October 11th is National Coming Out Day and this year is the 29th anniversary of the day — on October 11th, 1988 protests for Gay and Lesbian rights hit the newspapers and people recognised National Coming Out Day as an activist’s tool; coming out held power and it was a way to push the boundaries of conventional thought and fear. It showed society that LGBTQ+ people were also the ‘norm’.
To some, coming out is an important part of their lives. It was for me, but now I wonder whether the LGBTQ+ people still need to come out? Harvey Milk once addressed coming out in a now-famous speech:
“Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”
I’m not sure if I’m a firm believer of coming out or not. Why do we still have to ‘come out’? If we’re certain of ourselves, why can’t we just live? To some perspectives, coming out gives us power, but to others, the act of announcing myself as homosexual implies that my lifestyle isn’t normal or the expected.
What if one year we use National Coming Out Day for identifying heterosexuals? I think there would be an uproar by some and a heightened level of dominant masculinity by others (which would probably be aimed at LGBTQ+ people and Women). Imagine it, why should that white, straight, CIS man have to self-identify in a public space? And what song would they play to celebrate the day, Kid Rock’s American Bad Ass?
Naturally, I can not and will not ignore the positives National Coming Out Day brings with it; the endless awareness to the LGBTQ+ community and the discussion of rights, but in the back of my mind, I can’t help but question the day. The more we celebrate people coming out, the more we support a normative ideal which is strategically disruptive and hurtful to communities other than a heterosexual one.
I want to pitch something, this Wednesday, let’s not celebrate the concept of coming out but celebrate ourselves equally as normal.