“On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights” stated in the HRC website. National Coming Out Day has since been an annual event in which the LGBT community is encouraged to take pride in their identities and, as the name suggests, come out. While this movement is great in certain aspects, such as showing the community support and allowing people to be true to themselves, it also comes charged with a lot of pressure and a false sense of security. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support people who wish to come out; however, the decision to do so is not one to take lightly, and it should be done after much thought and self-reflection.
My struggle with my identity as a queer woman started when I was pretty young. For years, I felt confused and sad about why I felt so “different”. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I realized I wasn’t straight. From that day on any mention of the community made me feel super anxious, especially in my home.The fear of being “found out” and shunned or hurt was terrifying and constant. Seven years later and I still have not been able to “break the news” to my parents due to this fear.
A large majority of people in the LGBT community, especially youth, have experienced similar anxiety and fear about coming out. There are various reasons why coming out is not always the best option for everyone.
First, coming out is a question of safety. When you decide you want to come out you must be honest with yourself about how safe it actually is for you. While you may have extremely loving parents and friends, you can’t count on their response to be 100% a-okay. Because of this, you could become unsafe in that environment. Daily, thousands of LGBT people are the subjects of violence, abuse, and ridicule. LGBT youth also attribute to 40% of the homeless youth found in the U.S., according to a study conducted by The Williams Institute. Along with this, you should make sure that you have a reliable support system, whether this be a friend, family member, or anyone else. If you decide to come out and the environment becomes hostile, you know that you will always have the one support system to fall back on.
Along with violence, there is also the stress of the process. Coming out is not simply a one and done kind of deal. Of course depending on what you choose to do, you could come out hundreds or even more times in your life.
The last thing we need to understand about coming out is that it isn’t exactly necessary. The pressure that National Coming Out Day has on many LGBT people causes a lot of people to come out before they are ready. While of course coming out is important if you make it important, it is not exactly necessary. In order to really be happy in life and with your identity you need to be comfortable with sharing the identity. If you’re fine with only telling a small amount of people, or even keeping it to yourself, then awesome do that. If you want to shout it at the tops of mountains and let the world know, then that’s okay, too. The main thing we have to remember is that there’s no wrong or right way to be you.
So, if you are deciding to come out please try to remember these key things: Are you safe? If you were to come out, do you have support? Coming out is a process. and Be true to yourself and what you really want.