“Coming out of the closet, or simply coming out, is a metaphor for LGBT+ people's self-disclosure of their sexual orientation or of their gender identity. Framed and debated as a privacy issue, coming out of the closet is described and experienced variously as a psychological process or journey.”
I am probably showing my age, but during my time at school I was not aware of any other LGBT pupils. In fact, the discussion around being gay or any other sexuality for that matter, simply wasn’t discussed. The reason was Section 28, which was a badly written piece of legislation, prohibiting the intentional promotion of homosexuality or to publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.
In a climate where the LGBT+ community were still regarded as second class citizens, the thought of coming out in a school environment was simply unheard of at the time. In a world where there was no internet, and a hostile social environment, it simply wasn’t common for people to come out. The consequences were significant and discrimination far ranging.
However, since the repel of Section 28 and marriage equality, along with the internet as a good source of information and support, I hope that younger LGBT+ people do not feel the stigma or isolation, that I, and others before them experienced.
The question these days is, should you even have to say anything at all? I recall an example from a US television series called Ugly Betty, if you haven’t seen it, I can highly recommend it. Towards the end of the last season, our long-term suspicions of Betty’s young nephew (Justin) being gay were finally confirmed. The family had worked it out and wanted to throw him a coming-out party to show their support and acceptance.
However, Betty’s gaybour (gay neighbour, see what I did there?) and work colleague saw an email and frantically tried to stop them, saying that Justin will come out when he is ready to come out.
The viewers were left wondering how this story line was going to unfold and how Justin was going to announce it. During his mother’s wedding, he had brought his boyfriend along, and was clearly uncomfortable, feeling as those all eyes were on him. He didn’t want anyone to know, and as far as he was concerned it wasn’t anyone else’s business. However, one the problems of not coming out, is that you don’t get to enjoy living your life how you want, because there is the weight of keeping the secret concealed.
The urge to live his life, and not sit on the side lines watching everyone else live theirs and to share a dance with his boyfriend was stronger than his fear, and in the video below you can see exactly how he came out, without uttering a single word.
OK, now obviously, this was light entertainment, and in the real-world things are never quite as smooth as this, but there are few things here to point out. He didn’t have to say anything, he felt better once he had done it and no longer had to hide that part of his life from his family who he cared deeply about.
I know that not every coming out story has a happy ending, but from all the stories I hear, the clear majority are a positive experience, and people get a far better reaction than they had anticipated. In fact as the following video (which contains colourful language) shows that you don’t always get the reaction you were expecting.
So in summary if you chose to come out today, then congratulations, I hope you get the response and support you were hoping for, and I have found that each time you come out, it gets easier each time.