It’s National Coming Out Day and We’re Thinking of You

Today is National Coming Out Day: a day somewhere between a political statement and a celebration, with massively different meaning depending on how out you are or aren’t, to yourself or to others. It’s only been around since 1988, well after the political urgency around the AIDS crisis and queer militancy made the case that coming out was a political necessity for the queer community to be able to fight for its life.

The day contains in it the fundamental idea that if they know who we are, and if they know that they know us, maybe they will care about us staying alive. This was true and meaningful thirty years ago, when the fact that many AIDS victims were gay meant that the majority literally didn’t care if they lived or died. This is true now, when gay children are killing themselves and experts are scrambling to figure out why, and at the same time a (marginally) legitimate presidential candidate is tied to ex-gay therapy. Studies show that to know us, to know an out gay person in your life, is to care more about our issues. And more of us are out than ever. When National Coming Out Day was first created, Ellen DeGeneres wasn’t out yet; today, she’s married to her wife.

Do we still need something like NCOD? Does it mean something different now?

Well, coming out still isn’t safe for everyone, on NCOD or any other day. For some of us it means being homeless, being hurt, being exposed and vulnerable to violence instead of being honest. Pam’s House Blend says it best:

For some of us, including me, a transsexual Latino, a trans man of color, NCOD marks the beginning of a time of year when we are and feel particularly vulnerable, on the heels of the date marking the violent, fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, for whom, along with James Byrd, Jr., the anti Hate Crimes law, our country’s first fully inclusive anti-discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity law, is named. and just ahead of the still-unsolved brutal murder of Rita Hester in 1998 in Massachusetts, whose death inspired Gwen Smith in San Francisco to create the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, recognized annually globally between Nov. 20 and 28  where my brother Ethan St. Pierre gives the somber gift of tallying each year’s murders of trans people globally… Yes, we have come a long way, but please use NCOD as an opportunity not to leave behind our most vulnerable. 

Photo Credit JIN ZHU/Stanford Daily Staff Photographer

It’s unsafe in other ways, too. Even if we’re out to our families, or even if we live in a state where ENDA protects our rights in the workplace, there’s no telling whether coming out at work might mean we don’t make the cut in the next round of layoffs. There’s no telling if our pastor will still support us in the way we need him to. There’s no telling if we would have still gotten pulled over for speeding if it weren’t for the rainbow bumper sticker. Regardless of how ‘out’ we are, we make dozens of tiny choices every day towards or away from telling people this specific truth about ourselves; no matter how much progress we’ve made, those choices still have consequences.

For some of us, coming out isn’t a matter of physical safety, and probably won’t result in anything as dramatic as parents disowning us or being fired from our jobs. But there are comforts and even fond, familiar discomforts in not living a lie, necessarily, but omitting a carefully chosen truth. Last week The Rumpus’s beloved columnist Dear Sugar answered a question about this very topic:

Whenever her parents come to town or call I feel like we’re having a secret affair. When I talk to her about this, she says it will get better and change, but she never shows me that she’s working on it… She grew up in a small town with a great deal of conservative church influence that her family is a part of. They aren’t a very emotional family and it seems they don’t have long, deep conversations about who they are in the world or who they’d like to be. But I’m not sure it’s those things. My girlfriend has difficulty articulating what exactly makes it hard to tell her parents that she’s gay. If I understood it was religious fears I could figure out how to be supportive with spiritual resources, if it was losing them then I could encourage her to look to role models… I don’t think she realizes how limiting this feels, even when we talk about it. She is upset that I’m sad about this, but she can’t bring herself to tell her parents that she’s gay… I suppose is my question to you, Sugar: How do you trust your love will be enough to ride out a gathering storm? What should I know? What would you do? How can I swim to the life we deserve? How can I save us both?

There are complicated reasons why we don’t always come out. Because everyone feels good when they feel normal, and that’s not always a privilege that openly gay people are afforded. Because even if the people we love won’t leave us, we love them enough that it’s hard to see them hurt, confused, or uncomfortable. Because straight people don’t have to come out, ever. Because we might not be out to ourselves. Because we might not have the words for what we want to come out as. Because it’s scary to feel like things are irreversible. Because sometimes it’s comforting to have at least a part of ourselves that belongs only to us, or to our most intimate inner circle.

