National Coming Out Day

11 Oct

October 11 is National Coming Out Day in the US (it’s the 12th in the UK), and since I’ve been out (and really, really out online) for a long time, today, what I’m thinking about is those times when I’ve not been.

Like two nights ago when I played the pronoun game at an awards banquet thingy when someone took “partner” to mean “husband” and it just seemed too awkward to correct them. It’s hard, I’ve always found, in small talk with strangers, even if you’re comfortable being out, to have to say, “Oh, by the way, you’re wrong.”

I’m lucky enough to run into situations like this rarely, but they always linger with me, long and strange.

And the world is changing so fast; I don’t always even know how to keep up.

When I met my guitar teacher, for example, she asked if I’m married, and I said, “Oh, no, I’m gay,” which actually didn’t make sense as an answer in New York State anymore (unless we’re actively talking about non-assimilation, which is a great convo, but was not the one at hand). Anyway, she’s surely forgotten about it, but I think about it from time to time; how it marks my age; and how my age has marked me.

So, on the odd chance you were one of the few people who didn’t know: I’m queer. Queer is my preferred word because it lets me get the genderqueer stuff and the attraction stuff and the fact that I feel like bisexual is too binary a word for me (but I’m really interested in gender, it’s not an afterthought, so apparently pansexual is wrong too? I don’t know, I’m not great at keeping up with the ever expanding QUILTBAG terminology) and the probability that I really can’t pass all into one neat little syllable.

I’ll also take gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, whatever, because they’re all varying degrees of accurate and I know queer isn’t a comfortable word for everyone. Mostly, it’s like my pronouns — if you’re not using it as an insult, with that nasty little hitch in your voice — we’re good. As ever, in case anyone still needs to know this, don’t use queer for people who don’t self-identify as queer, and please, it’s an adjective, not a noun.

Meanwhile, coming out is a privilege and should be a choice (political figures who actively support anti-gay agendas and who later turn out to be queer, being a common, but not universal, exception to this belief).

Additionally, coming out is complicated. For a lot of us, it involves not a sentence, but paragraphs, about sexual preference, romantic attraction, personal history and gender presentation and identity; and if we pass for whatever reason(s) (which is this whole mess of a thing filled with advantages and disadvantages and all sorts of complicated stuff), it can feel even harder to speak up.

Coming out can also often involve not just speaking personal truth, but often, countering assumptions or offering reassurances (No, mom, you didn’t make me gay). This can be everything from tiring to amusing to heart-breaking to just plain weird.

Of course, coming out also carries real, serious risks — homophobic violence still exists around the world (including even in my precious New York City) and in most US states you can still be fired from your job for no other reason than being or being perceived as being LGBT.

However, in spite of that (and perhaps because of it) if coming out, if being out, is a thing you feel you can do, it’s probably a good thing, not just for yourself, but other people in your community. Secrets are, I think, a dangerous currency, easily stolen.

National Coming Out Day has a lot of purposes. It says we are not silent. It says we are not invisible. But it also says you are not alone.

And that’s true regardless of whether you’re out or not.

This blog welcomes anonymous and pseudonymous comments that are non-abusive in nature. That’s true every day, but that’s especially true today. If you want to make this random little corner of the Internet a place you can be out in today, you are welcome to do so, but if you just want to keep reading along, that’s cool too. Either way, we’re honored to have you.

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9 Responses to “National Coming Out Day”

  1. deconstructingglee October 11, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    I remember when I was much younger, with long hair and skirt suits and make up and high heels how frustrating it was to pass as straight. I never wanted to. I wanted to pass within the community, not outside it. I also wanted other things (career, success, love) and didn’t understand how those things conflicted or worked or anything, but I dressed for someone other than myself for a very long time.

    There were obvious benefits, but aside from that, it was awful. I’d deal with a gay couple at work, and they’d be noticeably uncomfortable saying things and calling each other “friends” or “roommates” and I’d want to just scream across the table, “It’s ok, I’m gay too.” I started wearing a verboten necklace (no symbols at work rule) with a Labrys on it. I got an obvious rainbow tattoo on my wrist.

    And now that I’ve short hair and I dress like a man and people would otherwise assume, I’m wearing a wedding band in a country with no gay marriage. Honestly, when people mutter “dyke” as they pass me in town, I’m half happy.

    • Silverkit October 15, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      “started wearing a verboten necklace (no symbols at work rule) with a Labrys on it.”

      “I’d want to just scream across the table, “It’s ok, I’m gay too.” I”

      Sigh…yeah.

      A very nice older lesbian once told me “Look, I hate to break this to you, but you pass. You need to go out and buy yourself a really gay t-shirt.”

      Which was a nice idea in theory, but in practice turned out to be harder to pull off since I can’t really wear t-shirts…anywhere besides my own home. Her new piece of advise is to “March myself into a feminist book store and buy myself a Labrys.”

      So here I am….with a tab open that has a Google search for “Labrys necklace” kicking off round two in my (so far) frustrating search for the gay lady community.

