It’s National Coming Out Day, the only holiday I can think of that celebrates sex without actually sexualizing individuals.
Unlike most people, I never had a proper coming out story. I knew I was gay by the time kids were talking about sex, so there wasn’t really much a period where I felt the need to hide my orientation. I was bullied for a short while before realizing it myself, but due to moving frequently I never had to redefine myself by coming out. With family there was never a cathartic “Guys, I’m gay,” just a quiet understanding born from repeated, careless failures to clear browser history. The closest experience I’ve had to coming out is recently acknowledging my pup side, and that is definitely not a fair parallel to draw.
I’m a gay, poly-minded man who’s a bondage freak, gear enthusiast, sadist, and pup. The greatest source of privilege I have does not stem from my race or my gender, but the overwhelming warmth and acceptance I have chanced into, continually, in finding people who do not judge me for those aspects of my identity. I cannot fathom what it would be like to live without that warmth - lacking the support to do something as simple as being yourself - so I surely lack understanding of the struggles encountered by those not yet out.
It takes strength to be yourself in a culture that celebrates conformity, a strength I try to instill in every person I meet by showing them their aberrance is not only acceptable but should be celebrated. Coming out isn’t just about sexual orientation: it’s about unapologetically being your whole self, whatever that might be. The more of yourself you allow to be seen, the more you find people in dire need of validation that will allow them to stop suppressing parts of themselves. The more you open up, the more you find out there are people who feel just like you. For every person willing to be a new data point in the examples that lead to bias, the more difficult it becomes to believe a stereotype and the less likely people are to see stigma in labels. The less afraid of labels people are, the more intuitively they understand that attributing stigma to a label is inherently flawed and wrong.
I would never judge or demean someone who is unable to come out or isn’t yet ready to, but it is important to remember that there is more to this equation than controlling one’s own image. The more reluctant you are to share something about yourself, the greater the need is for you to do just that. If we can’t show people we’re comfortable with ourselves, how can we expect them to be comfortable with us?
That being said, if there’s something that you have trouble admitting, today is the best possible opportunity to make it public. Come on in: the water’s fine and you’re fucking amazing! And no, I won't apologize for the mixed metaphor.