Being Out

by R A about a year ago in lgbtq

Are LGBTQ+ individuals required to be out?

Being Out

Pride. There's an entire month dedicated to it; 30 days to be loud and proud of our identities. In recent years I have seen a growing correlation between pride and being out; as if the only way one can be proud about their identity is to be out.

This belief I have seen purported mostly by the younger generation on platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr. These youth are extremely vocal about their conjecture that being in the closet means you are ashamed of your identity.

Yes, in the past many were shamed into remaining in the closet, and yes, in many places it is now safe to be out. However, this should by no means take from someone their right to choose to be out. Being out is a choice. In many conservative states, that choice has been and continues to be influenced by the inherent danger of being out. But it still and forever will be a choice. No one is obligated to be out about a facet of their identity. When speaking with my queer friends I isolated two factors that almost everyone of them considered when they were first coming out.

First and Foremost: Safety

Many queer identifying individuals in the US still experience hostility or outright violence because of their queer identity. These threats don't always come from strangers either. Some people have to face bigotry and violence from their own families. When someone begins looking into the prospect of coming out, considering safety is of the utmost importance. And for some it simply isn't safe to come out.

On sites such as Instagram and Tumblr, users can create a bubble for themselves where they only see content they enjoy. In many cases this creates a network of users that share not only the same interests, but also similar sexualities and gender identities. In other words there are pockets on Tumblr and Instagram that are almost exclusively queer. If a young user only interacts with one of these queer pockets, they will develop a slightly skewed perception of how safe it is to be out. Because of this, these youth won't consider the possibility that someone who is out online chooses not to be out offline for safety reasons. Or, if they encounter someone they suspect is gay or trans, they may even demand that that person comes out without taking into consideration that person's actual identity or what they want.

Another thing that many will consider when coming out is ease; how easy it will be to navigate the world as an out individual.

For instance trans individuals will be faced with the oftentimes daunting task of correcting friends, family, and strangers when they use the wrong pronoun. This can create a lot of stress for the person to deal with on a daily basis. Some trans folks will choose to transition socially only among a certain group of people, and with others not at all. Still others will pass completely as their gender, and thus choose not to tell new friends or coworkers that they are trans for the sake of their own ease, or simply because of how they relate to their gender. In both cases, the choice to be out or not is theirs and theirs alone. There is no shame in being stealth or in choosing to socially remain as one's birth gender.

In the case of sexuality, there are many who choose not to be out for similar reasons. Many of my friends aren't out to their families, not for fear of being kicked out, but simply because it makes holidays and other times with family easier to handle.

The notion that pride and being out go hand-in-hand can be a harmful one. No one should feel pressure to come out, but this ever-growing dialogue does create that pressure. Strangers should by no means presume that a closeted person is ashamed of their identity, and they certainly should not demand that stranger come out. This displays a rather alarming level of entitlement, but then again if there is one word that can describe the younger generation on Instagram and Tumblr it is "entitled."

At the end of the day, being out is the choice of the individual, and no one is required to be out. There should be no pressure to come out, and closeted or stealth individuals shouldn't be held in disdain if they choose not to be.

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