Is “Coming Out” Necessary?

Posted on February 7, 2012

7


this is not my closet

How did you come out? And why did you decide to do it when you did?

In this post I share 2 coming out stories before addressing the question ‘is coming out necessary?’ The first coming out story is Shannon’s and the second is mine.

Shannon writes a really cool blog called “So You Want to be a Lesbian?” so she’s also blogged this on there. Her blog is written in very snarky language and that’s one the things that makes it very unique. Thank you Shannon for sharing this! If I’m ever in Cali, we’ll have to party it up in SF.

Series: Dykin’ It Up: Episode 6: Coming Out

Yo Lesbos! Yup, you guessed it, time for another series post. Now, there have been many things we have discussed here, from homophobia to sex. However, it seems I have left out one of the most basic triumphs any LGBT person can achieve:
Now, anyone who is here probably knows how hard coming out is, and we all  have our stories. Here is mine, and I’d like you to share yours as well, write in the comments!
I consider October 1,1996 to be my out date. But the thing is dykes, I didn’t come out. I had the dreaded Involuntary Outing happen to me. It all started with a crush on a cheerleader.
Typical, I know. But my mistake was telling the wrong person, and have her tell the whole school. Needless to say, in a southern high school in the 90′s, this meant that the rest of my high school life was a living hell. It even got so bad that kids threw eggs at me and screamed homophobic slurs.
But, little did she know, that backstabbing ex- friend did me a favor. She outed me so that I wouldn’t have to out myself. I’ve always been “clockable” as gay. And, while it has certainly not been smooth sailing, it is a whole lot easier to just tell people rather than having them whisper behind my back. I’ve been out and proud for 16 years now, and, despite the hardships, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Go check out the rest of Shannon’s blog here.

Dykeroadbaby’s not quite “coming out” come out

I haven’t had a typical(if there is such a  thing) “gay” life or the big coming out moment. This is how things unfolded for me. I was in my first term of uni, met someone I liked, wanted to take things further and she happened to be a woman.

We met at the Laundrette(unexciting!), chatted briefly but it was the last day of term and we were both flying back to our respective homes for the break. We didn’t see each other until after the holidays. We ran into each other at the airport. I was with D’egu xoxo Breezy (author of Te Amo Tanto) and the three of us caught the train back to uni. We got talking, exchanged numbers and took it from there.

Up until I met this particular woman, let’s call her Jacob(that’s what my best friend and I called her, cannot for the life of me tell you why), I had never felt feelings for a woman significant enough for me to pursue. I had also never felt the need to share my feelings on the issue with anyone else.

She was the first woman I met, got close to, decided I wanted to take things further with and actively did.

Things happened pretty fast too. Jacob’s birthday which is in February was coming up and I wanted to do something really nice for her. So I decided to consult with two of the people closest to me. One is my best friend(and one of the coolest people I ever met) we will call her Lady V and another was a guy I had been sleeping with at that point but is now(as always) another amazing friend. I told both of them about my feelings for Jacob for two reasons.

1. I was very into this woman and was really excited, anxious, slightly scared about it. I wanted to share these things with them.

2. I was hoping this birthday shindig could land me some sexy time so I wanted to get it right.

I had a skype session with Lady V as I wrote this post to double-check the details of our conversation on the night I told her about Jacob. This what we collectively remember. I had texted her saying I had something to tell her but she wasnt home and couldn’t talk this is what went down when we had our phone call.

Lady V: So, is it something serious?

dykeroadbaby: yes

Lady V: Will I be shocked by it?

dykeroadbaby: Maybe

Lady V: Should I sit down?

dykeroadbaby: Maybe you should lie down

So she lay down and we carried on

dykeroadbaby: I think I like someone

Lady V: OK, who?

dykeroadbaby: I think I like…a girl,

Lady V: A girl?

dykeroadbaby: yeah. Well you remember Jacob who I’ve been telling you about?

