There's something I need to tell you
Coming out is so annoying. I realize that comes from a place of privilege and I’m infinitely grateful to all the people who have come before me, advocated for equality, and slowly fought inch-by-inch for the ground I stand on (please, society, let us at least keep it). To the warriors I say, I’m forever in your debt. But to the rest of you...I say, can we just, like, be done? Because this shit is exhausting.
For those of you who haven’t come out, it’s a little bit like the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The struggle is REAL and everyone has their own story. The path doesn’t always lead to acceptance but this post isn’t really about the hard-won steps of self-discovery. Instead, it’s about the telling once you’ve gotten there. Sometimes that telling is just to yourself, sometimes it’s to your inner circle, and sometimes you tell the world.
There are so many factors that go into deciding how open you’ll be about your identity. Like, the level of PLANNING that goes into this. The community, the history of vulnerability, the potential negative repercussions. If you’re not sure if it’ll be a safe response, you make a backup plan. You might plan for post-sharing moral support. You decide the venue, the method, the lead up. You come up with the conversation starter, the segue, the actual words. You gear up and sit through the uncomfortable, the anxiety, the anticipation. You think of all the people you’re going to tell personally and what you’re going to say to the people who wanted to be told personally but weren’t (I don’t have a Coming Out contact list, Brenda). It’s like planning a marriage proposal over and over again except the big news is, “I’m me” and the reaction is much less predictable - ranging from, “That’s so amazing!” to “You’re literal evil” and everywhere in between. Throw in clinical anxiety, trauma, and insecurity and you’ve bought yourself a therapist for at least three years.
I’ve come out in a bunch of different ways – in person, one-on-one, in small groups, virtually, over the phone, in email, and in a card. The card one was some of my best work; it was a single sentence in the middle of a bunch of random updates. Her response was, “Way to bury the lede!” and honestly the only surprise there was the sinking realization I’ve been spelling the phrase wrong my whole life.
I think the only thing worse than coming out to family and friends is having to come out A SECOND TIME.
You: But isn’t it easier the second time around?
Me: You haven’t had a negative coming out experience and it shows.
I’ll concede I can see how you got there; the logic makes sense -- even with the negative responses. Like, I already changed their view of me forever, what’s one more time? It’s not like there’s a hell below hell.
But also! It’s still terrible. Maybe it’s not for everybody, but to me, the idea of coming out a second time is even more daunting. By now you know any social interaction can take a toll for me and vulnerability takes significantly more effort. We have a finite amount of energy; why do I gotta be spending mine making these ANNOUNCEMENTS? I already completed my rite of passage – let me move on with my life.
But until we get rid of coming out in general, let me add yet another method to my growing list. Allow me to set the scene of the memory we’ll cherish forevermore.
We’re at this great new local restaurant having lunch. We’re sitting at one of those little bistro tables outside because suddenly we’re in France or New York or wherever those classic movie scenes always are. It’s busy but not too busy, like I don’t feel self-conscious that everyone is hearing our conversation but also, I can totally hear you without feeling like we need to shout. The food is delicious, the weather is perfect, the conversation is flowing in a totally non-awkward way. We’re laughing! We’re bonding! We’ve never had such a great time! We’re chatting about totally normal topics and the conversation naturally, organically even, turns to gender identity as it so often does. Is there anything else we could even be talking about? There’s no other natural progression, really. And after an especially witty anecdote (there just been so many!) I say:
“Oh BTdubs, I’m non-binary.”