Last week was Coming Out Week. Hopefully you noticed, though between the chalked pathways, the flags on the quad and the random doors across campus, it would have been hard to miss. The week is known for its ties to the queer community, showcasing the continual process of coming out, celebrating those of us who have come out in any and all aspects of our lives and showing everyone that we are proud of our sexual identities and we hope to be role models for others struggling with their own identities. The week is wrapped around Coming Out Day, October 11, and it’s meant to be a celebration, even though there have been a lot of negative events occurring in the news lately around LGBTQ issues.
However, it wasn’t until the week was almost over that I realized what coming out really could mean in everyone’s life. Here we go with the blanket statements. Just stick with me for a bit. What I mean to say is that one doesn’t have to be queer to come out, or come to terms with an identity they have. Coming out could mean accepting an identity that one has and claiming it and making it one’s own. If you know Heather Dockstader, you know that she’s fabulous and I owe a debt of gratitude to her for helping me see the broad application of Coming Out Week.
It sure sounds simple, but in reality it really isn’t. The LGBTQ community celebrates coming out because it is a challenge for each person to overcome, a landmark in our conceptualization of being out and queer. It takes time, diligence and courage to be able to accept, understand and then disclose one’s sexual identity. The reasons are different for everyone. For me, it was because I wanted to fall in love with whom I wanted and then be able to be public and open with that relationship just like any other couple. I wanted to be able to be honest with myself and other people, and coming out was to me a fundamental step in that process.
The funny part is that by going through that whole process of self-reflection and dialogue, I became interested in discovering the truth about myself in all sorts of areas. I think this is pretty true about a lot of queer people. I almost feel bad that I am falling into the gay stereotype because I love talking about all things sex. Although some might say it is because I’m a creepy dude, I’m convinced that it’s because I’ve had to reflect on myself and my desires so much that it has become part of me and is essential to who I am.
I’ve come out not only as being a gay man, but also as being a sexual being who wants to take charge of his sexuality and own it completely. But coming out isn’t all sexual: I’m an avid Battlestar Galactica fan and I’m an overachiever and a control freak; I’m an atheist and I love watching Curling and I actually understand it.
I’ll be honest, I’m still working on other identities that I have. Sometimes not having the answers is all right though, and I will just have to keep working to figure those parts of me out as I bumble around through life. Some answers come easier than others, but I try and make the time to take the time to understand who I am and what I’m doing in this crazy world of ours.
What I’m getting at, through this deluge of personal stories, is that there is a lot more to coming out than understanding and accepting a sexual identity. It is about you understanding you and accepting those parts and owning them completely. It is about building confidence in your body and your actions, your convictions and your desires. It is about making sure that you are living for yourself and nobody else, and that requires finding the truth out about yourself and sticking to it. Every day.
So come out, come out, wherever and whatever you are. You don’t have to be queer to take the time and reflect on your life and your position in this world.