Why coming out should become a thing of the past
10 Jun 2021
In my 25 years of life, coming out has completely transformed. Social media and pop culture have dominated our voices, turning each milestone in our lives into a photo opportunity. Take gender reveal parties as an example – how did we go from opening a piece of paper to accidentally starting forest fires?
In the queer community, coming out is a wonderful thing. It can be a huge stepping stone for those who need it, enabling them to be their true selves in front of friends, family, co-workers and others. People can live more authentically, not needing to hide themselves. But personally, I haven’t felt the need to come out.
For me, it won’t change anything. I’m proud to be out even if I don’t announce it to everyone. I’m lucky to have grown up in a time where being queer is hugely accepted, and better represented in popular culture. And I’m privileged to live in a country that celebrates Pride and supports my community. If I come out now, what will change?
We are more than our sexuality
In the last five years, we’ve seen the growth of amazing and uplifting queer projects like Pose, Moonlight and Schitt’s Creek. Drag Race’s popularity has soared, with shows expanding to the UK, Canada and Holland. I can’t remember the last show that I watched that didn’t have a gay character in it. But it wasn’t always this way.
As a queer black cis woman, I didn’t grow up with the best character representation on screen. There was always the token black character who was there purely to meet diversity targets. Gay characters were always poorly executed and the butt of every joke just to make a point. And what put me off the most was that their storyline was always centred around coming out – as if it was the only thing that mattered.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a huge milestone for our community, but it’s been SO refreshing to watch LGBTQ+ characters do more than just announce their sexual orientation. Roles have become more developed, with a detailed backstory that isn’t just around their race or sexuality. Which brings me to my next point.
We aren’t as progressive as we think
The 2021 Census took place this year and for the first time, it included questions on sexual orientation and trans status showing that we are progressing – even though there are still very public battles raging over trans rights in particular . In this liberal environment, coming out is much easier than it used to be but the problem is that it’s expected. My main concern is that coming out adheres to the normalisation of “straightness” and emphasises that LGBTQ+ people are only defined by their sexual or gender identity
But we want a world where being part of the LGBTQ+ community is just as ‘normal’ as being heterosexual, but this can be difficult if people presume your sexuality. Presumptions are one of the main reasons why we feel the need to come out to new people, and it shows that anyone who isn’t hetero labels themselves for others.
Luckily, this is a change that can be made easily. Instead of asking about someone’s ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’, please ask about their ‘partner’. In the workplace, it’s important for us to be announcing and asking pronouns regularly to normalise the idea that there are people who sit outside the gender binary. The words we use can help us to be more progressive and create a comfortable space for those around us.
You don’t just come out once
Coming out is a celebration, I can’t stress that enough. The thing is, it happens very regularly if you want to be your authentic self in all aspects of your life and can sometimes end up being a chore instead of a festivity due to people’s assumptions.
For many of us, we feel that we need to come out when we meet a new person, whether it’s in our jobs or personal lives. This isn’t something that straight people have to consider it can be a tiring task that can put a lot of strain on our mental health as we continuously wonder if people’s perspectives of us have changed once we’ve told them.
Knowing all of this, I’m happy to embrace not coming out. I’m a queer black woman, but I’m also a daughter, sister and a friend. Let’s allow people to be who they want without forcing them to discuss their sexuality. So if you’re reading this, please accept me as a person, not just my sexuality.