Coming Out Day

Friday was (Inter)National Coming Out Day. It was a super good day, because my girlfriend is here right now, actually, and that’s not usually the case, because geographical distance is a bitch; but it was nice, too, because this was the first Coming Out Day I’ve done where I was actually, like. Out.

The thing about ~Out~ is that it means a hell of a lot of things. It’s not quite the same for everybody. The most intelligent advice anyone ever gave me about it (and I was given a great deal of advice about it, both intelligent and not) was: You do not come out just once. When you’re in a position to have to do it, you basically spend your life coming out, again and again and again. You come out to every new person you meet, at some point or another. You find, once you begin doing it on a regular basis, that you are a walking destroyer of assumptions; that almost everyone you know, or will ever know, is eventually going to have to rearrange the person you are in their head, and some of them will be able to come to terms with it and some of them won’t.

Coming out on a large scale, for me, felt freeing, because it got so many small comings-out out of the way. It was getting exhausting, keeping track of who would give a damn and who wouldn’t, when I eventually got up the balls to talk about it; it was getting cumbersome, remembering all the people who knew the people who knew, and having to think of them, too. It was too much weight to carry, and there came a point this spring where carrying it no longer felt… necessary. It was like I was carrying all of this potential disapproval on my back, balanced on top of the fear it inspired– but I didn’t really get why I was carrying it anymore. I couldn’t remember who had asked me to carry it, or why I’d ever wanted to do them that favor in the first place. I realized that I didn’t actually care all that much who I offended in finally, finally putting it down.

My coming out didn’t take one day; it took something like five years. On Coming Out Day, I think it’s important to remember all of the life that leads up to a single freeing moment. I think it should be, in the end, less a celebration of those moments than the many journeys that become them.

I came out to my parents once, when I was sixteen, and then I didn’t come out to anyone (except my three closest friends) until I came out to a roomful of near-strangers at an academic camp through a shitty poem a year later; and then I didn’t come out to anyone until I came out to the teacher whose classroom I used to hang out in after school, with shaking hands, after half a year of conversations full of painfully obvious gender-neutral pronouns. I remember when I came out to a boy I quite liked, how closely I watched how he watched me for the rest of the evening. I remember how sometimes, in my freshman year, I would leave a rainbow-colored ribbon on my desk, or wear a rubber bracelet in many colors; I remember I bought a t-shirt from a breast cancer fundraiser that said I LOVE BOOBS, and even though everybody on campus was wearing them, I only wore mine to bed, for fear that somehow, it would betray me. I remember coming out to my sister, and then talking into a microphone about coming out to my sister, and that someone in the crowd found me afterwards and told me that he’d just come out to his sister because of what I’d said. I remember when I started letting my mother, my sister, my friends, come out for me; how I slowly began to forfeit the choice, carefully controlled, of who got to know who I am.

It was slow. Every step, I think, was necessary. I never want to forget that it was not easy; I never want it to be less than one of my greatest victories.

When I came out (in June), I wrote about it in my paper journal. It’s too disjointed to make a post on its own, but I reread it for the first time since I’d written it this week. I wrote, at the end: It’s astounding how much less afraid I have become.



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