A slightly different version of this post originally appeared at School for Scandal.
Today I would like to talk about coming out. I will preference this by saying that I realize that being out is a privilege for many of us. A lot of us can't be out about whatever "secret" makes us different/potentially stigmatized -- whether that's being GLBTQI, kinky, genderqueer, spiritual or religious, poly, having a chronic illness or mental illness, a hidden disability, anything -- it can cost people jobs, their family, relationships. I am very lucky in that I CAN be out about various aspects of my identity in most arenas in my life. My friends and family are supportive and open minded, and even my coworkers are pretty cool. If anything I think I can be too honest about my sexuality, gender identity and so forth -- after all I write and blog about these things in numerous forums, and I talk about it in real life, too. I am the queen of TMI at times, but it's because these are the things I think about the most, and the places where people seem to have the most baggage.
I think there are a lot of things many of us aren't "out" about because we're afraid, and sometimes that fear exists to protect us. But I also think it's important to find some safe place in your life where you can be your most authentic self and not a sanitized, publicly acceptable shadow of that self. We spend so much time trying to meet other people's expectations, performing our work identities and our relationship identities to please others, that it's easy to forget who we really are.
It's okay to be out. First and foremost (and if nothing else), be out to yourself. And hopefully you can be out with your partner, if you are partnered. Find people you can be out with, and find the safe places where you can be yourself without fear. And don't be afraid to be out in ways that challenge other people's notions about how you should or shouldn't be, as long as you don't put yourself at risk by doing so. Write about it and publish under a pseudonym if you have to. Be brave. The more you hide and repress these core aspects of your identity, the more miserable you become. The more you allow yourself to be that authentic self, the more you create a safe space for others to be out.
I think for National Coming Out Day, my personal challenge is coming out as a queer-identified "woman" (at least in appearance) who dates men (heteroqueer or girlfag for short). In queer spaces I tiptoe around my "problematic" sexual identity, justifying it, protecting it like a defenseless baby bunny. I "pass" as queer, and feel like an asshole and a poser sometimes. It's ironic, isn't it? I've written about this extensively in the past, my struggles with feeling like an imposter, an infiltrator. Fuck it, this is me, I can't NOT be this. I don't know how to make other people feel comfortable with my convoluted sexuality and gender identity, and maybe I shouldn't bother, but I can at least work on feeling comfortable with it myself.
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