While I don’t have a very glamorous or dramatic coming out story, the amount of internalized homophobia and misogyny I have overcome (and am still overcoming) made it much harder than it had to be. In a world where queerness is normalized and coming out isn’t necessary, it would have been easier. That, however, wasn’t my reality. It is for that reason that I work to be the person I needed when I was 14. I was scared, uncertain, and unprepared.
I will be 22 years old in one week meaning I am approaching 8 years as having been “out” (“out” in quotation marks as queer people know that we rarely ever come out just once). We come out every single day. Every time we interact with a new person, there’s the mental dance of Okay, can they tell? Was my voice too femme or too butch just now? Am I safe if they do know? Meanwhile, if your conversation partner isn’t queer, they’re probably more worried about whether or not you can smell the garlic on their breath from the General Tso’s chicken they inhaled for lunch. Hell, if your family is anything like mine, you have to come out every time you see them. How many times does one have to say I’m just focusing on my education right now before the hint is taken? Now having a partner, a degree, and no longer in school, what should be even more glaringly obvious, I suppose, is not.
Although the average age of coming out is getting younger and younger, I was lucky enough to be able to come out to myself at 14, let alone to be able to come out at school and then to family at 18. National Coming Out Day is an incredibly important day to remember the privilege some of us have that many of us don’t. While I experienced homophobic rhetoric as a kid, I never felt like my life would be at risk. I never felt like I had to worry about being kicked out of my home, but with an estimated 40% of homeless youth being LGBTQ+, this is not a reality I can (or should) take lightly. Having access to the internet and media with (relatively decent) representation and attending to a large university with a LGBTQ+ population and a LGBT Programs office, albeit underfunded and under-resourced, I was fortunate enough to have resources. But, there are things a lot of LGBTQ+ children and adults desperately need that they don’t have. One of the most important things being reassurance: simply knowing that we’re loved, that we’re good people, and that we’re safe.
If someone comes out to you today (or ever), thank them. Thank them for their bravery and honesty, and most importantly, thank them for trusting you with that information. Make sure they know you love them because that kind of vulnerability is difficult, even if you’ve been openly queer for a while. If you’re queer and you’re deciding whether or not to come out, remember that you’re not a bad person for not being out. It’s not easy to be sometimes. Remember that it is not always safe for everyone to come out and you are still important if you decide against it. If you’re in need of someone to vent to, or need support, feel free to DM me on Twitter. I love you and will help you how I can. Happy (Post) National Coming Out Day!