It’s National Coming Out Day, and those of you living in the closet will be bombarded with advice — some insightful, some dreadful.
Here’s an attempt at the good we wrote on this day last year. Take from it what you may, and good luck on your journey:
Don’t take others’ words as gospel: As a general introduction to what follows, it’s important to know that other people’s experiences may not match up with yours. Take what you see and hear today as simple advice, as helpful bits of wisdom, not a direct path to enlightenment. Like an IKEA manual, the process of coming out is written in many different languages. Some dude talking about how coming out at 15 changed his life may not apply to your situation. Take everyone’s advice in, sort through what you can use, and just say thanks for what doesn’t work for you.
It Gets Better because You get better: I like what Dan Savage created. I heart Dan Savage in general. But while the name of the project was a stroke of genius, its message is actually a bit misleading. *It* doesn’t get better. *You* make *your* world better. It gets better because you begin to discover freedoms that allow you to make choices that lead to it getting better. Nothing magical happens as you grow older, wiser. You just make more informed decisions. Should I stay in this small, close-minded town or move to a welcoming city? Should I stay friends with these kids who use “fag” and “queer” all the time, or am I old enough to start making friends who are more mature? Should I work in this bad office environment or that good one? Remember, you make your life. You make your own choices. Don’t count on “it” or anything to simply get better.
Stay in the closet as long as you like: Seriously. Anyone who says “If you’re gay, you HAVE to come out!” is either being selfish or shortsighted. You have the right to live the life you see fit. You want to hide your sexuality from others? Go for it. (Important caveat: Just don’t marry someone of the opposite sex and ruin someone else’s life). Here’s the thing: When you do come out, that weight will lift, that pain will subside. You’re no longer forcing yourself to live like Atlas, holding a celestial sphere atop your shoulders everywhere you go. It’s truly liberating. But it’s your call.
It’s never too late to join the club: 15, 35, 55, 75, don’t make the mistake of saying “Well, I’ve hid it long enough, might as well keep living the charade.” The day you come out is the day you start to live the rest of your life. Many people will gear their NCOD remarks to teenagers, and that’s fine. But this day should also be used to address anyone who thinks they’ve lied for too long and will face embarrassment over that lie more than the fear of being ostracized or bullied or whatever.
Live a healthier sex life: There’s a reason that a mild-mannered three-term senator named Larry Craig would press his expensive pantlegs to urine-soaked linoleum for a few fleeting moments of anonymous sexual gratification. But after the curious incident of the horndog in the bathroom, nobody felt like asking the right question. The query most asked in the aftermath of the Larry Craig Revelations was “Why would he do that?” But the emphasis fell on the wrong word. The obvious question attached to this sordid affair should have been “Why would he do that?” Because that’s all he could do. By coming out, you don’t put yourself in bizarre sexual situations (unless you want that, which is cool too) and you don’t automatically feel dissatisfied after sexual trysts after it’s over (unless it’s just a bad hook-up).
It’s not just one and done: People will inevitably ask members of the LGBT community, “Oh, cool, when did you come out?” For many, the answer is “Every day.” Coming out for the first time is a big to-do, but remember, in a hetero-normative world in which most people are assumed to be straight unless told otherwise, you may have to come out on a daily basis to people you meet through friends or at the office or wherever. The first time is usually a heady process, then every time after that it’s just a sentence.
More Coming Out Reading:
Here’s an excerpt from A Letter to My Closeted Friend, an email from someone who made the journey out to a good buddy who is still living his life a lie. Take a moment to read this — it’s touching:
You can deny it. You can ignore this e-mail. Hell, you can even be pissed at me, if you want. I fully understand that you may never look at me the same again. But I have to do this. I HAVE to let you know that it WILL be okay. I don’t know why you’ve kept it secret for so long, but I know that everyone has their own reasons. Trust me, I understand. Just know that your friends will always be there for you, like mine were for me. Just know that your parents will always be there for you, like mine were for me. Just know that no matter how much chatter there is amongst your friends, your family and everyone who ever met you, ALL of it will be positive, even if you think they will all be whispering about you when you enter a room.
There will be some awkwardness at first, but that awkwardness will be replaced by an incredible feeling of weightlessness. And everyone, and I mean everyone, will be in your corner forever.
Winter Olympian Blake Skjellerup was one of the only openly gay athletes at the 2010 games in Vancouver. We’ve been proud to call Blake a HyperVocal contributor since the launch of the site, and one of his best pieces centered around homophobia in sports. Here’s an excerpt from his Come Out: Good Athletes Aren’t Cowards. Root him on in 2014.
Whether someone in professional sport wishes to come out or not is his or her own decision. It should not be forced upon them, and it should come in one’s own time. In saying that, the advice I offer is this: You are not alone. Many others just like you and me are out there. For me, coming out made my life better. I perform better, I live better, and life all around is generally better. If you are afraid of what you might lose, think about what you will gain. If one door closes, I can promise you that another will open.