The reasons that we finally do come out are maybe slightly less complicated. Because the relief of saying it out loud becomes more important than the fear. Because being in the closet is keeping you from living the life you want. Because it finally feels like the only thing to do. Or, like Sugar’s questioner, because someone who loves you needs you to bite the bullet. Sugar’s advice:

Last week I was in a hotel room flipping through the channels on the TV when I stopped on one long enough to hear a scientist say that a basic truth about human nature that’s found in just about every study and body of research is that people do what they want to do. The drive to do what we want to do is so strong that we will usually do it, even if there’s a price to pay. Your girlfriend can’t tell her parents that she’s gay because she doesn’t want to tell them that she’s gay, even if this makes you miserable. She wants to be in a loving lesbian relationship with you without allowing the other people who love her most deeply to know she’s a lesbian. This dual life allows her to have sexual and romantic relationships with women, while never having to announce to her parents that indeed she is the perverted, shameful, skanky freak that on some level she believes herself to be.

The question you need to answer for yourself, darling, is how long are you willing to stay in the perverted, shameful, skanky freak closet with her. It seems clear to me—and exceedingly healthy—that forever is not an option for you, so I suggest you have a serious talk with your partner about why this is so important to you and then together come up with a reasonable, loving, fair-to-both-of-you date by which you will leave her if she refuses to come out.

 I don’t know that I agree — I don’t think internalized self-loathing is the only obvious answer to why this woman isn’t out. But I do think that while we once lived in a world where you had almost everything to lose by coming out and only the ideal of honesty to gain, for a lot of people, there are things — good things, beautiful things — that we can have only after coming out. Like families that we’re openly proud of, or the relationships with our parents that we’ve always dreamed of. And for a lot of other people, this isn’t true, and staying in the closet is a necessity. It’s a relatively recent development that we’ve had this choice; as recently as the 1950s, it was almost unthinkable. Now, it’s a decision that brings consequences, but is ours to make. And we got here on the backs of people who made that hard choice, and were honest about something unthinkable back when it seemed impossible to do. We — this website, this community, our queer friends and family — many of us are able to live the way we do and be however happy we manage to be because of the people who made that decision.

Whether you’re out, or not, or somewhere in between, today is a day to reflect on where you are in life; how far you’ve come in being able to tell the truth to yourself and to others, what kind of community you’ve been able to find. Maybe it’s none; maybe you’re one of the people for whom this isn’t an option. Maybe you just wore your OKAY TO BE GAY t-shirt to the local food co-op. Either way, we can think about what we can do and what action we can personally take to make sure that this is a choice everyone feels able to make. If you’re at a point where you feel you can tell the truth about your life, how can we help everyone get there? How can you tell your truth such that it makes it possible for someone else to tell theirs?

What does National Coming Out Day mean to you?

featuring image by Keith Haring

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 759 articles for us.

105 Comments

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    I can’t believe no one else has commented on this. In a few hours I’m going to an event where I’ll come out as bisexual to other LGBT people and allies — all people I don’t know very well. I feel guilty for taking this easy (easier?) way out, in light of the fact that I just got off the phone with my mother, who asked me for the (large number)th time if I have a boyfriend.

    This is a true statement: “Because everyone feels good when they feel normal, and that’s not always a privilege that openly gay people are afforded.”

    History is the key to the significance of this day. I love that you framed it that way, Rachel. It’s easy to forget– particularly if you’re in a liberal bubble of self-acceptance and tolerance– that up until recently mainstream America didn’t necessarily “care whether if we lived or died.”

    That past seems to exist mainly in movies like Milk or Boys Don’t Cry, since both were honored by liberal establishments like the Oscars. Even so, the hate crimes at the center of those films are so incredibly recent, that the past may not even be past, to paraphrase Faulkner. Acceptance from liberal America in no way compensates for intolerance in mainstream America.

    Speaking as someone reared in the conservative, Christian South here, I didn’t even know any gay people until college. They existed, I’m sure. But firmly closeted.

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        Thanks! I hope it was a good day for you, whether you were coming out (I feel like we have to do it a lot) or remembering your own coming(s) out.

        So, to sum it up: I came out (again)! Whoo!

        The actual coming-out part was fine (since it was an LGBT campus group event), but afterwards I was unfortunate and derpy because there were lots of girls standing around. Since I can’t talk to girls to save my life, mostly I just hung around awkwardly until we all dispersed.

        I am going to die alone, you guys.

        But at the very least I’d like to die alone in a nation where I could theoretically get married in all fifty states.

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          Don’t worry. I’m going to die alone too. My friend was trying to give me dating advice the other day and I was like “…I don’t talk to strangers. I’m going to be a crazy cat lady”.

          Apparently you can’t get a girlfriend without talking to strangers. Damn.

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          Yeah I definitely have already come to terms with my eventual crazy cat lady status. It’s okay, I guess. I like cats. It’s just a little hard to have a conversation.