Lady V: uhuh

dykeroadbaby: I think I like her, I have for a while. We do a lot of things together…

Lady V: Have you told her?

dykeroadbaby: yes and no but her birthday is coming up and I want to take her out.

*Some generic banter around the specifics of the birthday date and what sort of gift I could buy*

Lady V: Have you told anyone else about this or is this something you want me to keep to myself?

dykeroadbaby: No, don’t tell anyone about this

Lady V: well, thanks for trusting me enough to tell me.

*other generic and unrelated banter*

End

When my guy friend and I talked. We also had a similar conversation. We discussed what sort of date I could take Jacob on, what would not be too overwhelming, but was sweet enough to ring special to her.

I don’t think I realized how lucky I am to have such gracious people in my life until I started to become more aware of LGBT politics and heard how people’s “coming out” had gone disastrously.

After I told those two friends, it never felt the need to have a sit-down with anyone else and say hey! Look! this is what I’m into. I casually dropped it  into conversations. I would say things like “I’m seeing someone and we’re going to >>>tonight. SHE‘s a big fan of >>>”.

So is coming out really necessary?

I got thinking because growing up first in ‘African’(Nigeria) then ‘European’(England and Wales) and then a somewhat more international environment allowed to see some differences in the way different people regard sexual identity issues in different parts of the world.

I went to a Girl’s high school in Nigeria where many girls expressed their sexual and emotional attraction to other girls without issues. Whether we were just an incredibly open set of kids or this might have been something that happened in a couple other schools I cannot say.

We had many school mates who were gender queer. Girls sent and received love notes, letters, valentine’s cards and gifts to other girls and all it generated was a bit of gossip and banter. To my knowledge, no one was ever bullied for their gender identity or expressing their sexual attractions towards other girls. In fact, the girls who were brave enough to express their romantic feelings to other girls were regarded as cool.

It was like watching a reality tv series waiting to see how the receiver of the attention and affections would respond or who might be the next girl to fall for one of these cool cats.

Years later, speaking to some of those high school friends who are still gender queer and lesbian, some of them revealed that they never ‘actively’ came out to their families or friends. People just knew what they were up to and into and aside from side remarks made to look their they are not aimed at you, no one ever really gave you that platform to allow you to come out.

So, if every one knows that that ‘best-friend’ of yours is not just your best-friend but just never said anything about it, did you still need to sit them down and say to them look, this is what’s going on?

Contrasting this experience with that of friends who grew up in different backgrounds(the West) and came out at very young ages or felt the need to reinforce their gender identity and sexuality, I wondered whether they were forced into feeling they had to identify with some form of LGBT community or that they were now designated into this category that they came out to- the L, the G, the B or the T.

For instance, a person might have come out to their parents as gay and then later realized that they might be bi or trans identified. Did this mean they would have to come out again and again? Or should they have waited until they were ‘sure’ of what they were?

My short answer after pondering all this and reading all the coming out comments here and those on whenicameout.com is yes, coming out is absolutely necessary.

Even if you have to do it over and over again. Even if people did not ask you. Even if you were sure they already knew or even if you were unsure where you fall into in the LGBT definition. Whether you decide to do it at a very young age or at one where you are feeling more confident about the person you are. It is still absolutely necessary.

My reason for emphasising the importance of this is quite basic. Who we are attracted to or love are fundamental parts of who were are. Our lives are happier and healthier if we can share this knowledge of ourselves with those close to us and with the world.

The more people are out, the more people in the world know about the variety of sexual orientations in the world. We, individually paint a brighter and more accurate picture of this spectrum.

I know that when I come out to people I newly meet by dropping in those casual lines, as unimportant as it might seem there are still levels of a) if you aren’t cool with is, I’m already ready to X you, so don’t think of acting a fool and b) I’m doing this because I want you to get the right perspective on who I am, this is an important aspect of me and I’m proud to share it whether you wanted to know or not!