Friday, 17 June 2016

On coming out

Cœur de Pirate (x)

Yesterday one of my favourite musical artists, Cœur de Pirate, came out. Not only am I thrilled for her (I finally saw her live in April and she liked my selfie, whichtotallymeansihaveachanceright), but I've also been thinking about the whole business of coming out.

So, I ain't straight. Men are not my only interest - not even my default interest.

I have been feeling this fact much more intensely this year - and especially this month. I think a lot of people who never have to come out don't realise that you don't do it once and then BAM!, that's it. It's not about realising at a young age that you are different and then unapologetically being yourself and sticking it to the bullies, as if real life were Glee. Some people realise way later on. Why? Because we are all conditioned to embrace heteronormativity. Because human love and attraction can't be quantified by gender anyway.
It is a journey; a painful journey with exciting prospects, such as your first crush, your first kiss, your first sexual experience, your first rejection. Yes, these things happen to straight people too, but when it's with someone of the same gender, there is loads more at stake. Especially if your community is not exactly supportive or diverse. And if you've had those things with the opposite gender and you then go through them again but with the same gender, it is doubly bewildering.

That being said, even if you never live out these things and never come out to anyone, you are still queer as hell and it's all valid! The point is, it is each and every human's right to have the opportunity to live out those things and not feel threatened.

In general conversation, it's a case of simply mentioning a date I went on with someone who has a female pronoun. Or, when I can't be bothered with potential discussions, I just use the gender-neutral "they" or "this person" and it's on my interlocutor's head if they automatically think that's a man. In my writing group I revealed myself through a piece about my bittersweet feelings for a woman. The relief I felt afterwards was immense.
Only a handful of times have I deliberately sat someone down - or sent them a message - to come out to them. Each time, I felt nervous to the point of sickness, agonising over how to say it; not only in a way that didn't sound like a teenage character on a daytime soap, but also finding the just-right combination of words to do justice to my true self. I've figured out this approach doesn't work for me, which is why I now tend to just go for the first method.
So far, I have only had positive reactions. Some did say stuff like "I knew it" or "I'm not exactly surprised". If I was close to the person who said it, this made me feel happy that they had respected me enough to not push me before I was ready. However, I think people would agree this is generally an unhelpful thing to say, as it might make them feel scrutinised and insecure, so it's best to avoid responding that way. And definitely never out anyone else to another person without their consent. Bloody hell.

This doesn't change the fact that for years, I was confused, terrified and unable to own who I was, because I just didn't know. Most of all, I was scared of disappointing my friends. Not because I thought they hated queers, but because they would think I had been lying to them all this time.
But as I said, you don't come out once only. Sometimes it doesn't even occur to you to do so. So if your friend "forgets" to come out to you, or you feel like you were the last to know, don't make it about you, please.

Readers of my blog, followers of my Twitter: I've never concealed my queerness. At least, I haven't in the past couple of years. For a while, I sort of had a don't ask, don't tell mentality. (What this really meant: weighing up whether or not it was worth the exhaustion, in that moment, of correcting someone if they made assumptions.)
Again, as time passed, I found this didn't work for me. I found myself growing resentful of those who were loud and proud about their sexuality - especially if they were able to pigeonhole themselves 100% into one label. This manifested itself as my own self-loathing and it has taken me a long while to work through that. I thought that active queer behaviour and involvement would make me feel more confident and therefore expedite that process, but I was wrong.

I'm fortunate enough to work - and to have worked - in companies that take an extra step to make their non-hetero and non-binary team members feel welcome. I have awesome people in my life I can talk with for hours and not have to hide anything. I finally, finally feel like I've got nothing to lose.

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