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          My cat still thinks “get off the couch” means “I’m so honored you would deign to grace my cushions with your furry behind; please feel free to dig your claws in”.

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    national coming out day is giving me all of these feelings about being gay, especially cause it’s super close to my gayiversary and i think to celebrate i should listen to nicki minaj and drink a 4loko, but only if it has caffeine.

    it also makes me wonder why it’s so easy for me to be gay on the internet and in every real world but not as much at home, and how that makes me feel, and how i wish it was different.

    and it makes me happy because it makes me proud. and it makes me like my leather jacket and my leather boots and everything else so much more and i am just…

    so many feelings.

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    When I was closeted I used to shirk National Coming Out Day like mad, and now that I’m out and involved, it has become like a political rallying point for me. At my school, we’ve made it a point to distribute pro-gay shirts on or near the day. And recently I found out a professor of mine was really close to one of the founders (Dr. Robert Eichberg) so now I make it a point to educate about the history behind the day and the history behind the co-founders (the other being Jean O’Leary). And with the advent of social media I now make it a point to just celebrate the shit out of it.
    WROTE A WHOLE BLOG POST, YO, for our veterinary organization http://broadspectrumvsa.blogspot.com/

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    yeah i’m still not coming out to my family.

    i don’t know. it’s just that the dynamic isn’t right. i never draw attention to myself or ask for anything from them… that’s how it’s always been. it would be incongruous or something. even though they’d be fine with the gay part.

    and i don’t have a girlfriend or anything so i feel no need to tell them

    but everyone else pretty much knows

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      Yeah, I was pretty much in this situation. Family not involved in my life, I don’t need any of their assistance/attention. When I finally let them know, since I was inviting my lady home for Thanksgiving they were sort of upset at me for a) not telling them I was gay b) not informing them I was in a serious relationship for, at that point, over a year, c.) inviting someone to Thanksgiving without letting them know in advance. I explained she was a vegetarian so we didn’t need any more turkey and C was solved, the rest faded out over time!

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    Thank you Rachel, this article made me cry. Like happy tears, don’t worry.

    All I can think of is what a BEAUTIFUL thing it is to be true to myself today, and I was only able to do that because of the proud women that came before me.

    NCOD makes me reflect on how much I suffered before I came out as a lesbian 4 years ago, and all the pain and fear and emotional anguish. I wanted to tell all you homos/queers that are currently in the closet (for whatever reason), that speaking my truth- even at first when my voice was quiet and shaky- was the best thing I could have ever done.

    Be brave, little toasters!
    And thank you autostraddle for simply existing, and for speaking YOUR truth.

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    For me National Coming Out day isn’t very unique or special because as a trans woman I can’t avoid being visible every second of every day. I’m to far out to hide in the closet and emotionally that would be impossible to do, so there’s no going back. In the other direction, I’m taking strides to align my body with my soul but there’s only so much I can do without medical intervention, so I’m forced to live with certain aspects that make me visibly (or more specifically, audibly) trans.

    Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying and think that I feel this day isn’t an incredible display of humanity and an awesome step for all who are part of the queer umbrella. Just for me personally it’s not a huge deal. Even though I’ve only been out for less than a year, I might actually be getting a bit jaded because I live in a very, very liberal, queer friendly state (rock on Vermont!!!) and my being trans has never been an issue with my family, my friends, my school, my community, or really anywhere in my life.

    To all who have yet to come out or those who took today as an opportunity to come out, you’re awesome and amazing people! Always stand proud as the person that you are because you shouldn’t waste your time living someone else’s life. I spent most of my 19 years trying to be the boy that everyone wanted, before I realized that the girl in me was slowly dying because she was trapped in the dark.

    May the Goddess bless your journey,
    and May the Force be with You, Always :)

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    I think National Coming Out Day is fabulous in theory, but in my experience coming out isn’t a one time thing and it isn’t a day. It’s a constant state of being and living and trying to gauge every single situation you find yourself in. So, I am out to my Parents and sister, my friends, and, you know, people on the internet but I chose not to come out to my slightly homophobic supervisor and I lately I choose not to mention my lady liking tendencies to boys that hit on me or ask me out because I’m pretty sick of being told that a nice bit of penis will set me right. I will meet new people every day and it won’t always be relevant but it will always be something I’ll have to think about which is an exhausting thing to realise. I think I see National Coming Out Day as more of a day of wishful thinking.

