I came out at work today.
I came out to my partner months ago.
I will come out to others tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
Despite the popular perception of “Coming out” for LGBTQ+ people as an event, the truth is that it is many events. Coming out is a multitude, an infinity, of interactions, large and small, public and private, joyful and sorrowful, in conversation and connection each day that we live our lives as ourselves.
Coming out is something to think about in every interaction with a new person.
Should I out myself? How will they react? Do they already know from gossip and grapevines? Am I safe? Can I disengage from this conversation if it takes a wrong turn? Will my voice, or my face, or my mannerisms out me without even meaning to?
The world would, I feel, be easier for LGBTQ+ people if we didn’t have to come out. If straight, cis, white and male were not seen as the default model of humanity. If we just didn’t make assumptions about people’s gender or sexuality based on how they look, how deep their voice is on the phone, or the name they use.
This week is Trans Awareness Week. It seems at times as if the world is already too aware of trans people, and this awareness has led to open hostility, even to violence. Friday is Trans Day of Remembrance, where we remember the people in their numberless masses who were killed for being trans.
Can coming out help shift this awareness in a better direction? I hope so. Many people who hold anti-trans views are not really aware of trans people, they are aware of stereotypes, tasteless jokes, cruel misrepresentations of trans people, but not of trans people as people.
Because that’s what it’s all about really. We are just people.
We have jobs, hobbies, religions, friends, families, hopes and dreams.
And we’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for equal treatment.
And so, I will continue coming out, until enough people know that I can just live out full-time as myself, and hope that doing so can inspire people to see that trans people are people. No more, but crucially, no less.
The narrative of coming out can be harmful – it can pressure LGBTQ+ people, especially young people, into feeling they have to come out, or they’re not authentic, their identities not valid.
This is nonsense.
You don’t owe coming out to anyone. Who you are is who you are, and it’s your choice to tell or not tell anyone else. If you don’t, you are still you. You are still real.
If you’re not yet safe, or ready, to come out, don’t. There will be time.
And you don’t need to come out in some grand gesture. It can be a journey made of many small steps.
I write this as someone mostly though not fully out.
Small steps, each day, will get us there.
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