National Coming Out Day was on Oct. 11, and when scrolling through social media on this day, that was no different than any other. I noticed a trend of straight “allies” posting about the day, but not many members of the community.
This sparked some questions in me: Why are straight people so fascinated with the idea of people coming out to them? Why do non-members of the LGBTQIA+ community seemingly force actual members to come out?
There are moments every day I feel like my sexuality is comparable to a zoo animal on display for people to look at and judge. Straight people are fascinated with people who are different from the “norm.” Countless times I have been told, “I’ve never had a gay best friend before” by people who only wanted me to be their friend because of my sexuality.
What difference does it make knowing someone’s sexuality? Does it change your opinion of the person? Or are you just nosy and are invading someone else’s personal journey?
When you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it can feel like you have to come out every day to strangers. Even in situations where you would think your sexuality is not even a question, you still have to confirm this aspect of yourself to others so their curiosity can be put at bay.
I am privileged to have had an easy experience coming to terms with my sexuality; however, it hasn’t been the same in terms of coming out to people. It was hard enough to confirm my sexuality out loud to myself, let alone having to say it to others petrified me.
I knew I was gay in the sixth grade and it didn’t come as much as a surprise to those who knew me. Even though it was just an assumed fact about me, I still was terrified to confirm it. It took my peers exposing the truth to force me out of the closet. Being told “we know you are gay” by my “friends” traumatized me; my secret was out and I had no control over it.
Saying the words “I’m gay” to someone else was not easy. I was nowhere near ready to be out and proud of who I was, but I felt like I had to be.
I hid in the closet for a long time even though I knew that closet had glass doors. I was scared that I would be judged for my sexuality. No one at the time in my school was out, and being the first to do so was a scary thought.
I never will forget the day that I finally said the words that I was gay to someone. After saying the words aloud for the first time, the reaction I received was a weird look of disgust, but also confirmation. They finally heard me say the word that they had been waiting to hear. All the confidence that I had built up to share the news, vanished in an instant.
Coming to terms with your sexuality can be very difficult, and having to come out is traumatic for some members of the community. Coming out is a struggle that straight people will never have to experience.
This is why I believe straight people are fascinated with people coming out to them, as they do not know the true pain of the situation. Therefore, it is just a fun piece of information that they can use at any time and being the actual owner of the information is not something that they have to live with forever.
Another issue I have is people willingly sharing other people’s sexuality to others, while not thinking about the consequences for those they disclosed about.
A lot of people know my sexuality through word of mouth and a lot of them are people I chose not to share an aspect about myself with, purposefully. Unfortunately, that right was taken away from me when my sexuality was disclosed by others sharing it for me.
This takes time to 1. Recognize it as a problem and 2. Become conscious of breaking the habit. Although, this is an issue I have with straight people; in-group members can also be at fault.
I too am also guilty of making this mistake and I deeply regret it to those that I did out. Try your best to keep someone else’s sexuality out of your mouth. You never know the impact that your confirmation can have on other people.
Of course, I understand that not every straight person is like this. Some straight people do not care about your sexuality and never will ask you; even when you do confirm it to them, nothing changes.
This weird fascination with gay people among straight audiences needs to stop. We are not characters that fit an outdated stereotype. We are normal human beings just like everyone else.
Let people disclose their sexuality to you on their own terms and stop asking the question “are you gay?” No member of the community is required to come out to you, and it is a privilege if they choose to do so.
Nothing changes when I say I am gay. I am still Ryan Windle, I am still the same age, I am still a college student like everyone else who attends Elmhurst University, and I am proud of the person that I am today. The fact that I like men changes absolutely nothing about my character or who I am as a person; nor do I treat it as such.