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      Well said.
      When I was still in the closet, I used to think, “Man, it will be such a relief when I’m finally out!” I didn’t want to actually COME out to people, because that’s uncomfortable, but I couldn’t wait to BE out–no more stress! No more pretending!
      Then I started coming out to people and quickly realized that I’m going to be coming out to people for the rest of my life. Fuck!

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      Mmm, completely agree. Last National Coming Out Day I was thinking about coming out to my mum (and did it 10 days later), this year I outted myself to a professor.

      I remember thinking that if only my mother knew, I’d be really out. Finally, fully, no more doubts, no more questions. I don’t know why I thought this. It doesn’t actually make any sense.

      It’s getting easier to do, but it’s definitely not over, and I’m not sure it ever will be. But each time I do it, the butterflies in my stomach flutter a little less.

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    Today is like my Big Gay Thanksgiving.

    I give thanks for those activists who paved the way and made it a safe(r) place for me to live openly and confidentially, and for the loving support system that surrounded me an encouraged me during my coming out process.
    I celebrate where I am now and where my fellow out queers are.
    I pray for those who must remain in the closet for whatever reason, and hope that one day they can safely come out as well.
    And I do it all with a smile, because my college is awesome and is having a Nation Coming Out Day Resource Fair where John Corvino is speaking.

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    i’m already out to almost all of my friends and my parents. i had decided not to come out on facebook, and then i read this article. now my status is this: “To everyone who doesn’t already know: I am gayer than Lady Gaga riding a rainbow unicorn through the streets of San Francisco. Happy National Coming Out Day! :)”

    thanks for giving me courage and reminding me why it’s important to be out (if it’s safe). i love each and every one of you straddlers, so very much.

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    I have been out-ish to my friends and family since senior year of high school. There wasn’t any sort of big dramatic reveal; I sort of let it seep out over time. I think doing it that way, I did a disservice to myself because there was still this part of me that I felt the need to keep hidden. After much soul searching back in May, I realized that the only way for me to live my best life was for me to be super honest with myself and those around me. Since then I have been living my life in a stronger, more out, more proud, more gay way than I ever had before and it feels so amazing.

    So for me this National Coming Out Day really feels like a day to celebrate the steps I have been taking to be the most honest and fulfilled me I can be. With everyone. For reals this time. I know that there are so many people in this world for whom this is not an option, but for me it felt like the thing I needed to do.

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    I was thinking about coming out to my sister today, because I’m so close to her and I just feel like I’m lying all the time. But I didn’t realize that it’s her week at my mom’s house, so I’m not with her, and I couldn’t do it over the phone. That feels like cheating. And then I almost came out to my oldest friend this weekend, but chickened out. I feel like a sorry excuse for a queer person today. I’m just going to settle for my current strategy of dropping anvil-sized hints about my sexuality.

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      If it’s not a good time to come out, it’s not a good time to come out, don’t beat yourself up over it. I spent 4+ years trying to come out as trans before I finally got tired of hiding in the closet. I knew my family would love and accept me no matter what and I still allowed the false fear of rejection rule my life for years.

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      I’m a proponent of anvil sized hints too. You avoid all the drama of personal conversations :) Unfortunately, success so far has been dubious. Honestly, the fb thing sounds more and more attractive every day.

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    My younger cousin’s bff (14 yrs.) came out to me saying she has a girlfriend and really wanted to tell someone who “understands.” It was adorable and if unicorns made with glitter and happiness can come out my breasts like the fireworks in Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” it would have been at that moment.

    It made me happy that someone was able to trust me with something that personal. I told her I was happy for her and asked her for getting a girlfriend/date advice (I was kidding) AND SHE DIRECTS ME HERE, TO AUTOSTRADDLE!

    This is my life people, and I love it.

    Happy Coming Out Day (life)!

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    This article is beautifully written, it made me cry. I’m still not really out yet to anyone except for my ex-boyfriend. I just recently got out of the straight relationship I was in, so at least that’s a step. My ex is now my best friend, and he has been really supportive through this whole thing, but it’s still really confusing and scary. Thinking of all of you, it’s touching to read your stories.

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    Hi, you guys! This article and all the comments mean so much to me personally. I’m a Freshman in high school and I’m only out to the Junior girl I have a crush on. She’s bisexual and has a boyfriend, so…yeah. Not an awesome situation. I know that one day when I’m more okay with myself and I’m around people who like me for who I really am, I’ll be out. But for now, I’m shipping Brittana in secret. Thank you all for being so kickass n’ stuff! You give me hope.

