Coming Out (Or Not): A Celebration of Autonomy

By Clarie Randall
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First and foremost – Happy National Coming Out Day! Secondly, remember this is not a day to shame others for whether they are out or not. Every queer person’s coming out process is different, valid, and their own to dictate.

In my own experience, coming out has been (and continues to be) a long process. College was the first space I truly felt comfortable coming out – first to myself, which may have actually been my most difficult coming out process. I thought that I knew myself better than I did. In questioning and claiming an identity that was new, I was forced to face how little I really knew myself. That isn’t to say that coming out to other people has been easy. Every space requires a different decision – close friends, the queer community on my university campus, immediate family, friends from high school I’m still friends with on Facebook, extended family, various social media outlets, the list goes on – and I have to make the choice for myself in each of these spaces as to when, where, how, why, and if I come out. That is why coming out is, for me, an incredibly feminist issue. My bodily autonomy is entirely entangled with claiming my queerness, and when October 11 rolls around every year I feel both proud and conflicted in equal measure.

National Coming Out Day (NCOD) originated as a way to bring awareness and visibility to the queer community, and considering that the overwhelming majority of U.S. adults report knowing someone who is lesbian or gay, I’d consider it a success in some regards. But the B and T in LGBT are still constantly overlooked, not to mention the countless other communities (pansexual, queer, intersex, asexual, etc.) that have been and continue to be ignored in both LGBT and non-LGBT spaces. With the erasure of so many identities, NCOD is an amazing opportunity to continue education on the diversity and depth of those in the queer community. However, not everyone can do this in their personal lives so unapologetically. For my queer friends in not-so-queer-friendly spaces, this is a daily battle between authenticity and safety; how truly liberating is coming out when the danger of harassment or violence is still devastatingly real? Despite the overwhelming narrative that LGBTQ+ rights have been achieved and our fight ended with marriage equality, it is still not safe or comfortable for countless queer people to come out, on National Coming Out Day or at any other time. Our fight is far from over.

Admittedly, coming out as bisexual for the first time was scary. But my own coming out story has also been incredibly privileged (due to my whiteness, socioeconomic privilege, access to education, ability status, and myriad other identities) and relatively easy, despite the stigma (from both outside and within the LGBTQ+ community) surrounding bisexuality. Since every coming out narrative is wildly different from the next, here are a few other pieces and personal stories about the complexities and nuances of coming out to keep in mind today and every day:

The whiteness of ‘coming out’: culture and identity in the disclosure narrative (Archer Magazine)

Mara Wilson Explains How Privilege Relates to Coming Out as LGBT (Teen Vogue)

On National Coming Out Day, Don’t Disparage the Closet (The Atlantic)

Coming Out as Genderqueer Non-Binary (Outside Of and Within the Queer Community) (Everyday Feminism)

Remember: National Coming Out Day is a celebration for some, but not everyone. Support the queer people in your life by supporting their decisions around coming out and their autonomy to choose what is best for them.

By Clarie Randall

Clarie is Senior National Organizer at the Feminist Majority Foundation, where she runs operations and programming for Feminist Campus on the East Coast. Shortly after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2017, she joined the Feminist Campus team to organize in Southeastern states. Now a D.C. resident, Clarie is passionate about digital and grassroots organizing and enjoys exploring the city with her partner, dreaming about getting a dog one day.

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