Most of my friends didn’t think it was a big deal when I came out to them. In some ways, they reacted perfectly. They reacted like a good liberal ally is supposed to. I put no blame on them. When they said “it’s not a big deal,” what they meant was “I don’t judge you, I still like you, I still see you the same way.” That was a relief, and something for which I am very grateful. Without downplaying the joy that I was still accepted by my friends, I also found the response a bit empty. I needed more when I be-came out. I needed affirmation.
This is a critique of heteronormativity, not my supportive straight friends, nor yours. In fact, I fell into the same ‘it’s no big deal’ trap. When I told my parents, I tried to approach it with a forced nonchalance. I remember carefully selecting emoticons to show how casual I was and to soften the blow (yes, I told them via email with emoticons).
But, apathy isn’t acceptance. This liberal ‘indifference’ to sexuality is a) a farce when it comes down to it and b) invalidating. Being queer still is a big deal and so is coming out, be-coming out (or however you understand your story).
So why is be-coming out a big deal? Here are five reasons why be-coming out is still a big deal.
First, outside of liberal bubbles coming out can still carry very real dangers such as being kicked out by your family or going through traumatic conversion therapy. It can come with increased risk of losing your job, being ostracised, and even being killed.
Second, even if I assumed most people in my community would be cool with me being some-sort-of-queer, the unknown is still scary. What if you’re a closet homophobe? After all, I’m an unknown homosexual.
Third, even if I have progressive friends and family, I still live in the world. As Biz Hurst says, being queer “begins with a finite moment, of course, but coming out is an infinite expedition in the life of a homosexual.” Coming out means that from now on I will live in the world as a queer person and experience all the hate and danger that comes with it. Even if the coming out itself isn’t a big deal, the repercussions on my whole life are.
Fourth, it’s a big deal because I fucking said so. Don’t undermine how huge it was for me to finally spit out the words. It’s invalidating and deflating. I put so much energy and anxiety into this moment. It reveals how easy it is to be straight, and how easy it is to be an ally. All you have to do is not care.
I don’t want to end on a bad or critical note, so I’ll tell a story before revealing my fifth reason for why it’s a big deal. When I was first be-coming out to people, I went out for brunch with a camp friend who knew both me and my ex. When I told this friend, she freaked out, in a good way. She realised this was an incredibly exciting moment for me.
So that’s the fifth reason why it's a big deal. The person be-coming out has fought norms to be themselves. Maybe they are even in love. And, they have chosen to tell you! Honour that story. By coming out, this person is embracing themselves in all their queer glory. Bask in this with them. It is a big deal!
Note: There are many valid reasons to not come out, or to come out selectively. It is not deceitful and does not mean your identity is any less genuine. There may be other reasons why be-coming out is a big deal to you. These are five for me.