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    My super-conservative family (all four parents, two brothers, and a sister) will NOT be finding out that I’m gay this year. I am far too financially dependent upon them to risk what might happen if I come out. I dread going to my mom’s house because she’s always asking me about what boys I’ve met and constantly badgering me about getting married. She makes comments about my friends’ relationships all the time and probing me about mine. I have a feeling that she knows in the back of her head that I’m gay and just doesn’t want to admit it to herself so she constantly seeks re-assurance from me. I feel horrible not telling my family, but I feel like I have no choice for right now. At least not until I’m no longer financially connected to them.

    In other words, this is a kinda sad day for me.

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    I didn’t get to come out when I wanted to, I was outed. So for me this day is kind of healing in a weird sort of way. It’s like reclaiming a little bit of coming out at a time. Really though, I wish that people had left well enough alone and let me choose when and how I came out. I don’t know that it would have changed anything (my coming out story does not end with hugs or happy tears, there was no happy ending), but at least it would have been on my own terms and I could have chosen what information and how much of it to give. So for me, NCOD is about reclaiming a bit of that.

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          … How do you hide it?

          This is a serious question. I haven’t told my family but I’m wondering if my dad figured it out because I know he accidentally found my tumblr at one point and now he reads it sometimes when he’s bored.

          I suppose whether he figures it out or not depends on whether or not he knows who Tegan and Sara are…

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          I think my parents are aloof enough that it’s not something they’re going to pick up on, maybe, which says more about them than it does about me. Like, they think I’m lazy enough to sit at my computer and do nothing for hours on end without asking what I’m working on. Also, I wear more plaid than any straight girl I know, so I don’t know. They are either in serious denial or have their heads so far up their Catholic asses that they seriously don’t see it.

          The point being, I know how deep the closet is, and I feel for you guys. I would rather have this happen to me than to someone who can’t handle it.

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          I haven’t ruled it out, no, but they are so aggressively against all things gay that I feel like it would be hard for them not to say something. My favorite most recent quote from my dad is, “I think I could get behind National Breast Cancer Awareness Month if it weren’t funded by the damned homosexuals.” Idk, it’s interesting.

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    ok maybe its just me but i dont really feel the need to come out to the rest of my family. the only reason i came out to my mom was cuz she asked and im a terrible liar (she would have seen it on my face).

    once i fine someone that i am madly in love with then i will tell them.
    i just dont feel the need since in not daying anyone.

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      It’s not just you. My Mum knows because she asked too and I never want to lie about being gay but I haven’t told the rest of my family because we’re not really close. I told Mum that I don’t mind if she tells other members of the family I just don’t want to do it myself because of the awkwardness. I figure some day I will just bring a girl to meet them and then they will know. I don’t feel like I’m in the closet as such because I’m not trying to hide it and if they asked I would tell them. I just don’t go shouting it from the rooftops. The background picture on my laptop actually has the word lesbian in big letters on it which various members of my family have seen but not commented on. I figure they probably already know.

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    it’s like, i know my family would be 110% supportive;

    and they all can probably tell/have asked me about in earlier years (and i said “WHAT, NO.);

    and they’ve probably known since the day i was old enough to dress myself and i chose cargo shorts over skirts;

    and they would love me no matter what;

    but i just can’t bring myself to do it.
    it’s so dumbbbbbb.

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    This whole thread is making me so warm and fuzzy inside and also makes me want to send my heart to all of you who can’t tell the ones around you who you truly are.
    As for me, my bestfriend told me today that a boy in our class heard and then told a mutual friend of ours who is midly homophobic that I am gay/bi. It was only after this that I realized that it is NCOD. Oy! I guess I’m a little more out than I was this morning!

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    For the first time I put in a status on Facebook that I’m gay, and I got a ton of buzz around it. 38 people liked it, and 4 people commented on it. Taking a risk like that was scary, but every time I come out to someone, anyone, it reminds me how great the world is, and how many people will always support you no matter what.

    Something I’ve been talking about with my friend is that coming out is like going for a run. You KNKOW that going for a run will feel really great, but you ALWAYS forget. You always say, “Eh, but I’m too tired, and it’ll be hard, and blahblahblah.” Same with coming out. And once you have momentum coming out, it’s just like running. You’ll be running every day, and soon you’ll be running marathons!

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    I kind of really want to tell my grandparents and my uncle, because at this point they are literally the only important people in my life who don’t know, but I a) am in another country, and b) don’t really have a particular word I use to identify myself, so I don’t really know how to go about it while I’m not in a relationship, since they’re old and thus acquainted with the catch-all “queer” in a very different way from my generation. *sigh* I’ll almost certainly do it when we’re all in the same place over Christmas.

