I think one of the most interesting misconceptions of the gay community has to do with “coming out.” In a lot of literature, it seems like coming out is a singular event, it-happens-once-and-then-you’re-out-for-good kind of deal, which any out LGBT person can tell you is completely untrue.

Coming out is a constant, ongoing process which takes a lot of care, trust, and good judgment.  It’s about deciding who needs to know, who you want to know, who has the right to know, and how soon to tell them.  It’s about how much of your true self you are willing to put forth at any given time.

I think of coming out as one of the most unique experiences our modern

culture offers: in a way, all people “come out” with small aspects of their personality- the classic football player’s love for baking or the business man who cross-dresses on weekends.  Just like these modern archetypes, LGBT people all keep an aspect of their life quiet for a period of time; they hide a chunk of their essence because of fear, misunderstanding, or insecurity.  But, unlike the baking football player, coming out as LGBT exists on a whole other emotional playing field, because the confession is no longer one of practice, but one integral to the person’s being.

If necessary, a football player can stop making cookies on Saturday night- he may be sad to leave his favorite hobby, but he can choose to do so if he feels that it is bringing upon him too much criticism or mockery.  An LGBT person, on the other hand, can never abdicate that part of themselves.  He/she/ze will always be gay and that cannot change.  A gay person can suppress that part of themselves- like transgender people wearing cis-gendered (aka- aligned with their birth sex) clothing so not to draw attention to their true gender identity- but they can never completely eradicate the feelings that make up that identity.

Which is why coming out is so difficult EVERY SINGLE TIME.  A gay person does not simply say “Hey world, I’m gay,”

and then never need to express it again.  They will always be telling new people about their partner, about their gender or their preferred pronouns, or their sexuality.  Coming out never stops.  And it is incredibly hard.

Being LGBT forces you to read people immediately and accurately so that you know how much of the truth you can give out.  It forces you to constantly measure yourself and your personal feelings against other people’s prejudices and values.  And occasionally, it means coming out in spite of them, putting yourself in the path of hatred or rejection, in

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order to change someone’s point of view.

I can’t tell you how to come out and I can’t tell you who to tell first.  I can’t tell you when to do it for the first time, but I can tell you that there is no such thing as the last time.  You will always be coming out, always shaping and influencing with your disclosures and your trust.  And for that, the only thing I can say is thank you.  Thank you for your courage and conviction, for your belief in yourself and the purity of who you love.  Thank you for being ok with yourself and for slowly but surely teaching the rest of the world to be ok with it too.

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