The case for coming out

Showing your true self to the world is a complex, but necessary, decision

Ashley Pelletier, Arts & Life Editor

When you wear your heart on your sleeve, it’s hard to withhold your inner self from the world.

I’ve known that I’m a member of the LGBTQ community for around eight years now. I never had a jaw-dropping, sexual awakening moment. Rather I had more of a, “Hm, I don’t think I’m straight,” vibe.

I’ve always been comfortable with knowing who I am despite throwing around a number of labels until I found the word I think best fits me — queer. Even though I went to Catholic school my whole life, I never worried about my identity and whether or not I was going to hell. That just didn’t matter to me.

However, I only came out publicly this past year. My close friends always knew and I was glad to talk about LGBTQ issues with them, but I held back from publicly talking about it because coming out to the entire world was daunting. I wasn’t hiding my identity, but I certainly wasn’t shouting, “I like women!” from the rooftops.

This open secret of mine often led to me withholding my passions.

The first time I ever thought about writing an opinion for The Chronicle was when Netflix canceled an LGBTQ show I liked, “I am Not Okay With This.” It was not the first time Netflix canceled a show with positive LGBTQ representation. I was passionate about the topic, but I didn’t feel comfortable publicly writing about it. So I didn’t.

I’ve also never had the opportunity to go to Pride Month events because I didn’t feel ready to come out on that scale. I’d feel envious of friends and others on social media sharing their pictures decked out in rainbow apparel, and I wanted that for myself. But I couldn’t take that leap.

It’s difficult to explain why I so often chose to keep my identity to myself. Most of the time, I don’t even understand why I waited so long to come out. My family is supportive of me no matter what and my friends already knew and loved me anyway. I’m sure many people assumed I was queer, especially with my stereotypical pixie cut in high school and my current green hairdo.

When it comes down to it, I think I chose not to officially come out because I thought it would make too big of a deal out of my sexuality. I didn’t want to have any awkward or uncomfortable conversations that came with coming out, particularly with my parents. I’ve never even directly said that I’m queer to them. I don’t even know if my father knows.

I didn’t want it to be bigger than it was. If I don’t make a big deal out of it, then it isn’t a big deal, right?

That thought process isn’t as clear-cut as I thought it was. Being a member of the LGBTQ community is a big deal, especially in a time where Republican legislators threaten the rights of other members of the community, specifically our trans folk.

I live in New Hampshire, which is relatively LGBTQ-friendly. However, in the past year, two troubling bills have gone to vote in the state’s House of Representatives, HB 1077, a bill aiming to repeal a ban on conversion therapy, and HB 1180, a bill that would exclude transgender students from sports.

Neither bill passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives, but they are not unique. Over 150 anti-LGBTQ bills of some form have been brought to state governments across the country in 2022 alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. While many of these bills die in the approval process, both Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and Utah’s transgender sports ban were passed the respective Congresses.

Staying in my closet, no matter how transparent it was, allowed me an amount of plausible deniability. If I didn’t feel like getting into an argument over LGBTQ rights, I could just “act straight.”

However, my accepting community is part of my privilege. It isn’t fair to those who cannot openly be queer that I chose to stay in the closet out of convenience.

Obviously, not every LGBTQ person has the capabilities to safely come out. Some live with homophobic or transphobic family members, or they would put themselves at risk within their community.

It is up to those who can safely come out to speak up for those who are in these positions. If we don’t speak out, who will? We cannot rely on allies and our most outspoken members to advocate for us. Real change happens when the average queer person takes action themselves.