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    A year ago today, I was walking across campus when I saw on the sidewalk decorated with dozens of rainbows. When crossing the street, someone had drawn a giant door and a rainbow coming out of it. I teared up a bit at the sight, because I was struggling coming out to my family. Later that night, right before my sorority meeting and with my rainbow ribbon pinned to me, I called my mum. I couldn’t be happier, 1 year later. It’s still a struggle, and always will be a struggle, but at least I’m comforted by a supportive family. National Coming Out Day is very dear to me.

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    Oh, so it was today? Bah, I should’ve come out to co-workers today, but honestly, it was a super stressful, important day at work. There’s always an opportunity, like when at drinks after today’s shitball day of stress my co-worker mentioned the fact that our other colleague is clearly a lesbian, but it’s A THING to come out, even casually. Like you don’t gloss past it. It becomes this THING that you talk about. I just hate dealing with it. I hate anything that’s even a little awkward. I almost wish people would ask me. Not even almost. I wish someone would just ask me. I still find it both amusing and utterly shocking that I don’t ping people the same way. People clearly seem to think I’m straight and I have never said anything that could be remotely construed as liking men, having ever dated a man, or wanting any part of heterosexuality. And yet, I feel so, so gay. I feel like I exude it. Like if I get a paper cut I bleed rainbows. And no one fucking sees it. I really don’t get how it isn’t more obvious since I would not consider myself to be a femmey kind of lady. Anyway, I think coming out is important. Everyone needs to do it, should do it, blah blah. But god, it’s just another thing to deal with, another awkward moment where I have to think about if that guy I see as a great friend will feel rejected and weird because he liked me LIKE THAT, another bit of my personal life I have to reveal when I hate talking about life, another conversation that may disrupt what feels so easy and comfortable right now, another thing that’s unnecessary because it just doesn’t matter, another thing that straight people will never to do and never understand. Sigh. Happy coming out day everyone. Hope it was more fruitful than mine.

    I swear, one of these days. Facebook status: “I am a lesbian. Just wanted everyone to know, in case they didn’t.”

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      I feel exactly the same way. I think all my flannel and alternative lifestyle haircut just make people think I am a hipster. I feel so gay, I don’t understand how people don’t just know.
      Also I hate talking about my personal life in any way, so telling people at work who I like to sleep with would be so awkward.

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    All of my friends and family know that I’m queer. With my family it’s kind of an unspoken thing, therefore, I never post anything on my facebook that would identify me as so, and if I do it’s always hidden from my family. So, today I donated my status to HRC and identified as queer.

    Also, in honor of the day, my best friend came out to his parents as trans* today. It went, as he put it, swimmingly.

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    For me, today was about realising that even though I’ve come out to my family, it doesn’t mean that they were all granted instant understanding. It still feels like every day I have to come out all over again.

    Being out means that I have to constantly field questions from my mom asking how I can be sure, why I want to display as queer, maybe I’m just a lesbian, what if guys don’t like that I’m bi, what does bisexuality MEAN anyway (even though I’ve explained a thousand times)… over and over until I feel like I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.

    I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I’m out. But sometimes it’s hard to remember why I did this in the first place.

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    NCOD is special to me as the anniversary of actually coming out to my parents — it took me 8 years to do, but NCOD was the kick in the pants that worked. Since then (that was 4 years ago) NCOD has been a bit like a “Yay we’re Gay” day because I’ve been either at school or working in a school [and faculty supervisor of the GSA]. This year, I am working in a foreign country and have only been here three months, so most of my coworkers don’t really know I’m on Team Rainbow. Of course, NCOD happened to coincide with our annual city-wide employee party. I went with a subtle “coming out” — I wore my “Closets Are For Clothes” pin.

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    My mum suspects I’m gay. My sister told me mum asked her if me and my good (straight) friend were ‘more than friends’, and keeps pointing out people she knows / works with that are gay. But its still super awkward to bring up in conversation. I want her to ask!

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      Maybe get your sister to tell her that she should ask because you want to tell her but are finding it awkward? I mean its very middle school dating in style but it might work.

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    Everyone I’ve come out to so far (all 3 of them) seems to feel like they have to keep it a secret. I appreciate their tact, but I just want to say, no, please, tell all our mutual friends! It will save me the bother of trying to come out awkwardly on facebook through song lyrics.

    On another note, today I bought a couple of cheesy rainbow pins and badges to attach to my belongings… I’m hoping this will encourage girls to hit on me.

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      My workmates have learnt over the years that I don’t have any issues with them saying – so now they ‘come out’ for me with new staff, so I don’t have to :) It’s so much easier, and really quite sweet!

