The term ‘coming out’ refers to when somebody, who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, shares their gender identity or sexuality with someone. There are many different ways to do this, including saying it, writing a letter, or decorating a cake. For a lot of people it’s incredibly important but to others, it can seem unnecessary, as straight and cisgender people are accepted without feeling the need to come out. I have come out to a number of people, and the experience has been a mixture of nerve-wracking, relieving, and amusing (in the case of some of my friends). I have often been asked about why it matters, and why, if sexuality doesn’t matter, I feel like I have to tell people.
To a lot of people, sexuality is important, as it can be the basis to finding community, love and pride, but it should not change the way people see you or be the grounds for hate or discrimination. Although it should not matter to other people, it is allowed to be important to yourself, whether your identity has taken a long time to come to terms with, or you suddenly realised it one Thursday afternoon. Either way, you are allowed to be proud of who you are and who you love (or the fact you do not love anyone till you know them well, or do not romantically love people at all). One of the ways people can express their pride is by shouting from the rooftops that they are who they are.
Here’s the thing: we live in a world where sexuality does matter. As of 2019, it is still illegal to be gay in 71 countries, even in places where it is not against the law, homophobia and transphobia is still prevalent. When so many people want to denounce your existence, the biggest statement you can make is to loudly and proudly be yourself: say that you are here and you are not changing anything about yourself. Being LGBTQ+ isn’t shameful, and wearing a badge, having a flag on your wall, coming out to your friends or family, and consuming all the LGBTQ+ media you can find, should not be something you need to hide. Your sexuality or gender identity is allowed to be a big part of you, and you’re allowed to talk about it without shame.
That being said, you don’t have to come out to be proud of your identity. You are not obligated to tell anyone if you don’t want to. Whether it’s unsafe for you to come out because of homophobia or transphobia, or if you simply don’t feel the need to, you are valid. You can still say “this is me” and be proud of that, whether you’re whispering it to yourself or waving it on a banner. Never feel like you have to silence yourself or “tone it down”. If you are LGBTQ+, coming out, or not, should not affect the way you see yourself and the pride you feel when you look in the mirror.
For me, coming out is my way of saying ‘I’m here, and I’m happy with who I am’ and sometimes, it is an act of rebellion to the people who say I should hide that part of me. It is also me saying that I love my sexuality as much as I love the rest of my identity. Being LGBTQ+ is not shameful, it is amazing. If you have a problem with someone coming out, you need to reflect on yourself. Remember that coming out is a way of people telling you that they are happy with who they are, they are allowed to say “I am proud of who I am, and you should be proud of me too.”