Coming out of the closet is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as “to tell your family, friends, or the public that you are gay, after previously keeping this secret.”
There is not one way to be gay. Gays can fall on a spectrum of being defined as butch, masculine, flamboyant, or lipstick, just to name a few. We can enjoy wearing rainbows, drinking a Bud Light, and loving Meghan Markle. Ironically, there are fewer gays in the population compared to the majority of heterosexuals, but there are diverse ways to coming out.
“Mom, I’m a lesbian.”
“Dad, I have a confession to make. I’m gay.”
While interrupting a making out sesh, “Full disclosure, but I’m poly.”
Maybe parents walk in on a scissor fight or two dudes playing a naked version of Star Wars battling with light sabers.
And I’m not an expert in the world of trans, but I’d imagine it goes a bit like, “Gerald (Gerald is a friend), I was biologically born a male, but I’m a female.”
The act of “coming out” makes sense. LGBT+ members want to be transparent and share a figment of their individuality. However, the term is semantically problematic and can be dissected into two parts: announcement and escapement.
When I first came out of the closet, I was terrified. I had no reference on how it was properly done. I had only heard about Ellen announcing her sexuality, and it landed her with a terminated 1990s television show. And Disney never artistically portrayed a young prince struggling to find his fellow prince charming. He was always too busy dodging a sea of mermaids or rescuing damsels after eating poisonous apples they had received from a stranger.
Instead, Disney taught me that princes named Eric were supposed to find a mystical sea creature and fall in love with them in a matter of days. And society exclaimed that being gay wasn’t appropriate or you’d get fired from prime-time television. For me, the norm became men like women, women are to fancy men, and if you conform, you’ll have a job and live happy ever after. So, when I did gather the courage to announce my sexuality, I typed a letter on Microsoft Word that included human sexuality statistics, sociological gender norms, and quoted Albert Einstein. I placed the file in an email addressed to my parents, and fatefully clicked send.
Yes, when I announced my proclivity towards the male genitalia, I was psychologically relieved allowing others to know a small fraction of my character, but I noticed that my straight peers never had to experience the same milestone. In high school, never did I witness a straight male peer begin dating a female and announce, “Hey, everyone. The rumors are true. I like vagina. Can I still be on the football team?” But when I acknowledged I was gay, there became a need for me to hold up a megaphone and announce my difference.
But then coming out implies an individual is not only confessing their sexuality, but they are escaping from their “closet”; a dark, gloomy, small square footage space infested with moth balls. But the metaphorical closet is an oppressive architectural design constructed by heteronormative culture. LGBT+ individuals have increasingly been portrayed in media, but as I’ve mentioned, they have been fired from television shows, treated differently than straights by enforcing a mandatory announcement, and underrepresented in children stories. Thus, it subliminally reinforces that being an LGBT+ person is “different,” something to notice, and therefore is a minority.
But who wants to be considered “different”? Being different can translate to being “less than.” Political beliefs, religious affiliations, sexualities, even hair color that differs from the majority attempt to be hidden. As a human in fight, flight, or freeze, we turn inward and find a special place in our minds to compartmentalize those differences. We may silence our opposing political stances, conceal our Star of David, dye our luscious red hair a shade of brunette, or hide our sexual orientation from others. The closet represents where we store our fears for being different.
Coming out of the closet encourages the marginalization of gays from straights. LGBT+ individuals are seeking acceptance when announcing their sexuality. We all want a sense of belongingness. However, the act of announcing a sexual orientation to the majority is only highlighting and pointing to a difference as a minority. It’s like saying, “I want to belong with everyone, but notice that I’m different than you.”
I’d like a new norm. Possibly all members of society, specifically straights, are to come out. If the majority of straights were bestowed the milestone of announcing their sexuality, the blueprint to construct a small closet wouldn’t be drawn up. LGBT+ members announcing their sexuality wouldn’t be a minority norm but would be the norm of the majority.
Maybe Cambridge could one day revise their definition to coming out as “to tell your family, friends, or the public that you are you.”
Or, better yet, it can simply not matter.
Note: Eric is passionate about providing spaces for queer voices and recently founded Can't Write Straight, an online forum for fellow LGBTQ+ folx to share their stories. Don't forget to check it out and support his efforts!