Program Director, Indy Pride, Inc.
6 Minute Read.
“Coming out.” It has been morphed in the LGBTQ+ community as a rite of passage. The act of revealing one’s identity that is outside of heteronormativity and/or their assigned gender is often marked as an important step to coming into the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone has a coming out story. One that is a storyline of acceptance, perhaps some marked with humiliation, or even one that turned out better or worse than they expected. There are some with coming out stories that haven’t happened yet. On October 11, we celebrated National Coming Out Day. It is the anniversary of the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987 (Human Rights Campaign). For some, it is a day of great celebration. For some, it is a day to reflect and reaffirm their queer identity. For some, it is the anniversary of the day they came out, or a day to come out. For others, it is a reminder that self-acceptance and community support are covered in various shades of complication.
The issue with positioning coming out as a rite of passage in the LGBTQ+ community is that each person lives within various levels of privilege and oppression. Each facet of our identity, whether race, class, ability, etc. factors into how one navigates the world. Let’s face it—even the different letters in LGBTQ+ experience different realities, privileges, and hardships than others. Coming out becomes even more difficult with people of diverse cultures, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, where it may be considered morally wrong or culturally unacceptable to be queer. This lack of acceptance of queer identity can cause internalized shame and hatred. Coming out is complicated for many in our community, because this causes one to grapple with parts of oneself that have never known love and acceptance (Weller 31).
Coming out is a layered experience. One may be out to friends, but not out to their employer or co-workers. Another’s story may be that they are out to only close friends, but not to their family. Someone reading this maybe making the biggest and most important step of all, which is seeking love and acceptance within themselves. Coming out is a lifelong process, where queer people make decisions about revealing parts of their identity for their own safety and establishing their place in community.
If you are celebrating National Coming Out Day as someone who is “out.” I celebrate you. I celebrate you, if you came out into the loving arms of family and community. I celebrate you, if you came out and the people you cared most about turned their backs on you, or even harmed you. Those memories might resurface today. Your experiences and stories deserve to be affirmed.
It is National Coming Out Day, and if you are out to some and not others or are not out. I celebrate you. I affirm your presence as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. No certain amount of being “out” validates your queer identity. Some tough, emotional memories or feelings may come up for you today. Your experience, story, and existence are valid.
National Coming Out Day is a day of remembrance highlighting the accomplishments of the queer community. It also marks that we have so far to go. Until no one has to come out with fear of rejection or harm, we must advocate for the wellbeing of all members of the LGBTQ+ community. We must advocate until all are affirmed on their individual paths of self-discovery. There is no need for an audience to confirm or deny you for who you claim you are or who you love. You are valid for simply being you.
“The History Of Coming Out,” Human Rights Campaign. https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-history-of-coming-out. Accessed 10 Oct. 2019.
Weller, Francis. The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief. North Atlantic Books, 2015. pp. 31.