National Coming Out Day, celebrated on October 11th, seeks to show the world that LGBTIQ people exist everywhere, in every community. One of the founders of National Coming Out Day, Robert Eichberg, said in 1993 that “Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative [ when ready ] that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.” Coming out to friends and family is often the most difficult starting point for LGBTIQ people, but without openly queer people, homophobic views and oppressive ideologies are likely to persist. Coming out matters, but it’s not right for everyone all the time. In many countries it’s illegal, and in many more it’s frowned upon.
I came out to my parents earlier this year, and I was met with a less-than-ideal reaction. Having grown up in the Midwestern United States, I was surrounded by views influenced by a misinterpretation of Christianity that condemned homosexuality and transness as something to be prayed away. Coming out isn’t easy for most people. It certainly wasn’t easy for me.
There’s a lot of pressure these days to come out. So much pressure that it’s hard to ignore. An old friend of mine tried to pressure me into coming out before I was ready. She didn’t fully understand the situation I was in, and thought I should tell my parents the next time I was home. Everyone has an opinion on how you should come out. Most people I talked to said I absolutely had to do it in person. While I understand the benefit of coming out that way, sometimes it’s just not possible. I tried to come out to my parents in person over spring break, but was literally unable to make myself say the words. I ended up drafting a text that my best friend sent for me instead. This allowed me multiple things: space to be away from them if they reacted poorly, ability to be around an extensive support system, ability to choose the language I was using very carefully in responding to them, time to think about their responses and the layers that exist in communication with my parents, and more.
So many people will say that coming out is best done in person, and for a lot of people, they’re probably right. But ultimately, only you know your situation best and what you can and can’t handle. You know whether being out is right for you and how you should come out if you decide to. I hope that those of you who are reading this from the closet know that it’s okay to be closeted- sometimes that’s what you have to do for your own safety and well-being.
And to those of you who are coming out today or who are otherwise celebrating your outness, I hope you know that however you came out is okay. You made that decision with the information you had at the time, and you can’t guilt yourself for that.
Whoever you are, whatever your outness looks like, it matters. It does make a difference. You’re contributing to a world where those who can’t come out right now might someday be able to. Even if the only person you’re out to is yourself. Sometimes that’s the biggest step.
Happy National Coming Out Day- whatever your outness looks like.
Published on October 10, 2019 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization