I’m a member of the LGBTQ community, but I never came out.
And it’s not because I’m ashamed, or because I don’t know how to do it, or because I’m trying to gather the courage.
It’s because I don’t want to. I’m never going to come out to anyone.
I don’t believe that coming out is an essential to being part of the LGBTQ community. And as weird as it sounds, I have my reasons for feeling this way.
For a long time, when I was growing up, I thought I was bi-curious. Over time, as my narrative began to change and I welcomed my feelings for what they were, I found a label that I felt fit me best: bisexual. (You can read a previous article about my journey to identifying my bisexuality below.)
It wasn’t initially easy to accept my bisexuality, though. I was much more sexually attracted to women than romantically attracted to them, whereas with guys, I was highly sexually attracted to them and highly romantically attracted to them. My attraction to men did not parallel my attraction to women and vice versa. And although I was comfortable and even excited about being bisexual — I felt like the label fit me — I was still grappling with some uncertainty.
Over time, I discovered it was because my sexual orientation and my romantic orientation were not identical. Since then, I have been using the label “bisexual heteroromantic” to describe myself. Basically, it means that I am sexually attracted to more than one gender, but only romantically attracted to men (which means I only desire romantic or long-term relationships with men). Still, though, having that label doesn’t feel permanent. I have had romantic crushes on girls before, and likely will again. The sexual and romantic orientation that I feel most comfortable with right now may not be the same in a decade, and that’s OK. But that exemplifies my point: the concept of coming out can be discouraging for people who struggle to use permanent labels.
It’s possible that the label I currently feel is most representative of who I am — bisexual — could last me a lifetime, but it’s also possible that my heart will show me another way. Regardless, I want to be open to change, and the idea that my labels might change is a difficult concept to grasp — which is why coming out doesn’t feel right for me. If I experience change, then I’ll have to come out again with my new label and explain the fluidity of my sexuality, and the idea of that is incredibly daunting.
And secondly (perhaps the biggest reason why I choose not to come out): I don’t believe that coming out should be a necessity, because it’s a double standard. Straight people are not required to “come out” as straight because it’s the norm (even though it shouldn’t be the norm). You never hear a story of a straight person sitting their whole family down at the dinner table and saying, “Mom, Dad…I’m straight.”
The idea of coming out implies that anyone with a sexuality that is not straight has news that is worthy of breaking to a large audience of people; as if it’s something abnormal or earth-shattering. People assume other people’s heterosexuality until they come out and tell them otherwise, but heterosexuality should not be the standard assumption. We shouldn’t need to come out in order to discourage someone from thinking we’re straight, because there’s no “default” sexuality.
Of course, coming out is a wonderful experience for many people. It can be gratifying, liberating, and a great path towards acceptance and transparency between family members and friends. It can be celebratory, beautiful, and emotional. For some people, coming out is a huge step, and one that they feel is necessary and right for them. And to those people, I want to say: you have every right to feel empowered by the experience of coming out. I will always be supportive of that choice. Because I’m not against coming out. I think it’s an amazing choice, and an amazing experience; I just don’t think it should be the expectation, especially not by straight people.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the person themselves. Is coming out the right choice for them? Will it empower them and set them free? And if the answer is yes, that’s fantastic.
But for the other people who may still be wary, or who struggle to find a label that they feel permanently comfortable with, or who aren’t sure if they want to share their sexuality with others, that’s totally OK, too. I’m one of those people, and I know how it goes. But we need to remember: we don’t owe it to anyone to come out. It’s up to us and what’s best for us. And no matter what you decide to do, you are still queer. You are still valid. You are still worthy. Coming out (or not coming out) shouldn’t define your queerness.
I would love to see society accept the idea that heterosexuality isn’t the default. I’d love to see orientation-fluid people find more of a place in the LGBTQ community. I’d love to see us all come together and respect each other’s decisions.
We have to support each other.
And this is a really good place to start.