Tuesday, October 11th, marks National Coming Out Day (NCOD) here in the US! It was first celebrated in 1988 on the one year anniversary of the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. When faced with harassment, rather than responding negatively LGBT rights activists responded with NCOD to share positivity and celebration within the community and those around. In 1990 the group behind the day merged their efforts with the Human Rights Campaign and has been partnered with them ever since. Today, it’s not only celebrated in the United States but in a few other countries around the world as well!
Coming out can look like so many different things to so many different people, For some, coming out is a moment of celebration - baking a rainbow cake, having a gender reveal party, bringing your romantic partner home, running out of your room with a pride flag tied around your neck like a cape just days before a major hurricane is set to hit your town (okay, maybe that last one is just me…) Some people even come out several times as they learn more about themselves. For a lot of people, it’s a big deal. You’re sharing a part of yourself and trusting - hoping - that those you’re telling will accept you and continue to love you. And that is worth celebrating.
But not everyone is comfortable with coming out - and that could be for a whole host of reasons. The most obvious one is safety; for so many, to be honest about who they are could mean opening the door to abuse, harassment, unemployment, houselessness, or disowning. These threats are more present in some lives than others, and it is up to the individual to assess the level of danger they might be putting themselves in before coming out. Sometimes, coming out just simply is not a safe option.
Another reason a person may choose to not come out is because of how exhausting it can be. For many in our community, coming out is often accompanied with explaining the meaning of our identity, sometimes in more detail than we’re comfortable with. And while I want to educate everyone around me on labels and identities, it’s tiring to have to do it every single time I share a piece of myself with another person. And usually what accompanies the definitions and answers to the seemingly never ending (and far too personal) questions is defending. Having to defend myself, my identity, and other queer people from those who don’t understand, is exhausting. And so rather than officially coming out, one may just choose to not share that part of them with others. For whatever reason a person may choose not to come out, and that does not invalidate their identity or make them any less queer than a person who has come out.
Maybe the person isn’t ready to come out just yet, and that’s okay too. There’s never any rush to come out. Besides, no one ever comes out just once. As queer people, we spend our whole lives coming out as we meet new people and make new friends, as we continue to grow and learn more about ourselves. Coming out is regarded as an achievement in the queer community, and while it should absolutely be celebrated we should also keep in mind that it is not one everyone can or wants to reach. But regardless of whether or not you’ve come out to every person in your life, celebrate yourself on NCOD. Because even if you aren’t out to others, you’ve come out to yourself, and sometimes that can be the hardest thing to do. The journey of self discovery is not always easy or clear, and discovering more about who you are is worth celebrating. So happy coming out day, even if you haven’t come out to everyone for one reason or another. You are still valid, you are seen, and you are queer enough.