Coming out: A sigh of relief


With a new school year ahead, various transitions and the struggles of staying authentic, starting a year at college and identifying as part of the LGBTQA community is can be incredibly difficult.

Danielle Ferguson

It came after her grandmother died.

That inner battle that splits a person in half.

“Do I do it?” she thought. “Do I tell him? Do I not tell him?”

For Akira Demoss, the thought of telling her conservative Christian grandfather that she was attracted to women was all-consuming.

“I’m going to do this,” her inner struggle continued. “I’m not going to do this.”

But after her grandmother died four months ago, she realized it was a conversation she needed to have.

“I guess I didn’t really realize how big of a thing it was to me until after she passed away,” Demoss said. “A month later, it really hit me hard and I wish that was something I would have told her and been open with her about before she passed away.”

So she came out to her grandfather about two months ago.

“He was pretty accepting of it,” she said. “I think he’s just happy that I’m talking to him.”

Demoss has been living with her grandparents for about 10 months. She had initially planned on living there for about a month, but with her grandmother’s terminal cancer, she decided to stay to help them around the house.

“I’d always been terrified to come out to them,” Demoss said with her head in her hands. “I [didn’t] know what they were going to think about it.”

Despite worrying about how her grandparents would perceive her, Demoss was always open about her sexuality in high school. She was in a band called “Scarlet Isis and the Dildos” and lyrics in her songs were directed toward women.

“All my pronouns were toward a female, so it was like I knew they knew. I thought, ‘I know you guys know, why haven’t you said anything?’ They were probably thinking the same thing, like ‘Why isn’t she telling us?’”

Living in their basement also helped her save money to pay off a few thousand dollars in fines.

The fines, court probation and loss of license, she said, were negative products of a sour relationship.

She since hasn’t been in a relationship.

Demoss has tried to be with men, but she said it’s not the same.

“It’s kind of the attraction,” she said. “I’m sexually attracted more to women.”

When Demoss came to college, she said being open about her sexuality wasn’t too hard, but that’s because she was consuming what she called “copious amounts of alcohol.”

“That always makes it easier to be open about everything,” she said with a bit of a scoff.

She said she’s grateful of that openness now.

“I’m happy I came out,” she said. “I’m going to start going to the LGBT club meetings now. I’m finally out about it so I don’t have to feel like I’m sneaking around. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”

That’s exactly what Adam Guenther, president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Ally Alliance, hopes to hear from more students who are questioning their identity this year.

Hear more about Adam’s “coming out” story in our new podcast here.

After coming out to his own family last fall, Guenther sought support through the Student Counseling Center and the LGBT Student Services.

“It was a long process,” Guenther said. “It took me awhile, along with a lot of people, to come to terms with being a member of the LGBT community.”

The hours leading up to the moment he was going to tell his mother he was gay were terrifying.

He was driving back to Ames from an internship in Omaha, Neb. A drive that normally would take about two hours took Guenther four.

“I had to keep stopping because I was shaking so much,” he said.

The conversation’s result was more positive than other stories he had heard, so he went on to tell his twin brother via phone call. After that, he gradually told his other friends on campus.

Coming in as a freshman, he wasn’t completely sure if he considered himself gay or not.

“I knew that there was something different about me,” he said. “I just didn’t think it was a problem because I didn’t realize that there was a possibility of having a problem.”

He said the services within the LGBT community at Iowa State were definitely helpful to him — so much so that he ran for president of the Alliance.

“Like many different minority or multicultural groups, there are hurdles and obstacles that students face,” Guenther said. “Hopefully by having a good, strong Alliance this year, we can keep and retain students and have them get the emotional and educational benefits that Iowa State offers.”

Guenther said being completely open about his life is a weight off his shoulders.

“It’s like hiding another aspect of your identity, like religion, your ethnicity or your family’s history or anything like that,” he said. 

Demoss agreed. Being open about her sexuality has helped her turn her life around.

She focuses on her studies, filling her days with homework and leaving little free time for a social life. She chooses to go for a run every time she wants to smoke a cigarette. She joined an academic engineering club and hopes to meet new people with the help of the LGBT Student Services.

Guenther hopes people wrestling with their sexuality or gender identity will use the resources provided to them and be open about who they are.

“You first have to come to terms with it yourself. If you can’t understand it, you won’t be able to convey it to other people,” Guenther said. “With books and the Internet, there really is no barrier to the information that you can get on getting the help you need to come to terms with your sexual orientation or your gender identity.”