Coming Out “Late” and the Queer Power of Decorating

published Oct 11, 2022
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Coming Out "Late" and the Queer Power of Decorating
Credit: Photo: Dani Herd; Design: Apartment Therapy

I came out as queer when I was 30-years-old, and predictably, it changed my entire life.

Following the end of a long-term relationship, I needed to find a new place to live… fast. I felt so much shame about being back in the random roommate game at 30. Who wants to be 30 and essentially starting over? I found two 20-somethings in a local Facebook group, and together, we rented a little house. I was grateful, of course, but I also felt terrible. I believed that admitting my queerness had made me a “failure.”

The first months in my new space were painful and empty. Any breakup leaves you in a state of rebuilding and reminding yourself, “Oh, that’s right. The bed wasn’t actually mine. Oh, yeah, I threw out all my bath towels when we moved in together.” Decorating my room didn’t initially seem exciting, since it reminded me of what I thought my coming out had cost me. I was worried that I would never feel secure or comfortable again. 

Credit: Dani Herd

The moment that I came out also happened shortly prior to the pandemic, so I wasn’t able to immediately go out and find a local queer community. Instead, I read all of the excellent queer young adult novels that I never had in my childhood. I devoured Aiden Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys,” Rainbow Rowell’s “Simon Snow” trilogy, TJ Klune’s “The House in the Cerulean Sea,” and so many more. It filled me with joy to watch my old IKEA bookshelves become gayer and gayer. 

There’s no such thing as coming out “late.” Being queer isn’t some finite party space where you can’t get in if you didn’t line up super early.

Since I already liked these stories, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to see what art might be available featuring those characters and worlds. Thus began my obsession with fan art and Etsy. Buying art led me to scouring thrift stores for neat frames, and suddenly… my room looked and felt lived in. If someone were to enter my space, they would easily deduce, “Oh, I bet a queer bookworm lives here!” The idea that someone else could recognize me within my living space helped me better recognize myself, which felt so affirming after having felt adrift for so many years.

Credit: Dani Herd

Folks who come out later describe it as a “second adolescence” of sorts, and my bedroom these days is absolutely that: an homage to the queer kid who wasn’t ready to come out during their childhood. My walls are covered in gorgeous gay fan art prints. (Are you also a big fan of Aziraphale and Crowley from “Good Omens?” (Check out the shops of WhiteleyFoster and Gingerhaole, just for starters.) I’ve placed pride flags throughout my home, and my sheets are soft bubblegum pink and patterned with happy unicorns. Decorating a space entirely for yourself can encourage you to figure out who you are and what you care about, which is a vital journey for anyone. When I walk into my silly, colorful room, I am comforted by a spatial reminder of how far I’ve come and how much more comfortable I am in my own skin. 

To be clear, there’s no such thing as coming out “late.” Being queer isn’t some finite party space where you can’t get in if you didn’t line up super early. Like any good party, everyone understands you show up when you’re ready. (Maybe grab some more ice on the way, though, because we’re running low.) Wherever you are in your exploration, grant yourself the power to see what just one explicitly queer bit of decorating can do for your confidence and your sense of self.