So today is National Coming Out Day. As I mentioned briefly in my first entry, I did not choose to come out, either as queer or polyamorous. Seven years ago today, I was outed by someone else in an anonymous letter (though I know who sent it), and my parents came bursting through my door with that letter in hand, ready to use whatever tactics were in reach to coerce me out of my existing relationships. I was disowned, my partners were threatened and blackmailed, my family found their addresses and their families’ addresses to use as a bargaining chip, and I wound up involving the police just to try to ensure a modicum of safety for myself and the people I loved.
That morning sent my life down the kafkaesque spiral that has become the subject of this blog. So I would like to take a moment today to express my thoughts on coming out.
First and foremost, I have nothing but respect for those readers who are out or in the process of coming out. There’s no feeling like the freedom of being able to be wholly yourself with no secrets, and the more people who are willing to stand up and identify themselves, the closer we (we as the poly, LGBT, and other struggling communities) will come to full acceptance. I commend your courage and wish you nothing but the best.
But over the years I’ve noticed that there are people who will put pressure on others to come out. If you’re in a relationship with someone who is not out, I understand that frustration. Their secret becomes your secret, your struggle to worry about and protect. But please remember that there are many good and legitimate reasons not to share the intimate details of your life with some of the people you know.
You may have a family who will disown you or make your life a waking nightmare. You may be a minor or disabled and rely on others for your basic needs, and those people might not continue to support you if you were out, leaving you potentially homeless or worse (40% of homeless youth are LGBT). You may have people in your life who might be a danger to you or your partners if you were out (like my parents). You might live in a place where your sexual orientation is still illegal. You might have an employer who does not approve, and your job might be at risk if you were out. Normally I will loudly and proudly assert, “if someone won’t accept you, you don’t need them in your life,” but sometimes it’s just not that simple. Sometimes there are people who are in a position to really hurt us, and that’s usually due to their playing an important role in our lives that makes them in some way inextricable. Sometimes we make the choice to keep some parts of ourselves to ourselves for self preservation, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Asking someone to take risks like these is asking an awful lot.
I celebrated just as hard as the rest when SCOTUS ruled for same-sex marriage equality this summer. I’m thrilled that I have gay friends who are already engaged. But there is still so much work to be done. LGBTs are not protected under equal opportunity employment. It is still perfectly legal to be fired for being queer (let alone any of the other minority relationship/sexual practices). To tell our employers or coworkers this information about ourselves is handing them a loaded gun in the name of openness and convenience.
I’m fortunate that my superiors seem relatively LGBT friendly. I even have a somewhat out lesbian coworker. But I still don’t have the balls to out myself and open myself up to risk my career in case I’m wrong. And most of my family will go to their graves never knowing about most of my relationships, because I’m not going to risk the safety and privacy of the people I care about in the name of honesty.
So on this National Coming Out Day, and every other day of the year, please remember that coming out is a personal decision, not an obligation. Don’t be a dick: don’t pressure someone to come out, and for the love of god, don’t fucking out someone.