  2. Jude Araya October 11, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    I’m actually crying really hard while I write this, so please forgive any errors or incoherency. Ive been slowly reading your blog and older posts because I feel like I have so much to learn. I’m a 30 year old woman, I am married with kids and in love and there is no real reason I feel like I should be saying anything, other than to say, this isn’t right. I always thought there were only three choices for sexual orientation, growing up, and I never quite fit into any of them so I chose the one that seemed the closest. I always thought that gender was binary and every doubt I had about who I was inside my body was strange, or weird, or just something that must not be thought about too much.

    I don’t want to change anything in my life, really, but I’d love to understand who I am. How it is that I can enjoy my life and my marriage and still feel like *sometimes* the body I was given isn’t the right one, but sometimes it *is*. And I’m afraid to talk to anyone in my RL about this because I don’t know that anyone would ever understand, and I’m pretty sure my husband would freak the hell out and how could I ever explain any of this when I don’t have the words.

    Anyway, I wanted to thank you for writing this blog (which I realize really has nothing to do with me, but I’m benefiting, so thank you). Because I am learning little by little and even though you don’t know me and probably don’t really care (I don’t mean that as negatively as it sounds, I just mean, no one really needs to feel invested in a complete stranger over the internet) and what you are doing is important, to me. It’s helping me, and I just needed to thank you.

    So this is me, not really coming out, but at least ready to say that maybe one day, when I know what to say and who I am, I will.

  3. maggirohde October 11, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I used to feel that NCOD was kind of a moot point for me… I mean, I’d just say, “Yep, still queer,” and move on. But as time passed, and I had kids, and I moved past college and into my adult life, I realized there were plenty of people who didn’t know me as queer. Now there are whole boatloads. I work in an elementary school and it’s even harder than ever to be out, which is funny considering how much the world has changed in the last seventeen years since I first came out. A good reminder. Thanks.

  4. Michelle October 11, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    I really appreciate that you get the complicatedness of being. Of being one thing yet seem something else entirely and not being able to talk about it for a myriad of reasons.

    I’m bi and have only come out to a very few people who know me because I’m still figuring stuff out and I’m not ready to deal with potential drama/gossip. I’m in a 19+ year, heterosexual, monogamous marriage, with a kid and it took me a long time to figure out one could be married to a guy and monogamous and bi. I’d unconsciously bought into both the narratives that bi was a pit stop on the way to discovering one was really gay and that people who are bi are just all about getting sex and aren’t choosy.

    I had to do a lot of reading and chatting with people I really trust to figure some of this out. And because I’m in my early 40s, info on this wasn’t readily available when I was younger, so it just took a really long time to find it.

    Anyways, thank you. Your ability to tease apart the various issues surrounding gender, sexuality, and desire have helped me put into words what had previous been incoherent, disconnected thoughts. And let me know some of what’s possible.

  5. A. Non October 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    “Additionally, coming out is complicated. For a lot of us, it involves not a sentence, but paragraphs, about sexual preference, romantic attraction, personal history and gender presentation and identity”

    This, gads, this! I seldom come out in person because it’s not as simple as “I’m bisexual”, I feel like I’m always pegged as a fraud because I’m married, or a bad partner to my husband because I admit I’m attracted to women, and I don’t really want to get into history by way of explanation either.

  6. Anton October 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    It is something of a relief today to write my post about coming out, because I’ve spent so long not talking about it.

    “Additionally, coming out is complicated. For a lot of us, it involves not a sentence, but paragraphs, about sexual preference, romantic attraction, personal history and gender presentation and identity”

    Oh seriously. Eight million words about how I’ve always felt gay but not gay enough and how could I be even if I am a trans dude married to another dude and which side of my relationship history can we really consider the gay side anyway and on and on and on.

  7. Erin October 12, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    I felt uncomfortable posting about National Coming Out Day on Facebook, so I decided that, right there, was reason enough for me to do it.

    In college, I always used to come out as a survivor when the topic came up. I didn’t want anyone else to feel like they needed to out themselves so that they could have someone speak for them and not about them. While a little scary, that was comparatively simple for at the time. I didn’t feel pressured. I felt like coming out was important.

    After I came out when I was 15, I spent a lot of time not being sure if I was queer enough. I never dodged the question when I came up, but I sometimes forgot to tell people. This recursive uncloseting business is bullshit. Do I have to do this every year on Facebook? Am I sentenced to screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’M QUEER EVEN WHEN I AM NOT HAVING SEX WITH ANYONE!” forever? I think that might be even more annoying than “I STILL HAVE THE SAME DISABILITIES EVEN WHEN I’M NOT CARRYING A CANE, ASSHOLE,” which is really saying something.

    Here’s what I’ve learned so far: posting about National Coming Out Day on Facebook is to Likes as posting Klaine gifs to Tumblr is to <3s. It's nice that we can all vomit with love about the same things.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Glee’s Blaine Anderson and Bowties and Passing « Deconstructing Glee - October 11, 2011

    […] morning, I woke to Racheline Maltese’s post on National Coming Out Day (which, incidentally, we don’t have in Ireland) and while I was writing the long comment to […]

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