the queer girl’s guide to coming out
Coming out is often portrayed in the media as One Big Event that changes the course of your life forever. While for some people, I’m sure coming out is something you do once only, and with a bang (Ellen DeGeneres springs to mind here), for most of us, coming out is something we do over and over with no end in sight. This is mostly due to society’s heteronormative assumptions. No matter how far we’ve progressed from the early 1970s – when male homosexuality was illegal, female homosexuality didn’t exist, and gay or straight was the extent of the sexuality spectrum – the sad fact is that in 2011, people will still assume that you are straight until you tell them otherwise.
Added to that, of course, is the prevalent belief that queer women just don’t exist outside of all-girl boarding schools and porn. People are aware of lesbianism in the hypothetical sense, but a shocking amount of people still hold the belief that gay women are either survivors of sexual trauma or just haven’t found the right man yet. Throw bisexuality into the mix, and society at large is completely bewildered.
So instead of coming out once, we find ourselves coming out every day – when people you knew in high school notice your wedding ring and ask about your husband, when distant relatives ask if you have a boyfriend, when co-workers see on Facebook that you had a date and ask what he was like. My tactic is to quietly correct the pronoun and, if they have a reaction, to wing it from there. Most people, I’ve found, don’t – at least not to my face. ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise…’ is the extent of it, probably 90% of the time. Of course, it’s the other 10% that I, along with probably most other queer people out there, both expect and hope to avoid.
Despite all this, I’m out anyway. I’m out because I believe that LGBTIQQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Ally) women need more visibility. I’m out because not being out feels, to me personally, as though I’m hiding a huge part of who I am. I’m out because I’m a hopeless romantic and when I’m with someone, I want to shout it from the rooftops. And this isn’t to say, in any way, shape, or form, that you need to be out – coming out is a horrifically personal choice that can and should only be made by you. I would never stand up here and say, ‘You need to come out for The Cause’ because, quite frankly, I think that’s crap. In a perfect world, we could all be out (as queer or straight, because in a perfect world, straight would no longer be the default). But for me as a pansexual woman, not to mention a bloody stubborn person, I refuse to allow the general public’s understanding of female bisexuality to be Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’.
By Maria-Jane Brodie
(Image credit: 1.)