What is ‘coming out’ in 2015 as LGB or T? Do we need to do it? Same-sex marriage exists, being gay/bi is no longer treated as an issue (or neither should it be) but why is there still the need for people to come out?
I write this the day after National Coming Out Day, but it’s still a thing LGBT people do on a daily basis the world over. Be it to friends, family, colleagues or classmates, it happens and it happens more than once in someone’s lifetime.
The weird thing is that ‘coming out’ can be something one worries about even though your peers demonstrate they are not homo/bi/transphobic. You know that at the end of the day it will all be fine, even though sadly for many this is far from the case. I guess with some people it’s about gauging reactions before making those first steps.
But why do people feel the need to come out in general? To many LGB or T people it’s about truth, not only being true to your peers but being true to yourself. You feel you are ‘living a lie’ by not living openly and comfortably with your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Unfortunately whether we like it or not Western Society is ‘heteronormative’. The defaults are cisgenderism and heterosexuality, despite the fact sexuality and gender are both wide spectrums with almost infinite facets. For some reason just taking the first step out of the closet can be a terrifying prospect, no matter what cultural background you come from LGBT is still very much a ‘minority’ despite things getting progressively better as time goes on, a good example is that sexual orientation and gender identity are both protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.
Let’s take celebrity as an example. The idea that if you are famous then your personal life is the world’s business. That is certainly how many people in the public eye are treated. Tom Daley, bronze-award winning Olympic diver, revealed he was in a relationship with a man in a YouTube video in December 2013 and it was on the headlines of all the papers. Why? Why make such a fuss over it? Why make a deal of his sexuality? It’s Daley’s personal life.
Indeed, if there are ‘out’ LGBT people then people can not only look up to them but be more accepting. Also if non-LGBT people know LGBT people then they are more likely to be understanding and accepting.
As well there’s the whole issue of assumption. A well-known actor revealed he was gay and the reaction on Twitter was ‘We know’. Is that a positive reaction? TV presenter/internet celebrity Tyler Oakley responded “No you didn’t, they didn’t tell you.” The issue of stereotypes is a whole different one – people make assumptions based on how someone acts and presents themselves of their sexuality or gender identity, often these assumptions lead to negative connotations thus raising one’s fear of coming out. Also in this situation this could lead to people pressuring a person to come out when they are not ready. Even if you are a friend giving support this is a wrong way of going about it – encouragement not force.
Coming Out is undoubtedly one of the most personal journeys in an LGBT person’s life, however being open about who they are can give them strength.