The Personal Is Political

Dear Dr. Darcy:

Why does there have to be a "coming out" at all? Straight people don't have to go through the same ritual [to] "come out" as straight.

I don't understand why it's so important for there to be a public declaration of coming out. It isn't as if we see straight people yelling for all to see, "I sleep with the opposite sex!". Why isn't it more equal? Why is it anyone's business who people decide they love?

ANSWER

I would have expected this question from a straight person or from a gay person who is deeply struggling with internalized homophobia, and although the question initially set my teeth on edge, I felt it imperative to answer in the hope of educating people who might find themselves pondering the same issue.

We live in a heteronormative society which assumes that if you don’t come out, you’re hetero. So if you want your identity to be recognized, coming out is necessary. It’s not about declaring who you’re fucking or who you’re madly in love with, rather, it’s about having your identity acknowledged and validated so you aren’t forced to live in a world of secrecy. And living with any level of secrecy is paradoxical to having self worth or self regard.

Every aspect of our society is a declaration of who a heterosexual is in a relationship with, from hand holding in public to the person who they’ve filed their joint taxes with. The vast majority of women change their name when they get married, and virtually all begin going by the surname Mrs. These are federal rights that gay people are precluded from having.

Straight people begin coming out in childhood. Little girls begin fantasizing about their weddings virtually from birth. Teenagers look forward to prom from the day they start high school. Parents in our society do not raise children to explore their sexual orientation – they raise children with the expectation that they will be heterosexual.

The problem with your question is that it indicates a COMPLETE lack of awareness to the fact that our world is a heteronormative one. Your confusion is actually a perfect explanation as to why it’s imperative for gay people to come out. And here’s one final reason to come out:

Let’s just say, for example, that you’re some mutant human who does not require the acceptance or validation of other humans in order to be emotionally and spiritually healthy.  We’ll presume that you’re quiet cozy in the closet. There are youths who are killing themselves because they don’t see enough gay role models in this world. You do not live in isolation of the world. You have a fundamental obligation (as we all do) to make this world a safer place for the youth of our planet. Your personal choice to come out has a larger implication. It’s a political statement.

So if you can’t find the strength to do it for yourself, do it for the kid in Tennessee who sees no 'normal' role model of gay life because like you, so many value 'privacy' above social obligation. Your personal choice has political implications, and I’m sorry you don’t seem to understand that innately.

Writer's stats: Female, "Not really willing to answer." No surprise here.