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    I’m still trying to figure out… Its so confusing. I’m still a kid in high school and it doesnt help that no one accepts this here and there’s so much internal conflict too.

    I wish I could celebrate national coming out day like the rest of you, but it just seems to add unnecessary pressure to my life.

    any advice for a little struggling kid here?

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      High school ends. I know that is sucky advice and people give it all the time but its true. I used to sit in class and write “and this too shall pass” over and over again as a meditation excersise to get me through the day and then it did end and I moved countries to go to college, and that’s kind of an extreme move but what I’m saying is the post school world presents you with opportunities and right now you have to hang on to that.

      I don’t know quite what your internal conflict is (and I will talk about it with you in messages if you like) but, in case of many of the standard ones, trust me you are not dirty or unnatural or unloveable or abnormal in any way and you will have opportunities in a world bigger than high school to feel all of that and be happy. I know these are just words and they don’t help that much, probably you’ve heard them before, because it takes a while to believe them.

      I think you should look for support online (like your doing now of course) through forums and groups specifically for teens. It will help and its safer than trying to find support in your real life a lot of the time.

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    I have come out to my mother over and over again and at this point she has given up telling me I am straight, trying to convince me I am straight and crying at me about how she is so sad I am gay and if I loved her I would stop. She still insists I am not to tell the rest of the family (this from a woman who spent her youth as a flamboyantly out bisexual activist) because they will be distraught or reject me (as my fathers parents spent last weekend talking about attending their friends civil union and how nice it was yeah right) and I should remain closeted because I will never get a job if I don’t. Also I can’t give her grandchildren unless I am in a het relationship because all the ways lesbians can do it don’t count. Internalised prejudice is a terrible thing.

    I gave up and came out to her parents (who did most of the raising of me) about two years ago now, and both accepted it really well at the time. My grandfather whom she insisted was particularly homophobic (though his behaviour towards my gay friends always said otherwise) flat out told me date boys, date girls, date everyone you like, just be happy and then had a long conversation with me during a driving lesson about how marrying a woman and raising kids with her shouldn’t negatively affect my proffessional life re: working in an Irish university (I still think he’s wrong about that and have no desire to live in Ireland as part of a queer family). My grandmother less so. She then “forgot” I came out on a regular basis, became less accepting of the legitimacy of my best friends relationship, constantly asking if they have met nice boys, insisting they need to be less dependant on each other and when I point out she and grandpa are like that claiming its different because they’re married and that she doesn’t want to hear about how they will be too because its nonsense, that she doesn’t want to hear about me marrying a woman one day and so on. Prior to my doing this she was pro gay marriage. Not civil partnership even but full marriage, and she thought the Anglican church should do it for them too. And see this? Is why there are reasons not to come out that aren’t to do with internalised self hate. I love my gayness. I love my granny. I want her to love me and not to hurt because she is so upset about my life and feel disapointed. One half of the best friend couple? She didn’t come out to her Grandmother for the same reasons (the woman guessed and is cool with it eventually but this was surprising). I find the way some people tell you your reasons for doing something are such and such and can be nothing else really noxious. The world is more varied than that. You can totally want your life and to live true to it and accept yourself, and want to keep your parents/family at the same time and in that corner of your life omitt the details. That’s not self hating its accepting that your parents are flawed as all people are and have different values but that you love them anyway. Its upsetting but not as much as losing them is. Choices are hard and we have to make them and for many people there is no perfect outcome.

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      A lot of this sounds very familiar. When I came out to my (irish) family, some of those who had been previously quite gay-accepting suddenly were freaked out – it was easy to be okay with ‘the gays’ as long as they didn’t actually really know one.

      Have you heard of issues re being a gay person in Irish universities? I’ve always wondered, i’ve met a few queers over the years who are academics in various uni’s in the republic, but never heard any problems. Having said that though, I have never and will never work there – either in a university or in industry. The experience of being gay in the 90’s in ireland was enough to put me off forever!

      When it comes to my family and relatives, I’ve sort of given up hope with the older generation – my sisters are absolutely fine with it, so I think perhaps it’s a generational thing

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        Its not that I have heard there are problems with the universities its that I don’t want to live in Ireland as a queer, let alone raise children in a queer family there. I think a lot of Irish culture is wonderful and I am very glad its in my background and I intend to keep a lot of it when I raise my own children, but at the same time I think a lot of it is actively toxic and I don’t want it anywhere near my future babies let alone to immerse them in it. My mum used to have this joke “there are no gays in Ireland” back when she was a student in London because of how many of her friends were young gay men from Ireland who had basically been told to go away and come back when they were straight. And from what I have seen of gay friends/possibly closeted cousins things aren’t much better.

