‘Coming-out-iversaries’ where I can celebrate the courage it took toward living more authentically and reflect on how transformed my life has become once I chose to accept myself.”

Alex Furleigh (he/him), Class of 2022

“Clicking ‘approve’ on a Facebook photo of myself with my LGBTQ+ volleyball league in 2015 ended up having a larger impact on my life than I could have imagined. Although I had been out to family members and close friends for a few years, approving that photo was the first time that I had publicly announced myself as a gay person.

Leading up to that moment were years of anxiety and confusion. I had an inkling that I wasn’t completely straight by my middle school years. Did that make me gay, though? Or were my feelings just a phase? More worryingly to me, if I wasn’t straight, what would that mean for my future? Would I be able to have the family and romantic relationship that I had always dreamed of?

These anxieties intensified when I left for undergrad. There, I quickly joined a fraternity, where I lived for four years. It was also there that I had my first relationship with another man. I remember lying awake night after night, in the fraternity house, both stressed about the relationship and terrified that anyone in the house would find out. It was mental and emotional overload. While that relationship ended, the fear of someone discovering ‘what’ I was did not.

It took another five years before I finally got the courage needed to click that ‘approve’ button. Am I happy that I did, though! Now, I can’t imagine a world in which I’m not authentically and unapologetically me.”

Charlotte Lawson (she/her), Class of 2022

“In my first week of tenth grade, a new sexual education teacher stepped into our suburban Northern Virginia prep school and identified herself as a lesbian. Her coming out story was brief, matter-of-fact and cheerful. It was not a big deal.

But for the rest of the semester, every time we stepped into her classroom, I felt anxious. I sensed that this teacher knew I questioned my feelings for women; and these thoughts felt unsafe. To this day, entries about my sexuality are the only ones I have ever destroyed from my journal.

It took 14 more years and a painful divorce for me to finally come ‘all the way out.’ At Thanksgiving in 2016, I showed up to the large family gathering without my ex-husband and the rumor mill began to churn. The only thing scarier to me than coming out to my beloved Grandma Rosie was the fear that she might learn of it from someone else.

So, seventeen days after the election, I tearfully told my Trump-supporting, devoutly Catholic grandmother the truth. She listened carefully. When I finished she embraced me and observed, ‘That must have been very hard for you to share.’ I nodded with relief and realized how little credit I had given her unconditional love for me.”

Sam Bokher (he/him), Class of 2022

“While we celebrate National Coming Out Day we must be mindful that being able to come out is a privilege that many queer people lack all around the world. In my home country of Russia waiving a rainbow flag is likely to get you arrested. In Saudi Arabia a man dressed as woman will face 100 whips. In Brunei being gay is punishable by death. Despite huge strides in LGBTQIA+ rights in America let’s not forget that just five years ago an armed man walked into a gay bar in Orlando to kill 49 people and wound another 53. And while gays and lesbians enjoy more rights today transgender people still face severe discrimination and get murdered on a weekly basis just for being who they are.

When you think about allyship, think about a teenage girl who makes a decision to be closeted and unhappy just because the world around her doesn’t say she is loved. Think about the queer people in other countries who still suffer from oppression simply because they dare to love. Think about your section mate who will only come out as an EC. Share your support and be vocal. Let the gays buy a damn cake. At the end of the day love wins.”

Brian Ventura (he/him), Class of 2022

“I came out to my parents the fall of my first year of college. My parents responded with acceptance…and fear. My mother in particular was scared. An active Catholic, she was worried about what my being gay meant for my spiritual standing; while it was fine to be gay, it was ‘sinful to act upon it.’

Before I went back to school, my mom made me promise to tell her if I started seeing someone. That spring, I started dating an upperclassman and called home. I explained to my mom I was seeing this nice guy, and her response was to ask, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? Be gay?’ I ended the call and broke down in tears. A few minutes later, my phone rang. I answered, and I heard my mom say, ‘I hope he’s the one!’ Click.

Spoiler: that guy I met my first year of college was not ‘the one.’ But my mom saying that demonstrated that despite her fears, she wanted me to find someone who would make me happy, even if they were a man. Since then, my mom hasn’t always said or done the right thing regarding my queer identity, but she has shown me that she loves me no matter what.

I’m happy to say that I have since found the one, the man I’m spending the rest of my life with—and my mom loves him just as much as I do.”

Bailey Wilton (she/her), Class of 2022

“Probably the most common misconception about coming out is that it's a one-time experience. You make a big statement: ‘I'm bisexual!’ and then that is forever part of your known identity. But coming out is a process I have to repeat again and again. Any time I meet a new person, or am in a new context, it has to be re-explained.

Especially now that I am dating a man, it's hard to escape the assumption that I am straight. Not only do I have to come out as LGBTQ+, but I then face the added questions around how that is possible - how can I be in this community but in a heterosexual relationship? I feel the added pressure to explain that bisexuality means that I can be dating a man and still be LGBTQ+, to go way more into personal details just to explain that people like me do exist. All the while, I have a voice in the back of my mind saying ‘wouldn't it be easier to just say you are straight?’ and questioning whether I really do belong in this community. Despite everything I know to be true about myself and my identity, erasure of bisexuality is still so prevalent that even I have doubts about myself when I'm not actively with a woman.

And ultimately, that's why I still come out. Because just as I struggle with this, I know others do too. And so if I can make bisexuality even just a bit more visible, maybe I can help to quiet that voice in someone else's head that questions who they are.”

David Robertson (he/him), Class of 2023

“One of my favorite aspects of the LBGTQ+ community is the concept of chosen family, which is the idea that people can choose to embrace, nurture, love, and support others regardless of blood or marriage. This is a strong part of the LGBTQ+ community in many ways, but it was not new to me. I grew up with eight people living in my house, which included my parents and two siblings, along with my godmother and her two children. In essence, my definition of family has always emphasized the quality of choice.

When coming out, some folks choose to come out to their families first. However, as the oldest sibling of five and the first to go to college from my family, I felt a responsibility to be a role model to my siblings. I reasoned that those who meant the most to me would be the riskiest to tell in case they didn’t respond well.

It took me a long time to realize that being my full and authentic self was, in essence, the best way to be a good role model for not only my siblings, but everyone in the communities and ‘families’ I am a part of. I also realize I am very privileged to have such a supportive family. However, I hope those of you reading this take a chance to think about what role model the world might be missing if you are not living as your full self.”

Unnamed, Class of 20XX

“National Coming Out Day is a time to celebrate those members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been able to come out and live authentically as themselves. However, coming out isn't always an option for everyone. This storyboard has been intentionally left blank to symbolize these members of our community.

For some LGBTQ+ individuals, coming out publicly is impossible because of legal restrictions, intolerant cultural norms, or other factors that create physical and psychological safety concerns. It may be that they can come out only to very close confidantes, anonymously to strangers online, or quietly to themselves.

We invite you to celebrate and love these members of the LGBTQ+ community just as much as we do those who are able to be publicly out. We aspire, as leaders who will make a difference in the world, to create a future where everyone has the ability to come out without fear.

We hope you will join us in this effort.”