Closets Are For Clothes. Really Fabulous Clothes…

Want to know my one and only problem with the idea of “coming out”?  It’s that homosexual people HAVE to come out as homosexual but heterosexual people do NOT have come out as heterosexual because of our frustratingly heteronormative society (which means we just assume that people are heterosexual).  But that said, National Coming Out Day…which was YESTERDAY, by the way…is definitely a good thing, because it gives us a change to acknowledge just how many people don’t really live within that rigid gender binary.

And you guys know me: I am all about people who don’t live within the gender binary.

Before I start talking about National Coming Out Day and why it’s great for the LGBTQ movement, let me pause for a moment to acknowledge the missing letter in that acronym: A.  It stands for allies, people like me (and some of the contributors to this blog, whom you will be hearing from over this month) who support the LGBTQ community without being LGBTQ ourselves.  Check out this post from Heather Murray at The Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit that works on LGBTQ issues (among many other things, such as literacy and genocide awareness), about coming out as a straight ally.

National Coming Out Day gives the LGBTQ movement a chance to celebrate being different if they so choose.  It sends a message that people should NOT have to live in the closet, that sexual identity is something that people should be able to wear openly.  One of the critiques that we sometimes hear of National Coming Out Day is that it frustrates or makes people who CAN’T come out feel bad, because not everyone is in a position where they can safely or comfortably announce that they are gay, bi, trans, etc.

Alright, so by that logic we should not celebrate mother’s day or father’s day because  not everyone has two parents, or has two parents alive, or has parents who are part of their lives still, and this might make them feel bad.  That’s a silly argument to make, is it not?  Obviously we should still celebrate things like family, even if every single person is not made to feel warm and fuzzy inside by the existence of this holiday.

Moreover, we get this response from Corey N., an ally at Adelphi University in New York:

Even if not everybody’s situation is one where they can safely come out, it’s still good to have a structured day for people to show their support. Even if it doesnt remedy a personal situation, it’s still helpful for lots of people in the closet to see that others are going through the same stuff.

He raises a good point.  National Coming Out Day starts a conversation about the LGBTQ population in the United States, which is good for both those living in the closet AND those who have come out.  It sends a message that lots of people go through this, and that there is support for people who are struggling with their identities or find that people are less willing to accept them as they have hoped.

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is “What do I do if someone comes out TO ME?”  So in honor of yesterday’s celebration of National Coming Out Day, here is my advice to people whose friends or family members have chosen to come out to them:

  • Keep this in mind: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. This is about the person coming out.
  • Just be extremely supportive.  If you read this blog (and if you’re the kind of friend someone would come out to) you probably aren’t super homophobic, but even if you have reservations about your friend being gay, just be super supportive during this conversation.  Coming out can be a huge step and you should be flattered that your loved one trusted you enough to tell you like this.
  • Make it clear that this does not change how much you care about this person, and that your relationship will not be altered by the revelation that they are gay, bi, etc.
  • Tell them you have their back no matter what happens.  Coming out can be stressful, intimidating.  Sometimes members of a person’s family won’t take it as well as friends or vice versa.  Make sure this person knows that you will support them no matter what.
  • Let them vent any concerns that they have about coming out.
  • This is the big one: don’t ask too many questions, but consistently be there.  If they tell you that they are going to tell, say, their parents, or a sibling, etc., make sure they know that you’re there if they need you.  They chose you as their confidant.  Make sure you’re someone they can be confident in.

~ by Randi Saunders on October 12, 2011.

One Response to “Closets Are For Clothes. Really Fabulous Clothes…”

  1. […] For tips on what to do to support someone coming out, please check out last year’s post. […]

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