National Coming Out Day: A Day to Honor Those Who Could and Inspire Those Who Couldn't
It's Not Just About Coming Out To Loved Ones
Everyone's got different opinions and ideas about the process of coming out. It's one of the most significant experiences in any person's life, and one that is different for each person.
However, in order to come out to friends in family, you need to come out to yourself.
There are so many people - kids and adults alike - who struggle with self-acceptance in the wake of realizing that they love someone of the same sex, or that they identify as a gender completely opposite to one that was assigned at birth as a result of the body parts they came equipped with. In addition, coming out may come with the extremely painful realization that not everyone who loved and supported you before you came out may continue to do so.
That's a scary experience; to know - or at least suspect - that people who said they had your back and would always be there would somehow change their minds when you disclose that you are lesbian, or transgender, or asexual, or whatever the case might be for you. That can lead to people wanting to deny who they are, in reality, just to prevent a rift from people they counted on.
That rift may not happen at all; fear, though, is our biggest enemy.
We don't do so much simply because we are afraid. Now, we may not admit to even ourselves that we are uncomfortable in our own skins or that we love a member of the same sex, for instance.
People have said that coming out is not anything to deem someone as brave for. The thing is, when you're revealing something so deeply personal, there is a lot of bravery involved. It would be a lot easier if it was just a non-issue - as Depeche Mode said in 1984, simply accepting that "People Are People" - but the fact of the matter is, there are those along the LGBT spectrum that endlessly are put under the microscope and having to disclose who they are attracted to, as though that somehow mattered.
The problem is, it does matter - to too many people, groups and organizations, and it's not fair.
So yeah, there is bravery involved. Why wouldn't there be?
But first - you have to start with yourself.
It Doesn't Matter...
Painful But Potentially Wonderful All At Once
Once I realized I was bisexual, I think it almost became a non-issue for me. I'd always supported those who were gay, straight, trans or otherwise. To me, it doesn't matter, not even a little - I'm looking at the content of a person's character, not who they're involved with romantically or even what clothes they choose to wear. I'd also made the decision that if there were those whom I told that were suddenly somehow put off, that was life.
I did not have the chance to come out to either of my parents; both passed away years before I even thought about it, so there was no fear that came with that realization that I was bisexual. I was actually lucky, in so many ways, compared to some of the terrible stories I've heard over the years.
My understanding is that once you own it for yourself, it becomes easier over time to speak about it comfortably to others - people who don't know but whom you've wanted to tell. Coming out - at least for the moment because some societies are simply not as accepting as others - is still a painful but possibly wonderful experience, and those who come out and those who contemplate it should be applauded.
For those who ultimately will not embrace those who come out, it's important to realize that who the person is at their core has not fundamentally changed. They are still the same person that you've known for years, gone for coffee with or even hung out and watched movies with. While it's understandable that not everyone's mindsets will be changed simply by being told they should feel privileged that someone has decided they should come out to them - you can't win 'em all, as the pundits have said before - it's important that this same audience not diminish the moment for those who have chosen to come out.
It's a difficult decision, at times, one where people may grapple for weeks, months or even years with the decision to come out. To deem someone's coming out as something that should be dismissed as something casual or even given minor thought is to diminish coming out. Until a time has come where people can just look at each other and say, "Yeah, you're cool," without even a thought about that person's sexuality or gender identity, coming out needs to be recognized for the painful and possibly wonderful experience that it should and can be.