Oct. 11th is Coming Out Day, where queer folks of all stripes are encouraged to come out of the closet. Coming out is a process of revelation and storytelling – being true to oneself and communicating this truth to others. Most of us are used to the standard LGBT coming out narrative – you tell your family, friends, coworkers, etc., and then *BOOM*, you’re out of the closet forever. But for the B, the T and the hidden letters of gender, sexual and relationship minorities, coming out of the closet can be a very different process.
For trans* persons in particular, coming out can cost one’s job, family, health care and safety. And for many trans* persons, there is little choice about “being out”. For those who do not “pass” or who change gender presentation or legal sex, the closet can sometimes be a pretty tough place to find.
Bisexual and pansexual persons, on the other hand, often face a constant coming out process as they are routinely mistaken for straight, gay or lesbian. Many face a “double closet”, having to come out both to straight people and the gay and lesbian community, facing possible discrimination and alienation from both sides.
Asexuals have the unenviable task of simply having to explain what asexuality *is* when coming out to most folks.
Genderqueer individuals can face a whole combination of the above – being so gender variant that they have little choice about being “out”, facing a double closet when they can pass for different genders in different situations, or having to explain what terms like genderfluid, neutrois, or agender are in the first place.
Polyamorists can also face serious consequences such as loss of child custody when publicly coming out. Both mainstream and the LGBT community can be hostile to those who upset the dynamic of “only one significant other allowed.”
Intersex persons often come out either to protest past injustices committed against them or to identify themselves as members of a third sex. They bravely choose not to hide, exposing private details of their lives and leaving themselves open to Otherness.
So, dear readers, what have YOUR coming out experiences been like? What prompts you to come out to some people, but not others? Are their some identities/labels you are out about and others you’ve kept in the closet? How do you navigate through multiple identities and levels of outness? How do other aspects of your life, such as ethnicity or religion, affect your coming out process?