“Come out, come out, wherever you are.” This could be the shout of children playing hide and seek or the snarl of a horror-film villain. Today, on what is apparently ‘National Coming Out Day’ I wonder which it is for you, and for me. Come out come out, whoever you are…
I am writing this post in recovery from a hysterectomy [the featured image contains flowers that I received as a get well gift], which raises particular questions about coming out. Why do we have to do it over and over again? Is there ever a point at which a trans person will never have to come out again?
The answer is no, probably not. From the well-wishers who were desperate to know what surgery I had had, to the anesthetist who thought that he had entered the wrong room on seeing a ‘man’ in the hospital bed, being trans has impacted my treatment and recovery. I have been coming out, repeatedly. Being trans is who I am, but not who I am assumed to be, so of course coming out is a part of (almost) daily life.
So, Coming Out Day; is it child or villain? Perhaps both.
On, the one hand, it can be a playful opportunity to assert and/or reassert our identity. For example, if you will allow me a brief diversion, I’m Alex (they/them). Despite common beliefs, I am not in fact a unicorn or a vampire. I am a transmasculine, queer person. I am me, and I am proud of my journey and my story.
On the other hand, it can be deadly serious. It can be the moment that a child, young person, or vulnerable adult, decides to tell someone about who they are. That moment can be full of joy and love, or it can be full of pain, fear and hate. Is encouraging people to come out, no matter what, caring or villainous?
Whilst I am clearly a very ‘out’ person, I do what I do for a purpose. I have heard trans people say that they would like to be like me, but that they aren’t brave enough. Nonsense; you are brave, you are enough, you are just not called to be out. Part of my calling is to take up the cross of being out so that I might help others to understand a marginalised and often maligned part of what it means to be human. You don’t have to be out if you are not ready, or if it is not safe, we have your back.
I also think, though, that the prioritisation of coming out casts LGBT+ people as villains ourselves. It suggests that we are hiding a dangerous secret, and that we will only be ‘whole’ if we divulge. It is the trope of thousands of movies, the terrifying villain ‘comes out’ to their victim and is shown to be merely misunderstood and, gradually, is grudgingly accepted as tragic villain, or even victim themselves.
We aren’t villains or victims, and we don’t have to come out in order to live life to the full. We can just be. You can just be. Privacy is not the same thing as secrecy. Would you feel overwhelming pressure to come out as heterosexual or cisgender?
Religious communities can be risky places to come out. Do you need support? Or guidance about how to support others? Get in touch. Reach out. Live out. (But maybe, just maybe, you don’t need to come out today. And that’s ok.)