I came out to myself long before I ever came out to other people. I’ve know I was some variation of queer since elementary school (yes, seriously). Yet, I only came out to my ‘rents when I was a sophomore in college. And I only came out then because I started to seriously date a girl and wasn’t going to keep that a secret. So I figured it was better they hear it from me than Facebook!
So why did I wait so long? Well, to be honest, even though I have always been secure in my queer identity, I found the coming out experience…strange.
See, I am queer. But I’ve never been tormented by that fact. I’ve always been comfortable with that facet of myself for myself. I never felt like I needed to have an awkward coming out conversation to complete the process. To me, who I found attractive and who I desired not something that caused me any internal life crisis drama. So I didn’t feel like it was a big deal in need of a big coming out ta-da!
Here’s a question from a Gurl reader that sounds a whole lot like what I’m talking about: “Hey! So, I know I’m a lesbian and I’ve come to terms with my sexuality. I’m just not sure how I feel about coming out. It’s not that I think my family will be not accepting or that I’ll lose friends. It’s just that is all seems so dramatic and unnecessary…at least right now! Is that bad to think? Do I have to come out even if I don’t want to?”
For queer people, there’s a lot of pressure to be “out and proud.” As soon as we come to terms with our own identity, we are expected to share the love by telling everyone. Friends. Family. Even Aunt Nancy who we haven’t spoken to since age 6. We are expected to change our Facebook status to indicate our budding sexuality. We are expected to buy rainbow-clad accessories that will let strangers know how we identify without even having to ask.
Now, there isn’t anything wrong with this. These actions can have a lot of power, especially in our homophobic world. I’ll be the first to say that coming out — whether via a big speech or a small rainbow backpack pin — is often more than just the dramatics. It’s almost a political act. It’s a “we’re here, we’re queer” proclamation that works for some people. Emphasis on some people.
But I think a big misconception with the idea of coming out is that you have to do it. That you are lying to everyone if you choose not to come out. That you are deceptive if there are people in your life who don’t know about your sexuality. A good gay comes out. A bad gay is a “closet case.”
But there’s a lot of reasons you may choose to not come out. Maybe you just don’t feel like explaining a part of your identity that you are totally at peace with. Maybe you don’t feel an obligation to make a big thing out of your sexuality. Maybe you feel safer staying closeted in the moment because you know your parents might kick you out or that kid might beat you up.
Even as a girl who is out to her family and her friends, there are certain times I still make the decision not to come out. I’m pretty sure my building superintendent is still confused why my girlfriend and I only have one bed in our apartment because I’ve never felt the need to tell him, “Hey, I’m super queer.” When people ask if my girlfriend and I are related (which happens WAY too often), they often come to the conclusion we are just friends after I tell them that we aren’t family. And sometimes I don’t correct that with a big coming out speech. Even as someone who is basically the queerest of the queer, I don’t always feel like coming out to my Subway sandwich artist!
There is no shame in those moments. There is no shame in choosing when you want to come out. You deserve the freedom to choose how (or if) your coming out story gets told. And if anyone is ever pressuring you to come out with talk that you are bad gay girl for not being an openly gay girl, dismiss them! It isn’t their call. It’s yours.
All that being said, you definitely should come out to one VIP: yourself! By that, I mean that self-awareness about your sexuality is where it’s at. If you don’t talk about your sexuality to anyone else, that is perfectly fine. But you should be having some honest conversations with you. Make sure you accept your desires and yourself. That’s the only coming out process that truly matters in the long run.
If you have a girl in your bed or in your daydreams, that’s your business. And if you want to proclaim that by coming out, that’s your choice. But not proclaiming that doesn’t make you a less valuable part of the queer community. All in all, you have the right to come out (or not) on your own terms. The End.
Got an LGBTQ question you want Katie to answer? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your queer conundrums so she can work her advice-giving magic!