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As humans, we have a persistent need to label ourselves. Labels are supposed to categorize people for the betterment of human understanding, but not the betterment of the individual understanding. When we label people, including ourselves, we make it easier to understand that group as a whole. It is easy to define a group, but it is much more complicated to define an individual. We think that if we label ourselves we will be able to gain a deeper comprehension of who we are, but in reality, that is not always the case. 

There is so much pressure for people who are a part of LGBTQIA+ community to immediately come out, but that’s just not a viable reality for everyone. Labels are forced onto people because it makes others more comfortable. Therefore, people who step outside of that norm and choose not to have a label are seen as strange. Everyone is constantly trying to make mental shortcuts because they can quickly access information based on that shortcut.

Coming out is very serious because sexuality is a significant facet of your identity. By coming out, you establish yourself as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It can be a vital process in realizing who you are as a person.

So that begs the question: is it necessary to label yourself and come out? 

And the answer is, really, that it depends.

Coming out is situational. For me, I never actually “came out.” I never sat down with my parents or anyone in my family and plainly said, “Hey, I’m bi.” And I’m okay with that. I did come out to my friends, but only close ones. I just didn’t see coming out as a requirement to be comfortable with my identity, and coming out is an extremely uncomfortable situation that I didn’t want to be in. I resolved that if anyone asked, I would tell them, but telling them upfront was not what I wanted to do. I also knew that the more people I came out to, the more likely it would be that my extended family would find out, and I was (and still am) not ready for that.

I asked one of my friends a while back about coming out, and he said this:

“Personally, I wish I could be fully out, but the fact that my family is extremely conservative and religious makes that less of a possibility. I think coming out is a way of claiming who you are…it helps you find connections in the community. But it just isn’t reality, and we can’t expect it to be for everyone.”

It’s unrealistic to expect people to come out to others just for the sake of giving them a label. Everyone’s on their own journey, whether it be discovering their sexuality, gender, or lack thereof, and that journey needs to be respected, not rushed or forced.

The only person you really need to come out to is yourself.

And, even then, there is no deadline for coming out. It is completely valid to take as much, or as little, time as you need to define yourself because you don’t owe anyone a label.

Izzy Smith

C of C '23

Izzy is a Special Education Major at CofC with a minor in Religious Studies. She is passionate about education, politics, history, and music. In addition to being a teacher, she hopes to be a political journalist who advocates for equal rights for people with disabilities. You can often find her exploring the city of Charleston with iced coffee in hand or working at the local grocery store.
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