Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Question(s) of the Day

After comments on my National Coming Out Day post, I thought the topic of coming out could use another place for discussion.

So, Impersonators, are you out? Want to be out? As an ally, has someone come out to you? Want to share a story or discuss the pros and cons of being out? Let's try it.

A reminder that comments are moderated, so I'll make this as safe a space as I can for anyone interested in talking about this.


dammit janet said...

Ok, I'll go for it. I have been openly queer (I have vacillated between labels, but "queer" seems the most comfortable) for a little over a year and half now, and I have had it relatively easy. My family is super supportive, and almost all of my friends guessed it before I did, and even if they didn't, they weren't surprised or hostile.

The difficulty comes with a couple of my female friends who clearly aren't entirely comfortable with it. They would never say it out loud, but their own issues with sexuality manifest themselves when they go hot and cold on me. At least, that's what I think is happening, since I've never really had that conversation with them.

Other things: some guys assume that I objectify women in demeaning ways, and that I think of women in similarly chauvinistic ways. People frequently label me as lesbian or a gay woman, and I am usually ok with it, but sometimes it kinda makes me cringe.

I am often asked about the nuances and specifics of my sexual and romantic desires, which wouldn't be weird except it's sometimes 5 minutes after I've met a person. I usually don't mind being an educational display, but it gets tiring eventually.

Lastly, the most rewarding part is having supportive ally friends (for some this came easily, for others it took a while to reach that point). Every time one of them sticks up for the fact that my attractions deserve validation, or that sex and gender are different, or that all queer women don't look the same, etc., it's a really great feeling. It makes me feel like my uncomfortable educational display moments are worth it. A consequence of this is that I have drifted away a bit from my less enthusiastic friends and more toward my staunch ally friends, whether for better or worse.

Tasha said...

Last week Common Ground was tabling outside of the cafeteria at Knox asking people to come out as whatever they wanted. I was also tabling with a petition to help save the Illinois MAP grant and every time I walked by they told me to come out as something. I couldn't think of anything to cone out as. Nonsensically I felt embarrassed. As someone who reads a lot of feminist poetry, a lot of it written by lesbians, I often start to feel ashamed of being heterosexual and the priviledges that comes with it. I couldn't even think of something not related to sexuality to come out as. It was a confusing experience. I started avoiding the table, though I supported what they were doing.

Amelia said...

I stopped labeling my sexuality a while ago, just because I didn't see the point in actively wearing a label for an aspect of myself that wouldn't affect so many people, but it never came up with friends really because people tend to have assumptions about everyone, and don't usually bother to check them.

And Tasha, there's no reason to feel guilty for being heterosexual. Being aware of one's privilege is a large part being a good ally.

Halla said...

Hmm. This is always tricky. I am bisexual, I prefer queer as a label if I must but it doesn't come up so often and I feel slightly railroaded into claiming a bi identity as it's a troublesome one and a group I'm involved with is trying to push the 'we're people too dammit, not just a collection of sexual urges' so I feel I should support that.
I've known since early teen years, I've never come out to my family but have to some friends. Mostly they are cool.
Usually I feel like a traitor to queerdom as I am happily monogamously married to a man, which makes me heterosexual as far as the mainstream gaze goes, so I am apparently enjoying straight privilege. The older I get the more intimidated I am by the gay and lesbian world. I know that people who should maybe be more ready to accept are judgemental sometimes, a bi friend was frequently referred to at the local LGBT centre as 'that straight bitch' by one unpleasant lesbian and I find that disproportianately offputting. It tends to drive me to hide in that 'straight privilege' that I didn't ask for and can't legitimately claim. I suppose I should also come out as a cowardly non-confrontational person, which is one reason I don't stand up and be counted more.
So. That's me, I suppose.

Just A Guy said...

I mentioned in the 'Coming Out Day' post that I am bisexual, but not out to anyone. I've only recently come to terms with my sexuality. Before it was more just a curiosity thing, but now i find myself looking at men the same way I look at females. It's more than just sexual curiosity now, I've been noticing smiles and eyes and personalities and viewing those as so attractive.
However, my big fear with coming out is acceptance from the many people in my life. Everyone I pretty much hang around with which includes most friends, all family and myself, are generally conservative and very much Christian. So anything other than guy/girl is a big no-no. I know deep down that 95% of the people in my life would still love me and support me if I came out to them. Still, that doesn't alleviate the immense fear that they will all reject me. I constantly think about what my family would think of me. Would they love me less? Would my friends not want to hang out with me anymore? Would my wife leave me and take my son? What would the people at church say? Will people view me as a hypocrite due to the fact that I am Christian and politically conservative?

What also scares me is whether or not I would gain acceptance in the LGBT community. I have no idea how they would react to a Christian Conservative bisexual man who is married to a woman! I would definitely feel like an outsider.

lindsay said...

I have a "gay? fine by me." shirt that I wear around. For me, wearing the shirt allows me to come out as GLBTQ-accepting. I think things like that allow individuals to know that I can be approached or in a conversation where sexuality is a direct or indirect conversation topic and not have it be an issue.

For example, I feel like if I wear a GLBTQ positive shirt or buttons, then someone else can talk about their significant other without it being conversation altering info.

However, I do recognize that me wearing a t-shirt isn't even as remotely significant as coming out. My heterosexual privilege allows me to do that without it being a big deal... but I do want people to know that I'm GLBTQ friendly without needing to explicitly say so all the time.

Saranga said...

I'm bi, but as a teenager veered between gay! straight! gay! straight! for years, depending on who I crushed on. this is because there was 0 visibility of bi folks in the the media, so who did I have to identify with, to show me the way? Partly for this reason, I am doing a series of coming out in comics posts on my site, in an effort to highlight some diversity.

When all my friend at uni came out as bi I was insanely jealous cos they had me to support them, and for years I'd no one.

I suffer from straight privilege because, like Halla, I have a male partner, so get read as straight 95% of the time. (Thanks be to the 5% when i'm not). Dammit, I'm not one of you! Why do the privileged folks tend to assume you're just the same as them?

Most of my friends know, but one keeps forgetting and is shocked when I have to tell her again, for the umpteenth time.

I am not out on facebook because I am friends with work folks on there and I worry about what they'll say, having noted (unintentional) biphobia coming from them before. Maybe i'll change it when I move jobs in a month, but then I'll have to hide it amongst other areas.

I have a sister who knows but who recommends I don't have identity issues in front of my boyfriend too much because he might get..insecure? upset? I don't know what. He never has done and he knows bi doesn't = unfaithful.

I try to justify not telling my parents on the basis that it's none of their business, but in reality it's cos I'm too chickenshit. :(

OTOH I'm thinking of redescribing myself as queer, because I find it more fluid than bi.

Whew. Thank you for putting this post up. Spaces like this are really important. I'm not entirely comfortable spewing like this on my site, because rl friends read it.

I also have to regularly come out as a feminist and a comics fan, which I used to find nearly as nerve wracking as 'admitting' I ain't straight.