        Its kind of weird how that happens isn’t it? Its like the inverse of the idea that knowing real gay people will make you more accepting.

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          I’ve found it a bit conflicting – I’m proud of my Irishness, but I really cannot even entertain the idea of ever living there. I know attitudes have changed a lot since I lived there (civil unions for example, david norris running for president!), but the area I’m from hasn’t changed (it’s rural) and the people there are still very closed-minded.

          I could not, and will not, bring a child up in the environment I grew up in. You know, I’ve said a similar thing ‘no gays in ireland’ – but these days it applies more to my age group and older (30+) than the younger ones, I think? A lot of people I knew in the Irish gay scene left to go to the UK and never came back (myself included).

          I think part of why my parents are so bad with this gay thing – is that they’re fine when it’s not too close, but when it’s a child of theirs, they get freaked out about how other people will see them. That somehow they’ve been ‘bad’ parents, to produce a gay child?

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    A lot of the time, I wish I hadn’t come out to my parents. It’s been unpleasant, they’ve made no effort to change, and all in all it’s made life pretty stressful.

    BUT when I think this and wish it hadn’t happened, I seem to forget how absolutely miserable I had been when I hadn’t told them. And as much as it pains me that they’re not happy about my gayness, they’re rude to my lovely girlfriend, and they’re generally unpleasant to my gay friends or even gay-friendly friends – at least they KNOW, ya know?

    I would hate to have gone all this time (13 years since I came out to them) in the closet, I’m pretty sure it would have eaten away at me. If I think on how much it messed me up back then, and think of what it would have been like to just stifle it down and hide so much of my life – man that just makes me feel a bit ill.

    I will say though, and I always say this – please do come out, IF and only IF you want to. Do not feel socially pressured into doing so, do not do so if you are going to get into in a bad situation. Do it to make yourself happy, in the long run, even if it’s gonna be crappy for a while. Don’t feel you have to do it for your other-half, do it for yourself. And at the end of the day, if you do come out and your family/community react badly – you can only change their minds by just being yourself, being happy and living your life.

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    “Coming out”…wow. It means so much! We’re taught growing up that sexuality is a “personal”, “private” thing. Your parents are grossed out by it (and you’re grossed about by theirs), it’s NSFW, it’s reserved for those intimate moments of gal talk late at night over a Ouija board or something.

    But what we’re taught is the antithesis of what IS – sexuality is everywhere, implicitly, explicitly. A family existing in and of itself makes a statement on sexuality. Mentioning to your boss that you and your boyfriend moved to a new place on the other side of town is conveying all kinds of information about your sexuality. People wear wedding bands on their fingers for all the world to see. Movies. Billboards. The radio.

    There’s “chaste” sexuality and then there’s “not chaste” sexuality, and somehow “coming out” – saying I AM ATTRACTED TO MY OWN SEX feels “unchaste” every time. When I told my mom I pictured her thinking, “Uck, I don’t want to know who you /sleep with/!” Even though I certainly know who SHE sleeps with and don’t say the same every time I see her wedding band! The fact that homosexuality must always be EXPLICIT and dirty while heteorsexuality can be IMPLICIT and chaste makes coming out feel awkward, wrong, gross. You aren’t ashamed of the fact that you like girls, you are ashamed that you have to SAY it aloud, to your mom, for heaven’s sake, or to your boss. Even when the explicit/implicit divide gets fuzzier – “I’m moving across town with my girlfriend.” “Oh, that’s so nice, I had a roommate right after I graduated as well.” “No, not that kind of girlfriend…” (explicit) to “My wife and I can’t wait for the Christmas party!” (implicit) blurs, the gay always seems more explicit? OH DEAR.

    /head swimming

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    I can so relate with a lot of the postings, I use to try and get ‘older’ family members to accept (all of) me. However, I’m so over it…my aunt gave me a bracelet that I wear often and it simply says “No Judgement Zone”. Since then, that has been my motto!

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    You know, I’ve been wondering for the last few weeks when NCOD is supposed to be, and lo and behold, I come to Autostraddle and find out it was yesterday.

    Wow, am I out of the loop.

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    clip from the conversation where i came out to my mom:

    mom: does this mean you are going to cut off all your hair and start dressing like a boy?

    me: no mom

    mom: ok good because i just dont get that

    me: i get it and i think its hot

    mom: awkward silence

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    “it also makes me wonder why it’s so easy for me to be gay on the internet and in every real world but not as much at home, and how that makes me feel, and how i wish it was different.
    and it makes me happy because it makes me proud.”

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