"Coming Out Day" Essay (2012)

Originally posted on my Blogger on October 11, 2012. For a "five years later" followup perspective, click here.

So today is "National Coming Out Day"...

As the title suggests, today is the declared National Coming Out Day for many countries throughout the world, and to no surprise, media of all forms are swarming all over the opportunity to cover the topic one way or another. Despite of (or maybe due to?) all the coverage, I have decided that there are a few thoughts about it that I think I'd like to share. Now I'd like to make one thing clear right now of the gate: I don't want this to be a discussion about politics or religion or anything like that. While I obviously have my own personal political and religious views and opinions, but I really don't want this to be polarizing in any way. You'll understand why as you read.

Firstly, I'd like say that, fundamentally, I really don't like that there is such a thing as "National Coming Out Day." To put it plainly, I just don't think it should be necessary that there should be a day so publicly recognized for the declaration of someone's sexuality.

For one thing, making a special holiday for members of the LGBT community to announce their status does not make the act itself any less difficult or stressful. We have all heard about and can imagine utterly horrible coming out experiences, and the fact that there is an official day for it only adds more pressure to those who are still "closeted".

For another, I find it very disheartening that society, as it is, virtually requires that someone who identifies as LGBT to make this very dramatic announcement. I mean, the fact of the matter is, we are all human. We are all people. If nothing else is true about the world we live in, that most definitely is. And in a very broad sense, the act of coming out and putting a label on a person's sexuality creates this visualization of "us" and "them". Sure, some of us are tall, some of them have red hair; some of us are insanely addicted to chocolate, and some of them are allergic to peanuts. But I think it's more than fair to say that virtually anyone today with any basic level of reason understands without a second thought that we are all human beings. Obviously, our history very colorfully illustrates that this was not always the case, but I don't think I'm being too unreasonable in my claim. Society as a whole has come a long way in recent history.

However, that is not to say that we still don't have a long way to go. As much as I fundamentally believe that the whole concept of "coming out" should not be a thing, I realize that it is entirely unrealistic to expect society in its current state to simply accept that. Regardless of any individual's beliefs about sexualities that other than "heterosexual", we live in a society that always assumes everyone is "straight". It seems like such a little thing--a friend joking with one of his buddies, "Dude! When you gonna get a girlfriend?" You know what I mean, too, don't you? I can say with near-certainty that we are all guilty of it--myself included! It's something we just don't think about. We all know that there are very real people throughout the world that do not identify as straight, and yet most of us make the "well I'll never have to worry about it" assumption or are afraid that we will offend someone by implying that they are anything but heterosexual.

So even though I fundamentally believe that a LGBT person has no more a need to declare their sexuality than a "straight" person does, I do understand that it is something that many LGBT need to do. For example, there are people who remain quiet about the sexuality for decades (for whatever the reason may be), and because of this, they grow up with their friends and family assuming they are straight. And it's not necessarily that these people are living a lie (although, I'm sure it can be the case sometimes); it's more that they are simply living silent. Because they are assumedly viewed as heterosexual and they are unable to express their thoughts and feelings when it comes to love or romantic interests of any kinda, it creates this pressure and need to come out--to set the record straight, as it were.

I can tell you from personal experience that it is not an easy way to live. I have thought long and hard about this decision, but the arguments that I've presented above have led me to this point right now. It may make me somewhat of a hypocrite, but I'd like to take this brief opportunity to say to you that yes, I am gay. I am not going to go into any more detail than that, and as much as I'd like to get by with just saying, "I am a man; I am a human being," I don't want to live any more just smiling silently when my friends and family make comments to me about having a girlfriend (and so on). I am discovering that it is really not living at all, and I know that is something that all of you can appreciate. Maybe it's not something you fully understand, and that is perfectly fine, in my option! But I know you would agree that living in complete silence is simply not living life to the fullest. However, going around wearing a giant rainbow flag and shouting through a megaphone "I'M GAY!" is not my idea of living, either! For instance, I would have no problem if you ended up telling someone else about this or that I am gay, but don't be surprised if you never hear me mention this ever again. It's not that I want to avoid the subject--in fact, I'd be more than willing to talk with anyone about this who wanted to have an honest conversation! It's just that it's nothing that I feel really needs to be exclaimed, as I've described throughout much of this discussion.

But I want to be completely honest, here; I don't want this conversation to be all about me. The fact is, there are millions of others in the U.S. alone that are in a similar or worse situation than myself. My heart goes out to them. It really pains me that society forces this idea of a "closet" around some human beings and likewise forces us to have this experience of "coming out" when a person's sexuality simply doesn't matter when it comes to defining a person. I know my friends well enough to know that, regardless of what my sexuality might be, it is not even close to a defining reason why we are friends! And I know the same can be said for nearly everyone in the LGBT community, too. And for those who don't have any true friends that see others for who they really are, again, my heart goes out to them!

 I am so thankful for my friends and family--I don't think I could ever thank any of you enough. I don't know what I'd do without you! I'd like to give a special shout-out to someone who has been there for me for 8 months today, my boyfriend Anthony. Things haven't always been easy or ideal, but for 8 months he's stuck through it all, and he has not only allowed me to learn so much about myself, he is constantly rebuilding my hope for the human race because he is so selflessly kind and genuine. Because people like him exist, I know that society is destined for great things. Change surely won't happen overnight, but I have faith that it will happen.

In the meantime, though, I want to throw out a final thought; I want to challenge each and every one of you reading this to help make the need for "coming out" disappear. A great place for all of society to start is to not make that closeting assumption that everyone is straight. Sure, most people do actually identify as straight. But I think you would be surprised even by how many people you know would chose to identify, at some level, as bisexual if society didn't immediately assume otherwise. This is not to say that you should assume everyone is LGBT, either; it in no way should be a double-standard. Just keep in mind that all human beings come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and regardless what your personal, political, or religious views are, I think you would agree that it is reasonable to respect people for what they are, not assume what they are, and choose to get to know them because of who they are.

With that, I am going to wrap this whole thing up. But I'd really appreciate it if the conversation continued on from here! If you have any thoughts about anything I've discussed tonight--similar or in contrary to my own--please make a comment below! As always, I'd like to use this social media as a conduit for some meaningful discussion, and I appreciate any and all genuine contributions anyone would like to make! I realize this whole thing ended up being pretty novel-esque, but it means a lot that you stuck with it! Thank you!