Its very easy to get lost in the politics of coming out and to forget that for every individual itâ€™s a deeply personal decision in which politics might not even factor. This is particularly a problem on National Coming Out Day, when people are often pressured to out themselves by (usually) well-meaning friends who arenâ€™t thinking beyond the political and community goals to the personal consequences, or worse, are outed by people who assume theyâ€™ll thank them for it later. On the other hand, National Coming Out Day is important, not just because it raises visibility but because for those who want to come out but canâ€™t work out how or when it provides them a moment to do just that.
We were already talking to our readers about their coming out experiences before National Coming Out Day. That bisexuals are significantly less likely to be out than lesbians or gay men despite being more numerous is indicative of major problems facing our community, and not ones that weâ€™ve created ourselves as so many non-community members are keen to claim. National Coming Out Day however provides a narrower and sharper focus on the problems and positives surrounding the importance placed on coming out by distilling all of that pressure and scrutiny into one day and so weâ€™ve decided to share (with permission) some of our reader narratives and opinions on it in the hopes that weâ€™ll spark more discussion and awareness around it.
Some of our readers had absolutely hilarious takes on the day. Elizabeth Reiff, an established activist, posted this to her facebook
really demonstrating that for some of us, while coming out is a continual process, live that process so thoroughly thereâ€™s no need to say anything at all.
Thereâ€™s also Kate Roberts Crawford who came out like this
And reveals that people were more upset about the polyamory than the bisexuality, which nearly everyone was comfortable with. Its perhaps surprising that people were unwilling to accept the former but fine with the latter but atleast she knows â€śwho her real friends are nowâ€ť as she says.
Other readers have more mixed feelings on the day and the attitudes surrounding the imperative to come out, for the communityâ€™s sake and â€śbeing true to yourselfâ€ť.
I think National Coming Out Day is important, and necessary. I feel like sometimes people (mostly cishet people) put too much pressure on people to come out, but at the same time, there are a lot of people supporting those who stay in the closet, which is good. I feel like the focus on coming out, as opposed to people making it safe for those around them to come out, can be damaging, because it puts the responsibility on LGBT+ people. I would feel much better about National Coming Out Day if there was more focus on how to make it safe for LGBT+ people around you to come out.
I feel that coming out was necessary for me, but it would have been wiser to wait until I was in a better living situation and had more friends who were affirming. I wish I had done that. It would have been safer emotionally and psychologically speaking. I feel like coming out when I did was a reckless decision. I did it out of desperation (I was getting the same shit, not directed at me personally, but LBGT+ people in general), in the hope that people would figure out they needed to do better, and listen to me, but it was a foolish hope, and I wish I had waited.
In particular xe raises this very important point, about how we internalise the problems our community faces and treat them as things individuals within it have to solve themselves instead of the society that created them.
One more beef with National Coming Out Day: a lot of people focus on telling people not to be ashamed and I feel like that's not necessarily helpful. People don't deserve to feel ashamed of their sexual orientation or gender, but many do feel that way, as a result of psychological and emotional abuse, and feeling that way because you've been taught to isn't wrong or invalid. Telling people there's nothing shameful about it is good. Telling people they don't deserve to feel shame is good. Telling people not to feel shame is unhelpful to those of us who have been taught to feel shame and haven't gotten rid of it yet. And of course, there is a huge need for a bigger focus on how society needs to stop shaming LGBT+ people.
In my case I am lucky enough to live in a city where no one has ever done more than look mildly intrigued by it, and I have never been rejected by a friend over it. At the same time its important for those of us who are this lucky to always remember our situation isnâ€™t standard and take that into consideration when advising or discussing coming out with people in other places. Its all too easy to assume their city will be like yours when infact it isnâ€™t at all, even if its only a few miles away.
Coming Out Day can be (and frequently is) a very good thing as long as we remember itâ€™s a day for the closeted as well, to show them weâ€™re out there and waiting for whenever theyâ€™re ready, and that their desire or need to stay closeted is as valid as anyone elseâ€™s to come out. So next year, when you see someone passive aggressively shaming or pressuring people to come out say something, leave a comment or send a counter tweet, and letâ€™s make sure the day is as positive a force as it can be.