Staying In

Lenna is constantly exploring issues of queer identity and intersectionality. She enjoys rainy days watching YouTube videos, and late night snack adventures.

I don’t have a coming out story.

Some of my friends know because I’ve mentioned it in passing. Plenty of acquaintances within the queer community know because my presence at certain events is somewhat of a giveaway, and the feeling of safety within those contexts makes me more likely to share more details of my experiences.

I can’t recall ever explicitly telling anyone what my gender and sexuality are, and I am careful about how much detail I tell any given individual with whom I do share more about myself.

The whole notion and discussion of ‘coming out’ oversimplifies a multifaceted and complex experience. In Australian society, everyone is assumed cisgender and heterosexual until proven otherwise. The dominant narrative of the linear progression of coming out  contributes to the issue of an all-or-nothing attitude to an individual’s ‘deserved place’ within the queer community, where we are either completely closeted or loud and proud. But as queer people, we should not have to declare our queerness in order to validate it.

Some members of the community seem to think it’s unreasonable to be out to some groups and not to others – however, this cautious and transitional attitude to coming out is more common than the dominant narrative allows us to think. Many people are ‘out’ to themselves and never make a public announcement of it. Almost every new person I meet, or new social stage I enter, involves having to decide whether to tolerate the assumption that I’m straight, or speak up and deal with the questioning and risks that involves. Coming out is never a one-time process.

Non-queers, and those in the queer community with greater privilege, need to appreciate the risk and nuance involved with coming out in such a public way; we are stereotyped, harassed, dehumanised, disowned, and at risk of public humiliations or physical assault. This is not to mention that an official, public diagnosis of the self leaves no room for exploration of identity – or the possible realisation that your identity may be different to what you initially chose to declare.

The logic that ‘coming out’ means a revealing push from the private to the public is toxic. The portion of the community who think this way need to realise that there is more to being queer than coming out, and that being open is a privilege that not everyone experiences