National Coming Out Day is a great way to raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community, but there are other factors to consider about how this day may affect those still closeted.
As a bisexual, I support the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community and all the awareness surrounding queer rights. However, as a bisexual, I also know how difficult it can be to come out to your family and friends, and believe that having a designated “day” to do so is not realistic nor healthy for those who are still closeted. This is why I don’t fully support National Coming Out Day, which occurs on 11 October each year. Before you get mad, hear me out.
When I came out to my parents it was one of the most gut-twisting experiences of my life. I had wanted to come out to my family for over a year but struggled to find a moment where I felt safe to do so. One night I was driving home with my parents and it hit me: it was time to tell them. When I opened my mouth to speak, the words were trapped; every time I tried to tell them all I could think was, “if you say this now, things will never be the same”. No, things would never be the same. We live in a society where people see you differently once they know you’re not straight. But, I also knew that I wasn’t happy having to put on a mask every time I was home. I hated how I felt when I was pretending to be straight, so I knew that telling them was necessary for my happiness, regardless of how they saw me after they knew.
There won’t ever be the “perfect” time to come out, but for me, I knew when it was the necessary time. I was glad that I hadn’t pressured myself to come out to my parents sooner, but I was also glad that I didn’t force myself to keep it a secret when the right time came. My coming out experience was the “perfect” time for me.
Every coming out story is unique, despite many of us having the same fears and emotions running through our brains at the time. For me, the car was the perfect setting because it was helpful to be in an enclosed space where we could talk it out and they could ask me questions. For others though, this might have been the worst possible moment.
That is why I don’t agree with having a national day for people to come out. I think that this kind of day puts pressure on those who haven’t come out yet and may put shame on them for not being ready. My fear of coming out made me question my sexuality for years. Maybe I couldn’t tell people I was bisexual because I wasn’t actually bisexual – internalised bi erasure at its finest. I also felt guilty for not being as brave as the other queer people I knew who were out, wondering “if they can be brave, why can’t I? Why can’t I be proud of who I am?” As time passed, though, I realised that it wasn’t about bravery or pride, but instead about how much of myself I felt safe sharing with others.
I support the part of National Coming Out Day that involves people sharing their coming-out stories because these can inspire those who aren’t out yet. It can also help those who are out process their experience. This day can be a great opportunity for queer people to share ideas and answer questions on what it’s like to come out to a loved one, as well as raise awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. Awareness for coming out is good. However, I think that many may feel pressure on this day to come out, and that is something that makes me weary. Instead of being a day for people to come out, I think it would be better suited as a day to share information on how to safely come out.
Coming out is a personal experience, and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be forced. You should feel safe and should know deep down that you want to do it. If you decide to come out, it shouldn’t be because it’s 11 October, but instead should be because you have chosen it to be the day when you share an intimate piece of yourself with others.