Last week I attended a meeting held by a student group at my University for queer people of color. The subject being discussed that evening was coming out (in sync with National Coming Out Day which was on the 11th).
Normally at the start of each meeting we’re asked to share our preferred gender pronouns followed by a high and low we experienced that week. However, that particular day we were asked to do things a little differently, and instead come out as something. Now, being that we were at a meeting for queer students of color, and were already aware that the majority of us identified as LGBT or an ally, most of us decided to come out as something unrelated to our sexuality. A few people came out as hopeless romantics (aren’t we all). Someone came out as a ballet dancer. Another as a video game nerd.. and so on. I came out as an aspiring rapper (ha). So after we’d all finished coming out as lunatics, lovers, and other things… we went into discussing coming out as it relates to our sexuality for the remainder of the meeting.
On my way home after the meeting, I started to think about how difficult it is to come out and how as LGBT identified persons of color, we often focus on coming out only as it relates to our sexuality, while failing to address all the other areas of our life where we remain hidden that are just as important.
I’ve always been secretive for multiple reasons. Up until I came to college, I felt like if I can suck it up and deal with my problems on my own than I should. Afterwards that turned into an actual fear of rejection as opposed to just wanting to spare others the burden of having to deal with me. Now the issue is with undoing the lies people told themselves about me (assumptions made because I am femme, black, and a woman).
In order to free myself from the expectations of others as well as from the many unrealistic ones of my own, I’ve had to come out as multiple things throughout various times of my life. I’ve had to come out as someone who had an eating disorder, as someone who suffered from depression/anxiety, as a child of an alcoholic, as a religious non-conformist, as a lesbian, as a lover/dreamer, and so on.
To many, my identities as black, female, and African clash with or even contradict these other very real aspects of my life. However, they are all part of who I am and I deserve to be able to acknowledge each and every one of them without fear of retaliation, guilt, or shame.
Thus far, I have no regrets coming out to anyone as anything in any situation where I have taken the initiative or been asked to do so. Mainly because most of the people I have come out to I knew would either accept me or be willing and able to understand me. However, I am now at a point where I wish to be out in every area of my life. And it has been incredibly difficult to find even just one space where I feel the freedom to express all parts of my self and where I can also receive support, understanding, and acceptance.
That being said, I continue to come out in difficult spaces where I already present as “other” due to the visible aspects of my identity (my gender/race). When we remain silent about who we are we are also, inevitably, silenced. And so, for myself, I have come to the understanding that it is necessary for my survival for me to continue to challenge others perceptions of me and to have my existence acknowledged and affirmed in the process.
Question for our followers: What has been your experience with coming out as things both related and unrelated to your sexuality? How do the visible aspects of your identity complement or complicate other aspects of your self that are “hidden”?