October 11 is National Coming Out Day and newsfeeds everywhere are filled with artistically themed rainbows, photos of same-sex couples kissing and heartwarming coming out videos. It’s a beautiful expression of pride and it’s enough to make any queer person want to announce their sexual orientation.
But you don’t have to come out today.
If revealing your sexuality will put you at risk for violence, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If the thought of announcing your gender identity makes you want to hurt yourself, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If you’d lose your home or financial security due to your queerness, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
If you just aren’t ready yet, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.
Only come out when you feel comfortable. It’s a highly personal and extremely delicate process that can never be rushed. Not all people are privileged enough to reveal their sexuality or gender identity but that doesn’t make them any less queer. You are not defined by the number of people who know you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. You are defined only by how you view yourself.
It took me 21 years to come out to myself, 23 years to come out to my family and 27 years to come out to the world. In fact, this is actually my first time publicly celebrating National Coming Out Day. I know how isolating today can be for those who desperately want to claim their queer identity but lack the ability to do so safely.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in California, was well intentioned when he said, “gay brothers and sisters, you must come out…break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.” However, his statements don’t take into consideration the cultural nuances and potential dangers of coming out. While it’s indisputably positive to live your truth, it’s also simply not possible for every queer person to do so right now.
If people attempt to force you into coming out or belittle you for not already being out, then they don’t actually care about your wellbeing. Your sexuality and gender identity is valid even if you never feel comfortable enough to come out. You can be in a genuine, loving and authentic relationship without publicly declaring your queerness. You can be bisexual, while currently in a heterosexual relationship, without invalidating your sexuality. You can currently be presenting to society as a man while internally knowing you’re a woman.
You don’t need to make an announcement to feel proud of yourself today. You may not be out to everyone yet but if you’re out to yourself, then National Coming Out Day is for you too!
Things that helped me come to terms with my sexuality:
- Chely Wright’s documentary Wish Me Away
- Anna Taggaro’s coming out story on One Tree Hill
- The Lesbian Answers advice playlist by Jenna Anne
- The classic lesbian book, Annie On My Mind
- Reading and writing endless lesbian themed fan-fiction on FanFiction.net
- Creating a private Tumblr and Twitter which enabled me to be as gay as I wanted without consequence. I tried on several different orientations before finally being comfortable with the term lesbian.
- Spencer’s and Ashley’s love story in South of Nowhere
Unfortunately, when I was coming out there were barely any queer characters, hardly any diversity and absolutely no discussion about gender identity. So, here are a few more recent, diverse and inclusive queer stories:
- Elena Alvarez’s coming out story in One Day at a Time
- Aaron Baker’s transgender storyline on The Fosters
- The entire Pose TV series
- Rosa Diaz’s bisexual coming out storyline in Brooklyn 99
- All episodes of the Queer Eye reboot on Netflix
- Coming out videos on YouTube
Whether you’re closeted or out and proud, take a moment to celebrate National Coming Out Day. The queer community sees you, respects you and loves you. In honor of today, here is a video I made about the best coming out stories on TV!