Growing up in a religious community in Colorado, Keely Antonio never imagined that she could lead a fully authentic life as a queer woman.
“A lot of my journey was suppressing who I was,” Antonio told Tagg. “I didn’t understand what it meant to free myself and step away from the judgment and the doubt.”
Coming out as queer was the first time she truly listened to her body. “It really shaped my understanding of wellness and what it means to listen to your needs,” says Antonio.
Antonio’s journey as a queer woman motivated her and her partner, Dani Max, to create Coming Out Happy. The company helps LGBTQ+ individuals become more fulfilled and empowered versions of themselves.
Coming Out Happy originally started as an LGBTQ+ rainbow mask project during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But one viral Instagram post quickly transformed the company into something more.
“I made a video saying that my partner is doing great things for the LGBTQ+ community and that everyone should follow her on Instagram,” says Antonio. “It got hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds of people to join the membership program.”
In an effort to connect and support queer people during a time of such stifling isolation, Coming Out Happy evolved into a community-based membership program where Max and Antonio provided life coaching and therapy sessions.
The pandemic taught them how important fostering and creating community is, “especially in a society that’s so individualistic,” Antonio says.
Coming Out Happy has now served 200,000 queer adults across the world. The company now offers wellness support through podcasts, workbooks, live coaching sessions, and virtual programming.
Last summer, their online network and services finally added in-person events. The San Diego Self Love retreat was their first in-person venture. Antonio says that participants flew in from all over the country for a weekend of intentional yoga, group discussions, and “the most queer joy that you could imagine.”
To foster a more diverse and inclusive space during in-person events, Coming Out Happy offers a BIPOC scholarship program. They funded four full-ride scholarships for the San Diego retreat. Earlier this month, Antonio and Max held another successful event, their Winter Queer Leadership Camp.
Additionally, for those unable to attend their in-person events, Coming Out Happy offers a virtual program called the “Pride Amplified Six Week Course.” The website describes the course as an “On-demand program for queer adults designed to help you ditch insecurities, connect with the most confident version of yourself, and create a solid foundation for healthy relationships.”
Antonio recalls one of her most memorable patients from her course, a 50-year-old woman who recently left her husband. After a decades-long heterosexual relationship, she was eager to explore her queerness.
“She came in with a lot of shame and didn’t know how to join the community,” says Antonio, who works as the woman’s therapist.
Years later, she has created a blooming network within the LGBTQ+ community and started her own queer-centric business.
“It was so amazing to see her tap into her community and relationship and go and make an impact,” beams Antonio.
Antonio shares that beginning your journey in self-empowerment can start with finding just one person to connect with. “Sometimes we don’t have all the resources; it’s just one door and one person,” she says.