So, coming out of the closet …
It’s a big deal in the lives of people who identify themselves with the LGBTQIA community. (Let’s say the Queer community for brevity’s sake.) Although it seems like you can say, “Hey, I’m gay!” and be done with it, coming out is not really that simple. It’s a process of honestly and openly identifying yourself to yourself and others. The Queer community involves a wide spectrum of individuals but queerness is not as easily recognizable as other minorities, despite the many existing stereotypes. Expressing your gender/sexual identity and/or sexual preference – which is technically “coming out” – can be an awkward experience, which you would not necessarily want to repeat, and yet you are conditioned to do it over and over again, depending on where you are and who you are with.
In a heteronormative society where each and every one of us is expected to pair up with someone of the opposite sex or to conform to the gender we are assigned at birth, coming out would involve two main phases – coming out to oneself and coming out to others. A lot of queer individuals may hail, “Baby, I was born this way!” but their queer lives do not actually begin until they start identifying with the Queer community. The start of that identification is the first phase of coming out. When you start to realize that you are attracted to members of your own sex or not exclusively to members of the opposite sex or that your sexual/gender identity is conflicting with your biological gender, it can be overwhelming and intimidating. It means that you are part of an underrepresented minority and that you are not conforming to the norms of society – heteronormality, to be specific. We all know and we all (unconsciously) like to pick on those who are different, and realizing that you are different does make you vulnerable. You’d start to wonder if the queerness is really you, if it’s a passing state, if someone’s bewitching you – all sorts of thoughts. It takes some time to warm up to the fact that you are indeed queer and more time to accept that it’s not going away. And when you’ve reached that point – whether or not you are happy with that realization – hey, you just went through phase 1.
Phase 2, coming out to others, is actually what makes the process of coming out never-ending. Phase 1 of coming out may be mere self-realization, not necessarily accompanied by self-acceptance, and is involuntary; however, phase 2, is optional and the reason one would go through it would vary widely. You might come out to others because you want to be honest with them and not feel like you’re hiding something important, because you think/believe they should know your true identity, because you want reassurance that your queerness is not bad or wrong, etc. But whatever the reason, your first coming out to someone besides yourself would involve a desire for security and reassurance about your own identity concerning the queerness. Thus, we end up coming out to the ones closest to us, who may not necessarily be the most supportive or even accepting. If, unfortunately, you happen to come out first to someone who revolts at your queerness, you may fall into confusion about your own identity and your relationship with that person would probably go downhill. But if you happen to come out to someone who would celebrate your identity, yay, you can start a gay life – gay in both senses of the word. (And, FYI, there is no “stupid-gay”. Of course, there are stupid gay people like there are stupid any kind of person, but you know what I mean.)
It is only the first several coming out incidents where you want the persons you are coming out to, to embrace – or at least, accept – your identity. After you have gathered a considerably large crowd of allies/supporters, you stop caring who you come out to or how they react to your coming out (unless of course, you are in a land that would punish you by death for being queer). Still, you still need to come out, even after you have your bunch of allies, to different crowds at different times and different places. Your friends and family may be comfortable with your queerness but you would need to tell your grandparents, aunts and uncles or your cousins that you are not dating a girl (if you’re gay) or that you’re not dating a guy (if you’re lesbian). You’ve been out in high school and go off to college; you might want to come out to your roommate. You’ve been out in college and you graduate; are you going to be closeted at work? You move in to a new neighbourhood with your partner; would you want your neighbours to call them your roommate/housemate? The process of coming out is open-ended and these are just some typical examples.