Coming Out

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day and there is a lot of debate about coming out and whether we should even have to or not. Some feel that we should not have to label or define ourselves. Some people find these labels helpful in expressing who they are to others and to themselves. And still, other people find the process of labeling themselves to be unnecessary and unneeded.

However you feel, it is hard to deny that at some point many QPOC will “come out,”  and that it is something that many people in our community will spend time thinking about, planning, and experiencing. During these phases, many of us think or continue thinking about the significance of coming out. So to help those in our community who are thinking of coming out here is a list of 10 things to consider before coming out.

1) It’s okay to not come out.

There is so much time, energy, and money put into letting people know that it is okay to come out that sometimes feels as though you HAVE to come out. You don’t have to label yourself or define who you are for other people.  And for some people, their current situations may not be safe to come out. Only you know your situation, and in some instances, it may be best to wait until you are safe and in a place where you can manage the coming out process. You get to determine for you when the time is right. They don’t know your situation and they may not know how you process. Some people decide to never “come out” and that’s ok.

2) Coming out is not just a one-time thing. It’s a process.

Coming out is often a process where we have to tell certain people over time. Or we have to tell new people we meet. We may choose to never come out to certain people, or we may choose to come out to many people at once.

3) As queer people of color (QPOC), coming out is different for us than what TV and celebrities tell us.

Often times the coming out stories on TV and in media do not center on the unique lives and experiences of people of color. Even when they do, the format of TV means that most storylines are wrapped up in a nice hour-long package. Our lives cannot be summed up in after-school specials and telenovelas. Even after coming out, we must still live in a world full of violence and oppression, which leads to the next point.

4) Life doesn’t magically get better.

Life changes, and oftentimes life takes a great deal of work. Life can get better, but it won’t magically get better. Know that you are not alone and that there are other people that have similar feelings to you.  By surrounding ourselves with community and building strong support networks we can come together to build a strong, healthy community.

5) As QPOC, dating apps and bars can be both very empowering and very violent against us.

These places can help us develop and learn about ourselves and our communities. They can be empowering by letting us explore and discover our sexuality and our unique relationship with connections and sex, but they can also be a place of micro and macro aggressions against us. It is important to remember that there are other options available besides bars and apps where you can meet people and explore your community. Social groups, community events, and volunteering with organizations are great ways to meet people and build community.

6) It’s ok to leave toxic family, friends, and partners behind.

I spent so long trying to convince problematic family members to change and grow into better people. My time with family became a chore, where I spent most of my time arguing, and fighting with people that were supposed to support me.

Sometimes, as hard as it can be, we have to let people go for our safety, health, and lives. By leaving these toxic people behind we are able to better live our lives and to grow and shine as QPOC.

7) The labels you use can change

When I came out, I told people I was gay. But as I grew up, I began to realize how limiting that label felt to me and how other people expected to be able to define for me who I was allowed to love based on that label. My sexuality evolved and grew as I did, and so did the way I looked at myself.  Labels are useful when they help us to better understand ourselves, but we should not let those labels box us in and keep us from growing and changing.

8) You don’t have to sacrifice yourself for other people’s comfort.

Often times when we first tell someone about who we are, we allow them an adjustment period: a time when we excuse a slip or two when it comes to shifting their paradigm of who we are. But let’s make sure that we are not sacrificing ourselves, our comfort, and our safety during this time. It is OK for you to require and expect your friends and family to use your pronouns. It is OK for you to be angry and correct people when they deadname1 you. And it is OK for you to expect those close to you correct and address other people’s mistakes as well. People who care about you will want to respect you and will want you to correct them when they slip up.

9) Other people’s reaction, is not your responsibility.

Sometimes a person will not react the way that we would like them to. It can be hard when a family member or friend reacts in a way you didn’t anticipate. Remember that other people’s reactions are not your fault or your responsibility. How a person reacts is a reflection of their character and not a reflection on you.

10)You get to decide what is best for you

Whether you decided to “come out” or not, who you tell or don’t tell, and the way you define yourself or not… only you know what is best for you. Many people will have opinions about how you should move through life, but only you have lived your life and only you truly know what is best for you.

This is not an exhaustive list. Are there any things you would include on this list? Let us know. And to read more content like this, and to hear about what we are doing follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


1Deadnameing- using the past name of a person who has since changed their name (especially  a transgender or nonbinary person)

4 Communication Habits for QPOC

Communication. It’s one of those words that people use so much it’s almost meaningless. Effective communication is seen as the solution for a variety of different problems. Having relationship trouble? Just communicate more/better. Trouble at work? Make sure you’re communicating with your supervisor and co-workers. But rarely do we ever consider what communication actually looks like, and even more rarely do we look at what communication looks like through the unique experiences of QPOC.

 

As QPOC, our voices should not be silenced and disregarded. We should be encouraged to communicate. Practicing healthy communication is one way to overcome the many isms of oppression exist as ways to keep us down and silent. Sometimes we can internalize these systems of oppression and carry them with us keeping us from expressing and living unburdened. Everyone should practice healthy communication, but it is especially important for our communities.

 

So what is communication? What does it look like? The simple answer is… it depends. Communication is different for every person, and it often looks different to the same person depending on the people and places around them. In order to begin a conversation around what communication looks like we’ve gathered a list of four habits we can build.

 

Listen

Often the most overlooked part of communication is listening. We can spend so much time thinking about what we are going to say, or how we are going to reply, that we never truly hear what the other person is saying. For some people, this can take extra work, especially for people with privilege, who are often told their voices and experiences matter more than others.

 

Listening isn’t just about hearing the words that someone is saying. It’s about working to understand what they are trying to convey to you through their words, through their tone, and through their body language.

Recognize that your voice and experience matter

We need only look at those who are raising their voices and experiences to see how powerful we are. From poets, singers, artists, musicians and more, QPOC have used their power to shape the world. When we take the time and work to value our own voices, we are not only better able to communicate with those around us, we are also taking steps on our continuous journey of self-love. Your voice matters, your experiences are important, and your emotions are valid. By recognizing this, we can begin to assert ourselves both within and outside of our communities and discover how powerful our voices can be.

 

Recognize what you are feeling and be honest with yourself

This can be hard to do at first. Often times one of the first steps to being able to meaningfully communicate with someone else is to look internally and recognize the thoughts and emotions that we are holding inside ourselves.

 

Many of us are raised and told that some things are ‘normal’ to want, think or feel, and when we differ from those things we can begin to feel shame about ourselves.We start trying to act in the way that’s expected and end up even more frustrated. It is when we know and are honest with ourselves that we can begin a path towards healing. By looking introspectively we can also begin to recognize when we are replicating systems of oppression in our own lives and when those oppressive systems have been internalized and are keeping us from sharing.

 

Know when it’s best to take time

Going hand in hand with recognizing your thoughts and feelings is knowing when to take a step back from a situation. Sometimes our reaction to pressure to communicate is to share our first response or thought. Often, the best thing we can do is to recognize when we need time to process before we can participate.

 

If you are interested in continuing this conversation, come out to our Fostering Community Through Better Communication discussion where we will talk more about these and other topics.