Last Thursday was National Coming Out Day, which I spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing over other people's coming out stories and riding public transit a lot. Somewhere along the way, this list was born.
Coming out is a really thrilling process -- the kind of thing they could have a reality show about, called Extreme Closet Exits or something -- because it can utterly transform your life while leaving many of the day-to-day realities untouched. It's that dichotomy that keeps people from doing it -- they believe their lives will either change too much, or not enough. They ask themselves, "Why bother?"
Here are a few of the many reasons you should:
10. Visibility is important
Yeah, yeah, there are a lot of gay characters on TV these days. And while that is certainly a step in the right direction, it is not the end goal. Malcolm X said, "You don't stick a knife in a man's back nine inches, pull it out six inches, and call it progress," which I think about whenever someone tells me how much progress has been made in the gay rights movement. The knife's not out yet, babes.
This is why you need to be visible. Come out to your friends. Come out to your teachers. Come out to your coworkers. Come out to your mom. Come out to your grandparents. Straight people need to know real queer people, not just characters on TV. They might reject you. They might ask you uncomfortable questions. They might shock you with how well they take the news (or with a confession of their own).
No matter how they react initially, you've done them -- and yourself -- a huge favor. When straight people know and love queer people, they're less likely to participate in homophobia. Instead, they might speak up when they hear a homophobic comment. They might vote against a politician who pushes a homophobic agenda.
Queer people need allies in the straight community in order to get that knife out. By coming out, you create an opportunity for all the straight people in your life to become allies.
9. The baby gays need you
Getting bullied is the worst, and if you have gone online or listened to the radio or watched TV or read the paper or set foot in a middle school recently, you know that gay kids are killing themselves at a devastating rate as a result of bullying.
But YouTube can only do so much. Kids need living, breathing role models in their day-to-day lives. The first time I ever saw a lesbian couple, I was standing in the hallway on my first day of high school. By that time, I had already experienced so much bullying that I was sure there were no proudly out queer people anywhere on earth (I didn't grow up in San Francisco, obviously). It was like seeing not one unicorn, but two insanely pretty lady unicorns who happened to be snuggling and smitten with each other. It was shocking and life-changing.
If you come out today, you can be a baby gay's unicorn.
8. Harvey Milk said so
Harvey Milk is our man! Have some civic pride.
7. Keeping secrets sucks
Keeping a secret does not feel good. It feels really gross, actually, like you've swallowed an entire plum whole and it's stuck somewhere just above your stomach. The longer you keep a secret, the worse it feels, and the more you obsess over it. You think about what a big secret it is, and what it means, and if you're doing enough to keep it hidden, and what people would say if you told, and how you would say it if you did tell, and on and on and on.
Stop it. You are making yourself crazy! Just tell.
You do not have to say it gracefully. Start with someone you trust and work your way out through your social circle. Like telling any secret, it gets easier the more you do it.
6. Anxiety sucks too
Anxiety is probably in-between bullying and secrets on the scale of things that feel horrible. Aside from just making you feel bad, it is physically unhealthy to be anxious all the time. Every second you spend worrying about staying in the closet equals another gray hair that you will have to dye for the rest of your life.
Besides, you have more important things to stress out about. Paying off your student loans, maybe, or driving around San Francisco without getting run over, or deciding what to buy your mom for Christmas. All of these things are better, more productive outlets for your nervous energy than concealing your identity.