On October 11 of each year, LGBTQ+ folks and allies around the United States post rainbows and heartfelt words on their social media pages in honor of National Coming Out Day. Some share stories of their own “coming out” experiences, while others offer fellow members of the community words of affirmation, acceptance, and love. This year, even President Joe Biden delivered a speech to show his support as an ally to the community.
Unfortunately, this day isn’t all rainbows and celebrations for many people in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, nearly half of all people who identify as queer can’t openly celebrate National Coming Out Day because they’re still in the closet.
“Coming out” is one of the hardest things many people within the LGBTQ+ community ever do. We worry about how our loved ones will react and how many friends we’ll lose if we choose to live our truth. Some of us even fear losing our jobs or putting our dreams on hold because these aspects of our identities don’t jive with the belief systems that our current workplaces or educational institutions hold.
But should we really have to choose between different parts of ourselves to fit in with the crowd or please someone?
Although I’m fairly transparent about my sexuality and have been for years, there was a time when I wasn’t so open. In fact, I spent over a decade in a state of hiding and denial because I worried that I’d lose every part of my life that brought me joy if I decided to live my truth. I convinced myself that nobody would love or accept me for being bisexual — and that fear forced me to remain silent for close to 15 years.
After I accidentally came out in 2017, though, I learned a lot about myself and nearly everyone else in my life. Some of these discoveries were positive, and some weren’t. However, I think the biggest takeaway for me was the feeling of relief and freedom I felt in finally being who I truly am.
If you’re scared to “take the plunge” and come out to your loved ones, I want to reassure you that the freedom that you’ll feel is more than worth the temporary chaos your openness may cause. You may lose a few friends or encounter some odd questions, but you’ll find new friends who accept you just the way you are as you embrace yourself more completely.
Your “coming out” doesn’t have to be some huge announcement with rainbows everywhere that you share out on all of your social media profiles, either.
In fact, you can come out to just a few people at a time and in as few or as many words as you like. Sharing something so vulnerable about yourself isn’t easy, and sometimes it’s not something that happens overnight. Many of us come out over time, and you may even need to come out over and over again as you discover new insights about who you are.
Also, we can’t all just proclaim our sexualities and continue living life the same as we did before, and I realize that. Here’s the thing though: Keeping part of yourself a secret doesn’t make that part of you any less valid. So even if you can’t openly share your sexuality or gender identity yet, I hope you know that National Coming Out Day is still for you — even if the only person you’ve come out to is yourself.