Coming out is the process by which we – lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people – come to discover our particular identities and sexual orientations and to express this to others as a way find acceptance for ourselves, within our families and within the larger community.
Coming out is all about telling our stories and busting the myths, stereotypes and lies propagated by the media and those who have never met us and addressing the homophobia that rules unabated in our families, circle of friends and our communities when we remain silent. For most of us, coming out is the very act of coming into maturity and living with integrity and honesty. It’s about no longer hiding or being ashamed for who we are and who we love. These identities play a key role in the larger social and political movement towards equal rights for all.
Identifying ourselves as LBGT allows visibility to happen. We are invisible precisely because we come from every race, every country, every socioeconomic background and every other walk of life. We blend into the very fabric of the tapestry of the human race, unseen and unheard until we open our mouths to identify ourselves. Until we say, “I am gay” or “I am transgendered,” no one sees us.
Coming out is the act of becoming visible. It allows us to finally speak up and demand rights in areas where those rights have been ignored or denied including in discrimination with regard to taxes, health benefits, marriage, adoption, child custody, housing and employment. Identity-making becomes the very vehicle through which hate crimes, bullying, family rejection, and gay teen suicide and drug abuse can finally come into the light of awareness. If members of the LGBT do not speak up and come out, change in these areas cannot happen legally and socially. The law protect individuals. If individuals are not visible, there is no one to protect. Fear, discrimination, misinformation, and bigotry remain the status quo.
We are now seeing quick and swift changes in the movement of equal rights for the LGBT community in the US and some countries. And yet, at this time, LGBT people face persecution, prison and even death under the laws of other countries. The work of coming out is not over yet. In some respects, it has just begun. But as the landscape changes across the globe and equal rights start to see the light of day everywhere, the issue of identity will begin to change also, for identity itself is a thought-created, social construction whose utility has a shelf life. As much as identity moves us forward as a human race in the area of equal rights, it also moves us more and more into an inescapable polarization. At some point in the identity-making game, “This is who I am” stops looking like a mantra for peace and starts looking like an act of violence. As the decades and centuries roll on, we may begin to see more fully as a species that inherent identity is no longer as useful as it once was and that it can’t actually be found to exist anyway. We may then start feeling the pull to go deeper as a human race, for the walls that we build around ourselves with our thoughts aren’t walls at all. They are paper thin disguises, constructions with a limited personal, relational, social, political and legal usefulness. Identities will look less like road maps to love and acceptance and more like the battle lines of suffering-causing separation. Something will have to give, I suspect. . . . That’s where Waking Up comes in!
Share your ‘Coming Out’ story
Telling our stories is how we educate people about equality issues and bust the myths and stereotypes about who the LGBT community is. Share your story now for possible publication on this site.