In celebration of LGBTIQ history month, OutRight's communications’ team has taken on the challenge of recording OutRight's unique stories by interviewing staff and allies! Our staff come from different walks of life, however our stories show both the universal and unparalleled experiences of LGBTIQ people when discussing sexuality and gender identity. We appreciated the opportunity to get to know one another more through this exercise and hope that you can learn more about us, and through our stories, learn more about yourself!
These personal stories assist us in learning more about how queerness transcends culture, religion, and race to create a diverse community of voices. Through adversity grows strength in oneself and one’s story.
While engaging in this exercise, we uncovered a few common themes and, of course, distinct experiences of coming out. Some of what we learned include:
We found that religion is a common thread among the personal stories, and different spiritual upbringings impact the coming out process differently. For Erick, an Intern in the Development team at OutRight, “rejection of God had to have taken place before acceptance of identity,” while for others, religion helped assure that they were not alone.
Through these cross-cultural narratives we see that burden of family not accepting LGBTIQ identities creates immense hardship for the individual. Fear of disapproval becomes a barrier in the coming out process - internalized homophobia is very real and has immense impact on how we perceive others will treat us or think about us, and inevitably how we accept ourselves. This barrier was a huge factor in when and how OutRight staff came out to their loved ones, the public, and continues to influence how we express ourselves as queer folk in society now.
For some, families prove to be supportive, while others are left to create a support system on their own. Seasoned OutRight staff member Grace discusses how her Indian, Sri Lankan family from Malaysia was conservative in regards to homosexuality. OutRight Intern Michael found that the culture and religion of his Polish family caused difficulties for him as well. Both Michael and Grace eventually left their homes after coming out. Despite finding frustration in seeking acceptance, they found acceptance within themselves.
“I don’t need anyone’s acceptance for me to be okay”
-Erick, OutRight Action International
In a society of heteronormativity, these stories indicate that often times the hardest person to come out to is oneself. Through the challenges of mental illness, self-acceptance, and losing a family support system, it is easy to feel alone. Erasure of queer folk and lack of media visibility makes determining one’s identity even harder.
“How was I supposed to know that I could be gay if I didn’t even know that gay existed?”
-LJ, OutRight Action International
However, through this struggle many of us have also found solace in the global queer community that understands the complexities of being in the closet. Many of us have also learned the importance of finding the right way that we can each be ourselves and express our identities. Everyone experiences queerness, coming out, and self expression in a way that is valid and right for themselves - this does not need to fall in line with someone else’s expectations of what it means to be queer - no justification is necessary to live our truths.
We hope that our stories resonate with you in some way and that it opens the door to a continued conversation about what it means to be here and be queer.
“It’s important to remember that it’s not the end”
-Michael, OutRight Action International
Published on October 13, 2016 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization