Scrolling through Facebook yesterday, I saw a video that really pissed me off.
The short clip, above, made by Kristina Kuzmic, aka “Truth Bomb Mom,” who has over 2 million followers on Facebook, features the decidedly hip mother dramatically telling the story of her 10-year-old son “coming out” to her as straight.
“This is cute. This is really cute and funny ― my first instinct is to just laugh,” she says, before noting that she quickly realized that she needed to “be serious,” because in her son’s mind, “this made complete sense.”
“He knows that when someone is gay, they come out of the closet and they usually announce it first to the people closest to them, and so he figured the same rule applied to straight people,” she explains.
Kuzmic says she gave him “a big hug” and told him how “honored” she was that he told her first. Then she told him, “Buddy, I would love you gay or straight, because that’s not what makes someone lovable ― what makes someone lovable is their heart and their actions.”
She ends the video by revealing, “I myself have never publicly come out to you guys, so I’m going to take the opportunity to do so now ― I am straight and I hope you can still love me.”
Sweet, right? Well ... almost.
I’ve got a little advice for Kuzmic and every other straight person out there: If you’re thinking of “coming out of the closet” as straight ― don’t. And don’t encourage your kids to do it, either.
It isn’t clever. It isn’t cute. It isn’t brave. Not to mention, if you’re straight, you aren’t ― and never have been ― in the closet.
Not that I don’t ― in theory ― appreciate the supportive and affirmative spirit of the video. I love that Kuzmic says she’d accept her son whether he was straight or gay and asserts that we should listen to our children and love them no matter what.
But queer people and straight people don’t, as she put it, “live in a world where every kid plays by the same rules and we don’t assume anything.” And she misses the incredibly rudimentary point that straight people don’t have to “come out,” because there’s never been a need for them to reveal who they “really” are and because they’ve never had to hide who they are due to the fear of facing discrimination, harassment, violence or worse if or when they open that closet door. And that distinction matters.
Coming out isn’t fun or easy or something to be made light of for laughs or clicks or the chance to congratulate one’s self for being progressive or understanding. The chilling reality is that many queer people can’t come out because they could lose their jobs or their homes or even their lives. For those who can safely be open about their sexuality, I believe coming out is the best tool ― or weapon ― that queer people have to change society’s mind about who they are and what they do. The more that queer people come out and the more that queer people are able to be who they are no matter the location or situation, the harder it is for our culture to claim that all queer people are “like this” or that queer people can’t “do that.”
And that’s incredibly important ― especially right now when, despite all of the victories that LGBTQ people have achieved in recent years, they are now facing unprecedented attacks on their rights and well-being as individuals and as a community.
In fact, a new study found that Americans are actually becoming less comfortable with LGBTQ people. That’s right ― for the first time in the four-year history of GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance report, results released in 2018 showed a drop in acceptance for queer people and revealed a rise in anti-queer discrimination. That’s nothing short of terrifying, and it shows that there’s so much work left to do to achieve true equality ― work that coming out, in part, can help do, and work that straight people have the luxury of never worrying about undertaking.
If you’re thinking of “coming out of the closet” as straight ― don’t. And don’t encourage your kids to do it either. It isn’t clever. It isn’t cute. It isn’t brave. Not to mention, if you’re straight, you aren’t ― and never have been ― in a closet.
And while we’re at it, no, straight people do not get or need a parade to celebrate their heterosexuality. And no, they don’t get or need their own day or month to commemorate their completely safe, fully sanctioned and totally non-marginalized sexual identities. When it comes to their orientation, they overcame absolutely nothing, they faced exactly zero hardships and they don’t deserve any kind of recognition for trying to co-opt an act that is totally unnecessary for them ― and what’s more ― mocks the difficult and often perilous process by which queer people can reveal themselves. Let’s be honest: Straight people get recognized enough already.
That’s not to say that the heterosexuals of the world shouldn’t talk about their sexuality and encourage their children to do the same. We need more enthusiastic statements like Kuzmic’s. We need more moms like Kuzmic, period. And I believe we’d all be a lot better off if everyone talked a lot more about who they are and who they love and who they desire and how they desire them.
But those kinds of conversations need to be informed and nuanced, and they are ultimately different than “coming out.” We’re just not at a place as a culture where that queer rite of passage should be used to make a joke, a misguided point or a viral video, and we don’t do our kids (or ourselves) any favors by not explaining to them why queer people have to come out ― and why straight people don’t.
So, if you’re straight, congratulations! You won the sexual orientation lottery! Enjoy that privilege and ― even better ― use it to help marginalized folks who don’t reap the benefits of having an orientation that no one thinks is strange or unsettling or dangerous or depraved.
And please talk freely and frequently about yourself and your sexuality and your sex life. Teach your children about what it means to be queer and what it means to “come out” ― and why, if they’re straight, they’ll never have to do it. Honor the legions of queer people who have risked so much to be open about who they are (and the legions of queer people who couldn’t do the same because the risks were just too insurmountable) by learning their names and their stories and teaching them to your kids.
By all means, make viral videos about your dedication to helping queer people end bigotry, but make them accurate and sensitive and useful. We queer people will be infinitely grateful for it. Just ― please ― stop borrowing our sacred queer experiences for your own use, no matter how well-intentioned or cute or supportive you intend them to be.