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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

National Coming Out Day

It is National Coming Out day (today in the US and tomorrow here). A day to commemorate and encourage that arduous and liberating process of kicking down the door of that damn closet.

I've spoken about how damaging the closet is. And I've spoken about how tiring filtering everything we say and do is, the effort of constantly being on guard lest you reveal the big dark secret. Being in the closet is hard work, it's painful and it's soul destroying. Being in the closet is often a terrible way to exist

Coming Out is to be released form that and I don't think you can understand the power of that until you've been closeted or the relief and freedom until you've come out. This is why I get extremely irritated when straight folk appropriate the idea. Coming Out was and is the best thing I ever did and very little has felt as good. When I came out, after various dramas ended, there was and is a sense of freedom. There was a weight lifted and just being able to talk, just being able to be is so immensely beyond relief that I can't describe it. Just not having to lie, just not having to act

But being out is not simple. It's not, as we often think, a one time deal. Not only do you have to come out separately to everyone around you, but staying out can be fraught. Being out is, in many ways, a process. There are a lot of forces which will push you back in, a lot of times when you feel the urge to just let something pass, let the assumption go unchallenged. I've always had mixed success in being closeted anyway, but even then there are always chances to duck back into the closet. There's a sense that that door is always open if I want to run in and pull it closed behind me. There's always the pressure to go back into the closet by straight society that doesn't tolerate us. There's always the idea that you better police your behaviour in case you're too gay, always the accusation of flaunting and, of course, the belief that we're too obscene for some circumstances or in front of children.

Coming Out and STAYING Out takes work and takes courage. And part of this day, to me, is not just celebrating the glorious freedom of Coming Out, but also praising the courage of those who have Come Out and who remain Out despite the pressures out there.

What it is not, I feel, is a call or demand for people to Come Out

Yes, I've covered it before, there is never ever a demand to come out. Do not now or ever feel you are obliged to come out. Do not feel you have a duty to come out. No matter what people say about role models or whether we need more out {insert profession here} or whatever, never feel an obligation to come out. Do not ever feel guilty for not coming out, do not bow to pressure and do not feel you owe anyone to come out. It is your life, you do not owe it to anyone else.

Coming Out is a risk. There is nowhere in this world where it is perfectly safe to be GBLT. There is always a risk, always – and that's before we consider high risk location and the devastating effect that prejudice among friends, family and community can bring. I would love if we were all out – but I won't discount that risk or the lives lost.

And if anyone starts going off about “deception” then do us all a favour and give them a slap upside the head with a large wet fish, because that bullshit is ignorant, it's prejudiced and it's frankly vile. None of us owe full and complete disclosure in this bigoted world, and no few of us have to go down a very rocky path of realisation because of internalising of all the fuckery that is out there. If the straighties want us to stop “deceiving” them then they need to change their world to stop punishing us for being “open” and “honest.”

Similarly, any straight, cis folks out there with advice on whether or not we should be out or disclose? Don't. We don't need it, we know the issues way better than you do and it's hellaciously patronising.

Coming out can be freeing and yes, more visibility can help (though, personally, I don't buy into the idea that being more visible will make prejudice suddenly vanish. Maybe it'll reduce it, but no other prejudice has magically disappeared because of visibility so I doubt we will be so lucky) but no-one has a duty to be a martyr.

But if you feel safe and if you feel ready – it can be a wonderful, powerful experience to finally, finally be open. Taking a sledgehammer to those closet walls can be one of the best things that ever happened to you