Queer Eye | Issue 22
To understand coming out of the closet you first need to understand what life is like in the closet. I wrote a bit about this experience in first semester, but to give you a refresher, it is not a lot of fun. The fact is that to be in the closet is to hide a key part of your identity and to act as someone else. This means that you are constantly checking to make sure that you fit how society expects someone of your assumed gender and sexuality are meant to talk, walk, interact, etc. This then makes you anxious because you are constantly worried that you might slip and do something that looks gay/ queer and then someone will figure it out.
We force people into this unhealthy situation because we assume that everyone is straight and cisgender. Every baby that is born we assume will always relate to the gender associated with its genitals and be attracted to people with the opposite genitals. Statistically this assumption is wrong in about one in ten people so why do we keep assuming it?
So if you find yourself in the fabulous 10 per cent and are sick of people assuming you are not, at some point you are probably going to have to start telling people about it. I say start, because the way that society is structured means that it is likely you will have to continue coming out your whole life.
While there is no right way to come out, there are some things worth thinking about. These tips are most useful for people thinking of telling their parents or caregivers:
1) Are you clear about how to explain your identity? Most people want to know more details than just that you arenít straight. If you arenít clear then some people will assume that you are unsure. So come up with a pithy one-liner that sums up how you feel about your identity.
2) How well do you know them? Have you heard them say positive or negative things in the past about the queer community? How compassionate in general are they about minority groups? Will they love you no matter what?
3) Do you rely on them? I have met Otago students who have been disowned by their parents and literally kicked out of home. In this worst-case scenario, are you financially and emotionally independent enough to handle this possibility?
4) Are you ready for questions? Parents and caregivers often want to know a lot about this part of your life that they didnít know about. They might ask when you first thought about, have you acted on it, and might even wonder if they did something to make this happen.
5) Are you ready for adjustment? Often families will experience a period of adjustment as they get their collective heads around this new reality. Some parents find that they feel like they have to get to know who their child is again.