Coming In, Coming Out730 views
Ok, so, coming out! The big bad wolf that eats up all our energy! Why do we all feel so threatened by this experience? We walk around a dark room for three days trying to figure out the perfect words to say so we could simply affirm our identity, our sexuality, our selves. We try to find the perfect form to not offend the one we’re entrusting with this big secret.
Before we go into the need to come out of this dark little closet, let’s talk about the act of coming out itself. Before you start this ongoing process, you have to come in. Confused? Let me explain. Coming in is the act of preparing your surroundings and creating the safest, most comfortable environment possible. You can’t come out to people if you’re not in your own safety zone. You have to be stable and assertive. When you come out, there is no going back. You have to know that you will be facing various reactions and you have to be in a stage in your life where you can handle these different responses, whether joyful, indifferent or emotionally taxing. That being said, there are ways to prepare yourself, but that’s another topic.
Disclosing your sexual identity to people around you, whether close or not, is not a one-time thing. It’s a constant constructive process that will accompany you through your life’s journey. You’ll find yourself coming out to people either by chance (or accidentally as many describe it) or intentionally. But whenever you choose your experience to take place, make sure it happens at your own pace. That’s very important. Sandy told me she was caught by her mom red-handed, so I asked her whether or not she would have come out to her otherwise. Sandy confidently replies: “Of course I would have. I did tell my father and my other relatives myself. I wouldn’t be able to lead a double life. I can’t keep watching my tongue. Certain things just tend to come up in the conversation, like I’m sleeping over at X’s or I’m going with Y…”
Sandy goes on to affirm the saying “Out ‘em, recruit ‘em.” Since everyone in her environment knows that’s she’s a lesbian, she expects people to talk to her about it normally. However, she does come across those who tend to be either in denial or who are too self-conscious about the matter. “In those cases,” she says, “I just have a normal conversation with them and certain things would come up naturally. I’m very comfortable with myself and my identity. It’s who I am. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not out. I’m just me and I get to have the courage to affirm it. People who have a problem with it can deal with it themselves.” Sandy goes on to say that when she falls in love with a girl one day and wants to bring her back home to meet her parents, she would want her to get to know her in her own home; she would want her parents to see how happy she is with her. “It was hard at first, but now my mom gives me her opinion about the girls I date, and my dad wants to hook me up with his friend… she’s a girl.”
When you decide to be out and proud, you have to keep a clear head on your shoulders. You won’t be able to control other people’s reactions. What you can do, on the other hand, is build up the best possible situation for yourself. Focus on the positive people in your life; count on their support. They will make the journey lighter for you. When it comes to those who are too full of themselves and can’t “accept” your identity, don’t waste your time trying to solve their issues with sexuality. That’s their problem. Building up from scratch takes energy; you can’t let anyone tear you down just because they’re insecure.
The hidden part of this exciting experience lies here though: when you think that you have figured yourself out completely and planned what your next steps are, guess again. As you come out to people you will find that you are learning things about yourself you never knew existed. You will be overcome with a liberating feeling of excitement and freedom. It’s part of creating yourself and evolving. It helps you put your finger on the shady parts of your personality and evaluate what you want from people. You tend to increase your self-awareness.
So you’ve got the individuals who choose and need to be out as lesbians or bisexuals. Rouba is a woman who stands by that opinion stating: “as a woman who has come out to her parent, her co-workers, relatives and friends, I think it is very essential. It’s who I am, simple. I don’t want to feel guilty about my identity and have to hide it; I would rather be clear and honest and open about it. If people can’t accept that, it’s simply their problem. I’m always willing to talk to them about how it feels like to be gay and the advantages and drawbacks that come along with it.” Apart from living up to her sexual identity for personal reasons, Rouba also thinks that “being gay is the core of a political statement; it’s not a private matter. Those whose circumstances allow for coming out should come out, in my opinion.” She goes on to explain that individuals who choose to be out and proud should realize that they have a responsibility towards all the other gays and lesbians in the Arab countries. The image they let out to the world will be projected on other members in their LGBTQ community. That’s why there should be a sense of respect and awareness.
On the other hand, other members of our not-so-little family don’t feel the need to go around stating their sexual tendencies and their personal identities. Abir is one such example: “I don’t hide my identity. If people come up to me and ask, I would be very honest about it. But it’s not like I go around screaming it on the roof tops.” When she was young, Abir used to be very open about her sexual identity. She used to be very happy about it and run around saying it out loud up until she grew up and started realizing that, in the future, there would be responsibilities and commitments. “When I was younger, it was fun, but now I think about responsibilities, marriage pressures, and my parents and I started feeling ashamed,” Abir said.
Whether you decide to be out or not, that will always be a personal choice of course, but the theories are always the same. And I couldn’t have put it better than Lee, who said: “Coming out is a scary process. But you have to have guts to do it. And if you do, it will set you free. Yes you might lose people but that’s part of the experience itself. People can’t just live their lives hiding. The least you can do is be out to a couple of close friends, to the special important people in your life because living in an environment constantly controlling your words and pretending to be something you’re not… it’s exhausting. Coming out is essential, but you have to study it before you go through it. You can’t just randomly come out and hope for the best!”
As you see, it’s true that we all have very different coming out stories. But at the core of the matter, we’re all very similar in our doubts, excitement, fear, joy… we all want to be liberated from the claustrophobic closet syndrome! And we really should! In a utopian world, as W. would say, coming out wouldn’t even have to be an issue. Even better, there would be no coming out to begin with. In Utopia, the worrying process shouldn’t even exist. We should all be able to live our lives normally and naturally. But in the hopes of reaching this perfect world someday, one thing remains a true fact: no one can force you to be something or someone you’re not. Whatever your choice is, you should always remember that your comfort, safety and peace of mind come first. If you don’t want to come out and would rather keep your life a mystery for others, then, by all means, it’s your prerogative. And it shouldn’t be a problem. You won’t be “hiding your true identity.” Being gay doesn’t make you who you are. Being yourself should be quite enough for you and the people around you. Don’t feel pressured by other community members to affirm your sexuality if you’re not convinced
If you do choose to come out and be proud about it, listen to your internal alarm system. Don’t ignore the little voice in your head that tells you not to come out to this or that person. Only you know what your family is like when they are challenged. Assess your safety and listen to your inner voice and side with caution. Truth be told, you may not be able to “fix” their heads but you can always take certain steps to being out and proud… and safe.
Contributed by Kim