It’s National Coming Out Day!
Two years ago I used today to publicly come out as queer, and one year ago I came out as trans & non-binary. And this year I’m here to tell you a not so secret fact: coming out never ends.
Even coming out publicly with emails to friends, a blog post, and tweets, there are still people I haven’t come out to today. I’ve accidentally come out to some folks (hi friends & family on Instagram!), and others I have intentionally not told (like my parents). When I go to the doctor I have to make a calculated decision to come out to them or not (I’m out to my PCP, but not my cardiologist, and I only recently came out to my chiropractor because I had to explain what a binder was and why I would wear one and how that might be impacting me).
I came out two weeks ago to the customer service representative with REI when I was trying to get them to just change my name to “Bron” so I don’t have to go through them making a big deal out of my birth name every time I shop there. I get whiplash from coming out when I use the term “partner”, then people catch on that my “partner” is a man, and then the way they read me changes and I have to decide not only whether or not it’s worth explaining, but if it’s safe to.
And maybe I don’t need to come out about being queer to most folks, but if I want people to know and respect me, it’s not like I can avoid coming out about my gender and using they/them pronouns. Never mind that how people read me varies wildly, but yeah, I look pretty queer. So I keep coming out to people.
Honestly, maybe this year I’m coming out as tired. Because we live in a hetero- and cis-normative world, if you’re any flavor of queer or trans, coming out never ends, and it’s exhausting and scary. I’m glad I did come out, and that I continue to do so, but fuck if it isn’t a lot to deal with.
I also want to take a moment to talk about not coming out. There is a lot of emphasis on folks coming out, and consequently, a lot of pressure — particularly on a day like today — to do so. And while visibility and affirmation can be great side effects of coming out, there are so many reasons to not come out, too — and whatever those reasons may be, they are valid. For a lot of people it’s not safe. For most people it is a huge emotional burden and rollercoaster to know who will still love and accept you afterwards. It can impact your work and housing. It can impact your healthcare.
Deciding to come out to anyone is rarely easy, and everyone deserves to do it on their own terms, if they choose to do it at all.
I’ll be incredibly honest — after the 2016 presidential election, I seriously questioned even questioning my gender. It had been one of the only things I could think about for a whole month, I hadn’t said a word about any of it to anyone (even my therapist), and suddenly I found myself staring down the barrel of this presidency. I cried a lot thinking about what that might mean. And the entire time I was wrestling with the question of if I was trans or not (and if I was trans, was I trans enough?), I was also wrestling with an increasingly hostile administration and what that would mean for me potentially coming out in the future. And yeah, that was incredibly difficult to weigh in my decision to come out or not. It’s still a part of the calculations I use today when deciding to come out to someone, honestly.
So, yeah, coming out (or not) is fucking complicated.
Anyway, lots of love to all my fellow questioning, queer, and trans siblings out there — whether you’re out or not, you are amazing, you are valid, and you matter. Keep on keeping on.