Coming out of the closet allows you to confirm your identity and feel acknowledged. But it can’t be an obligation. It has to be your choice.
Coming out of the closet can be hard. It can stress you out, especially if you live in a highly homophobic family and/or environment.
Whoever has already come out knows the benefits that come after speaking the truth. But we all remember the insecurities and unbearable pain before coming out. Almost all non-heterosexual people (in particular those born in the XX century) spent years and years denying their real sexual orientation. Some still do and hide in the closet, but that’s a different story. Those among us who have overcome fear and shame know how better life can be once out of the closet.
Nonetheless, in some cases, it’s not as easy as it might sound. For example, if you are a journalist and work for a right-wing paper, coming out might put your career at serious risk. Or, if your family is extremely conservative, your physical and psychological safety and sanity could be at risk. Depending on the different situations and environments you find yourself in, you’d better consider all the possible dangers and act accordingly.
Maybe this is why, in 2020, there’s still a bunch of LGBTQ+ people saying things like, “I’m dating someone” with no gender mention. Many still think that sexual orientation is a “private issue” that doesn’t need to be revealed. Not to mention those who still hide or pretend to be what they’re not. Unfortunately, we’ve got a long way to go yet.
Before deciding to come out or not, ask yourself if you’re happy where you are. You might find the closet a safe and comfortable place to spend the rest of your life in. Or you may find it unbearable and want to come out as soon as possible, no matter what your family, boss, coworkers, or religion might think or say. Some leave their bigoted and ignorant “dear” ones and choose to live their lives fully. Some others give up on the idea that a better life is possible for them.
Whatever your choice, don’t ever let anybody force you to come out. Many believe there is no reason to, since, sooner or later, people will find out by themselves. My opinion is totally different, though. I do believe each and every LGBTQ+ person should never feel ashamed of thinking and saying, “I’m not straight, and I’m okay with that.” Once you become fully honest with yourself, you get more intimacy, authenticity, and sincerity with others. That’s why we all love honesty, don’t we?
If you are okay with your sexuality but others are not, you have a choice. You can choose to talk to and educate them patiently about non-heterosexuality, or you can say goodbye to them and their prejudice and ignorance.
Clearly, it’s not that easy for everybody. Yet, for each LGBTQ+ person coming out, one other LGBTQ+ person feels less lonely, isolated, and “wrong”. And a bit happier, too. If we all LGBTQ+ people came out, our lives as non-heterosexuals would be easier and way more relaxed, both in cities and villages. I do understand that in some small places, there still are countless difficulties for you to face if you’re not straight.
When it comes to difficulties, the only way out is through. There’s no other way than facing the problem and grabbing the bull by the horns. Truth is always the way. And the truth here is that, when you come out, you are not pleading guilty to a felony. You’re not apologizing for a mistake. You’re not begging for mercy. It is more like you’re telling right-handed people that you are a lefty. What can be wrong with that? Think about it, that’s all I’m asking of you.
If you haven’t yet, don’t come out because you have something to disclose. Come out because you have something you want to improve. Your life and your relationships, for example.
Alessandro Cozzolino, LGBTQ+ coach