October 11th is (Inter)National Coming Out Day
Today is October 11th which is billed as National Coming Out Day in America. But I'm Canadian, and other nations (or people in other nations) observe it too, so it's really International Coming Out Day. This post is about what a day like this means to me, and what being out means and what it involves.
Today has blown up for me on social media. I wrote a few Facebook posts about coming out and about allyship. I also sent a few tweets. And a bunch of replies. In fact, this post is taking me forever to write because of how much is going on. Today is raising a lot of problems, questions, and some community building.
I'm hearing some bad things. Some cis hetero people are "coming out" as liking things like pancakes. That's a horrible thing to do. Such people are completely denigrating what coming out involves for queer people. Doing that is the height of abusing privilege. Don't do that. Moreover, don't "come out" as an ally on coming out day: that's a common problem where people in privileged groups take over something and make it about themselves. Real allies don't make coming out day about them. So don't. Do it any other day, just not today.
I've even heard that some cis gay and lesbian people are saying that trans people coming out on coming out day are "appropriating" it, because this is only for gay people. Huh? Well once again the T in LGBT is being dropped off, conveniently, by LG people.
Here's the thing about being queer, often we have to come out continually. It's not a one-and-done affair. Part of the reason for this is that our society still treats being cis hetero as the default presumption: unless we know otherwise, we assume someone is cis hetero. And the only way for our coming to see someone as something other than cis hetero is for us to learn from the person themselves (e.g., another act of coming out), or from some other source. But often it's through the person's coming out over and over that people move away from the default about that person. This constant need to come out is tiring and stressful, especially for trans people (although I don't mean to suggest it isn't for non-trans people!).
I say this because, often, coming out as trans is risky socially and physically, especially for trans women. Transmisogyny is still rampant and often the last go-to joke for lazy people. Also, in coming out as trans, it often changes the way people see you…forever. People often just can't see a woman, they will see a trans woman. Some people immediately start asking inappropriate, personal questions (which may include genital questions, or about one's "real" name), others start looking for clues ("OK, I can see that now…" or "Yeah, I can tell"). That's not a fun place to be as the trans person. So there's a stress about whether it's safe, physically and , to come out, and whether doing so will irrevocably harm one's social interactions with someone.
Being out has other consequences. It means that I get a lot of requests for my time and attention. People ask me to write articles, give interviews, help with their transitions, answer questions, and so on. I'm happy to help and to fill that role, but it does get tiring sometimes. However, part of my decision to be out (and publicly so: Googling me finds some of my articles pretty quickly) was a political one, so I can make this sort of difference.
But I'm out as a lesbian trans woman, and I'll keep coming out.