By having sex in the closet with your girlfriend.
At least that’s what I did.
But really, I want to address celebrating this whole notion of a National Coming Out Day. I propose that it should be, instead, “National Make-Society-Less-Heteronormative Day” for a few reasons…
Having a National “holiday” for coming out posits that, in this society, it only takes ONE DAY to come out… except, you know, what a lie!
Queer individuals are expected to come out to new audiences in different settings constantly. Just by me saying casually to a coworker, or a classmate, or a stranger, “my girlfriend and I…” I come out about my sexuality. Heterosexuality, on the other hand, is the assumed ‘norm’ for our society and coming out in a heterosexual manner is not asked for, expected, or even given as much weight. Does National Coming Out Day exist for our heterosexual comrades, allies, and others? Oh wait… that’s everyday!
Not too long ago, I asked my heterosexual-identified friends, via Facebook, to “come out” as heterosexual — to their family, their coworkers, their bosses, their friends. What did someone reply?
“But that would be awkward.”
You mean it’s not awkward for me when I am walking along, holding hands with my girlfriend and run into an employer and have instantly become a LESBIAN- gasp! It’s not awkward having to call my parents or other family members and let them know about my partner and worry if they will approve of me?
Which segues nicely into reason number TWO)
What privilege do I have! Coming out didn’t endanger my life stability. I was not denied housing, continued employment, safety in my neighborhood, or family ties and support — the most I had to deal with were obnoxious comments and deciding to disown my brothers (emphasis on MY decision: I had the privilege to make such a choice!)
My partner put it well when she said on National Coming Out Day:
“Today, I’m thinking about the people who can’t come out. I’m privileged enough to tell people who I am without major risk of bodily harm or emotional abuse; I came out to my family with the knowledge that they wouldn’t kick me out or cut me off; I can hold Amanda’s hand in public and feel relatively safe. A lot of people don’t have these same privileges. Today, think about them and figure out what you can do to make the world a safer place for them to live out and proud.”
Do you know HOW MANY homeless youth are on the streets because of their sexuality or gender identity? The numbers are vast.
In Chicago alone, as reported by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and The Night Ministry, queer-identified homeless youth are estimated to be 40-60% of the approximate 12,000 to 15,000 homeless youth population a year. A year!
This is but one example, many more exist, where individuals cannot come out and be proud while also maintaining their safety.
Now, how do you help turn this into a society that is less heteronormative?
- Don’t assume someone’s sexuality or gender identity
- Use language that is inclusive. Don’t say boyfriend and girlfriend, but partner or significant other or lover**.
(**because why not be sex-positive, also?!)
- Don’t ask and, really, don’t tell. I think in most circles it makes sense not to add race as a qualifier to a story when it bears no relevance on the anecdote in talking about individuals. So why do we add that someone is gay, lesbian, trans-identified when talking about, say, how they shopped at Macy’s that weekend? Even in my queer social circles, I cringe a little when someone has to tell me just exactly how or what someone is… why can’t we let them self-identify?
and, maybe, even go big:
- If you’re heterosexual, come out to your family. Make it part of common dialogue, open a door to some queer discourse. This can be a ridiculous, over-the-top way to do so, but woah! Think of the interesting conversation you’re about to have! …and think of what socially constructed process you are working to normalize, to make coming out for individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex or asexual a less-apprehensive conversation to initate.
Oh, and why I do not support National Coming Out Day, reason THREE)
I resent the social rhetoric that individuals must come out, must label themselves, must identify. I am not advocating that someone stay “in the closet” or even “come out” of it; no, I am advocating that the concept of a closet itself should not exist. Everyone has their reasons to out or not out themselves, which we should not criticize or analyze or decide for them because it is not our place. Not even a little! We have no idea another individual’s complete social location and personal context!
I hope to incite thought regarding the social restrictions we place on a large part of our population and invite change in making our society less heteronormative, and therefore safer and more affirming to be who we are.
If interested in more discussion about "how eight premises of sexuality, gay identity, and the closet contribute to the existence of paradox, an interactional situation constituted by contradiction," I recommend reading "Narrating the Closet: an Autoethnography of Same-Sex Attraction" (click HERE for Amazon link) by Tony E. Adams. He "first outline[s] the following premises: gay identity is (1) inextricably tied to the metaphor of the closet; coming out is necessary when gay identity (2) is invisible; the closet draws meaning (3) only in relation to heteronormative contexts; gay identity, as a (4) stigmatized identity, makes coming out a (5) potentially dangerous act; coming out is conceived of as a (6) necessary and important, (7) discrete and linear, (8) inescapable and ever-present process.