Queer Visibility is a Double-Edged Sword: Brief Thoughts on National Coming Out Day


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CN: Anti-LGBTQ Bigotry

In case you haven’t noticed (i.e. you’ve been away from social media all day), to day is National Coming Out Day, a time for LGBTQ folks to be out and proud. According to the Human Rights Campaign, National Coming Out Day began 28 years ago “as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out.” Every year on this date, most of my LGBTQ friends share their coming out stories and celebrate how liberating it is to be true to themselves.

Unfortunately, not all of my LGBTQ friends celebrate this day. One friend has to keep their bisexuality hush-hush around their spouse’s family. Another friend is a nonbinary atheist teenager who still has to attend Catholic school. Another friend recently contacted me on Facebook telling me how scared she is of coming out as a trans woman. It’s no wonder some of my more radical-leaning queer friends say, “Fuck National Coming Out Day!”

Queer visibility is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the more straight and cis people get to know LGBTQ people, the more they realize we’re, y’know, people. We’re not monsters. We’re not aliens. We’re human beings who have the same worth and dignity as everyone else, and we deserve equal protection under the law.

On the other hand, the bigots see this growing acceptance of LGBTQ people, and they’re scared. They know their old dogmatic ways are dying out, so they fight back. They fight to prevent us from using the bathrooms that aligned with our genders. They fight to prevent us from marrying our lovers. They fight to prevent us from being employed. And when they’re not fighting us on Capital Hill, they’re fighting us in the streets. Even in 2016, LGBTQ people are more likely to be hate crime victims than any other marginalized group (especially if you’re a trans woman of color).

This is why, whenever someone asks me if they should come out, I always ask them if coming out means they’ll end up either homeless or unemployed. While I want all LGBTQ people to be out and open, I don’t want blood on my hands if another queer kid ends up homeless because I told them they have to come out.

Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimistic, but I think things are getting better. Four years ago when I told my gay uncle that I was bisexual, he told me I live in a much more open and accepting world than he did. My uncle came out in the ’70s at the height of the Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign, which killed his dream of being a teacher. While it’s true I came out during a more tolerant time than my uncle did, the fight isn’t over yet.

So here’s a shout out to everyone living out and proud, everyone still forced to stay in the closet, and everyone fighting to fix that.

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