National Coming Out Day, which took place this year on October 11, is a celebration for LGBTQ+ people. It’s a day when those of us who are in the closet can bravely fling the doors open and announce proudly to the world “I’m queer!” At least that’s what it’s supposed to be. In reality, National Coming Out Day can put a lot of pressure on young (and some older) people to be braver than they feel they can be. Every year I wonder if maybe it isn’t all just a little too much. Coming out isn’t the most important thing you can do and the stress on it is misplaced.
I didn’t really come out. My closet came with glass doors and a crush on Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I had no idea I was gay, I didn’t even know what gay was, but apparently a lot of other people did. When I realized that I wasn’t 100 per cent straight, I was conveniently in a privileged position that allowed me to just continue with my life. I shrugged it off and knew I wouldn’t ever have to explain myself to anyone.
Coming out is a unique experience for everyone. Sometimes it can be really positive and everyone is really happy for you. Sometimes you get “We know,” as the main response. Not everybody gets a cake covered in rainbow sprinkles and not everybody gets disowned by their family. There’s a range of reactions in between and there’s almost no way anybody can predict what they’re going to get. It’s not easy for anybody and it’s a personal decision. Nobody can make it for you. If you’re comfortable and safe, and in a supportive situation, not having to watch what you say is a lot less stressful. But maybe you’re not. Maybe it isn’t safe for you to ‘come out.’ If that’s the case, make yourself comfortable in that closet. Decorate. Put up twinkle lights and posters of Kristen Stewart. It’s more important that you be safe than ‘brave.’ Find your safe space and be comfortable. Whether it’s an LGBTQ+ group at school (such as Brock Pride), or a blog on Tumblr, there’s someplace for everyone.
Eventually, people won’t have to be brave to come out. Though marriage equality exists in Canada right now, discrimination still happens. People are still scared. We are still not quite at that place where people can just be themselves and everybody just moves on with their lives. Though there are rules and laws against discrimination in many countries, others continue to use corporal punishment against their queer populations. Closer to home, it’s still sometimes difficult to talk with family members who might be a little bit behind the times or might stick to outdated religious ideas that prevent them from accepting gay people.
If you came out this year, congratulations! I hope you got, and continue to get the love and support of your friends and family. If you’re not out, that’s okay too. You’re not a coward. You’re not weak. You don’t owe this to anybody. You’ve got your reasons and no matter what they are, they’re valid. You’re still gay (or whatever!) even if you haven’t told anybody about it.