October 8, 2018
“Coming out” is a phrase that carries a lot of emotional baggage for myself and other LGBTQ people. It’s portrayed in media and popular culture as the moment you finally decide to be yourself, step out of the proverbial closet, collect your gay card and enter your new life as a queer individual. What many don’t realize is that coming out is not a singular experience, but a process that spans the entire lifetime of an LGBTQ person.
Luckily for me, I never had to come out to my family. My mom knew I was gay at around age four. While my sister dragged her Barbie dolls around by their hair, I played dress-up with them. I exhibited some stereotypical behaviors throughout childhood, and by the time I seriously considered telling my parents I was gay at 15, they told me they already knew. They were as supportive as I could have hoped for, and though I had already been out to my friends, their support took a massive weight off my shoulders.
I figured my life would be like the end of Love, Simon, and I would live happily ever after as a gay man. What I didn’t expect was that even though I came out to all my friends and family, I had to continue to come out to people in the peripheries of my life: teachers, doctors and others. Sometimes I don’t want to come out because it is easier to reply to the friendly, yet misinformed inquiry if I have a girlfriend with a simple “No” rather than a “No, but I have a boyfriend.”
The worst part (that no one tells you) is not being able to be ‘out’ for fear of personal safety. Growing up in the Deep South, I am all too familiar with situations in which people would certainly socially ostracize me, if not physically harm me, if I came out to them. Knowing that makes me feel like that scared 15-year-old again. Even liberal Seattle is not free from homophobia, and there have been many times when being visibly out has led to verbal and physical altercations. None of that deters me, and it’s nearly incomparable to how happy I am now versus if I was still in the closet.
This National Coming Out Day, please consider your LGBTQ friends and family. Though some might be out, that doesn’t mean their journey is over; unfortunately, the journey of coming out never ends. For those who decide to come out October 11, or any other day, please know it has likely taken them years to work up the courage, and they will deal with coming out for the rest of their lives. If you don’t have any LGBTQ relatives or friends (hint: you probably do), try your best to be welcoming and caring, because even one positive person can make the difference between life and death for LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth.
National Coming Out Day celebrates bravery and reminds us that some people sacrifice family bonds and lifelong friends to simply be themselves. Use that day to remind your LGBTQ friends, family and coworkers that you love them; I promise they will appreciate it. – Brandon Burns, Plymouth Facilities Coordinator
photo: Brandon and Marcus share their lives and stories.