This week I got asked multiple times, why LGBT people need to come out because heterosexual people don’t go around telling people about their sexual orientation to everyone. At first sight the question may seem simple and innocent, but to someone like me who is part of the LGBT community, it’s a question that’s hurtful. I thought it’d be useful to shed some light on why this is…
My wish is one day there will be no coming out conversation because people in society will be accepting of ALL people and the structures of the society will not favor heterosexual people (i.e. marriage, adoption, government benefits for families etc..). As a society we have made massive strides, but we are not there yet. Unfortunately, we live in a society where being heterosexual is the norm and if you don’t fit into the norm than you need to make a safe space for yourself within your world where you can be honest with who you are with those that matter. The alternative is pretending to be someone who you are not just so you blend in. I don’t want to talk about my sexual orientation in all conversations, but if someone jokes around and asks me why I haven’t found a boyfriend I would like the opportunity to change the word boyfriend to partner. I can’t make that change unless I’ve told people about my sexual orientation.
If you’re a closeted LGBTQ individual, what are some experiences you deal with on the daily? California State University has a brilliant set of answers which are listed below. I can personally relate to all of the items.
• It means sitting in fearful silence while those around you argue that you have no right to love, no right to be, and your professor says nothing to counter their ignorance.
• Or when you do speak up to defend the lives and rights of gay people you are attacked for being over-reactive or for taking things too personally.
• It means not fully participating in life, because if you do take your same-gender date in a social setting because you will be ostracized and made to feel uncomfortable.
• It means holding back from being openly affectionate with your same-gender girlfriend/boyfriend while the heterosexual students around you are touching, holding hands with and kissing their partners.
• It means never feeling comfortable in heterosexual social settings because people around you don’t really know who you are and you don’t know how to tell them.
• It means being ridiculed, stared at, laughed at by people who don’t even know you, but who have heard you are part of LGBTQ community.
• It means always being on your guard—having to tell lies about yourself and feeling bad about it.
• It means being met with silence and downward glances when you do finally find the right moment to those who matter to you know that you are lesbian/gay.
• It means going along and pretending when you’re with heterosexual students who comment on the attractiveness of someone of the opposite sex, even though you want to tell them the truth about yourself.
• It means suspecting that some someone else is part of LGBTQ community, but never having the courage to ask forthrightly for fear of being found out and rejected.
• It means keeping your best feelings—feelings of love and affection—a secret, as though they were something dirty or shameful.
• It means never letting your frustration or anger show when people in your spheres routinely make heterosexist remarks that exclude you and how you lead your life.
• It means never being able to talk about your life, your hopes, your dreams freely and as matter-of-factly as do all of the heterosexual students who you live with day in and day out.
• It means being afraid to go to an event sponsored by the lesbian/gay community because someone you know might see you and then your secret would be out.
• It means wanting to be out and proud in all spheres of life, but being fearful because you’re not yet out at home to your parents or family members.
• It means feeling alone and feeling different.
It’s my sincere hope that this post has provided you with a different perspective on life from an LGBTQ perspective.
If you’re interested in learning more about heterosexual privilege, the coming out process, how to be an ally of the LGBTQ community and other topics, California State University has some awesome information.