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)