Thoughts on Coming Out Day.
By HUNTER RICHARDS
There is an irony in Coming Out Day being within the same month as Halloween. Just when you start thinking about what costumes you could pull off, you’re reminded of the longest running character you pretended to be.
Pretending to be straight was the longest scam I’ve ever pulled. You would think coming out meant less time putting on the daily routine and pretending, but it takes much longer to unlearn what you’ve taught yourself.
I remember hearing that bisexuals were so lucky because they have twice as many options. I would argue that the years of hiding my sexuality have limited my social skills in general. Whether it’s because I’m never sure if a girl is just being nice to me or actually flirting, or nervous to mention that I’m queer in a new social group, I’ve had to calculate the benefit-risk assessment before every action.
If she’s not flirting, will she hate me for hoping she was? Or, even worse, if she was flirting, how am I supposed to respond? Do I flirt back? Can I flirt back? Why do I want to flirt back? No, no, it’s okay to flirt back. Damn, I can’t flirt back. I can’t do this. What if everyone here hates queer people? What would they do to me if they do and they find out? Are they going to hate me? Do I hate me?
Growing up in a conservative area where I didn’t feel safe coming to terms with my queer identity, finding the courage to come out at all took years. I have much less energy to put towards relationships after being left emotionally exhausted coming out. Facing the disapproval and concern from family members, peers, and my community after coming out forced me to be louder and prouder of my identity than I was prepared for.
While I hadn’t ever wanted to be a role model or leader, I was quickly a person others could confide in or look to for guidance about their own identities. Although I still regularly find myself wrestling with my identity, helping others come to terms with the same issues that held me back have made the stress, fear, and anger worth it. Reminding others that they are valued and deserving of love, especially unto themselves, while struggling to accept their identity is important.
Part of why I enjoy encouraging others is selfish. Just because I can’t confidently open up and pursue queer relationships out of my own internalized fear and hatred from growing up doesn’t mean that nobody can. Being the wingman to other queer people feels like I’m still at least earning participation points. The fear of hurting someone else because I’m not ready to admit I’m queer or to actively acknowledge that I’m queer has always kept me from opening up. Even after coming out and overcoming the doubts and negativity from others, I still hold back part of my identity because of my own issues.
Surrounding myself with people who love and support me has helped me come a long way towards accepting and loving myself. I am much happier, healthier, and stronger. I can take pride in my queer identity in a way that I never could before with the support of my friends and family. I don’t know whether I’ll ever entirely mute that little voice in my head that repeats all the negative opinions I’ve ever heard, but my happiness is much louder now.
Coming out can be a very hard, stressful decision and process. No one should feel forced to speed along their progress or share part of themselves they aren’t ready to. Not feeling safe or comfortable telling others about your identity does not invalidate it. You are still you, you are still all you, even if you aren’t ready to show anyone else that or even show yourself.
Hunter Richards ([email protected]) hopes to continue towards loving all of herself and helping others to as well.