Burning Down the Closet: Heteronormativity and the Problem with "Coming Out"

     A few weeks ago, upon my realization that I was not actually bisexual (as I had once thought), but was, rather, a lesbian, my best friend decided it would be appropriate to make me a coming out cake, or ‘gake’, as we so cleverly titled it. However, before the gake could be made, she had to go home and get her mixer, meaning there were about four days between the conception and consumption of this delightfully gay (it was rainbow colored) pastry. This of course meant that everyone with whom we associated got to hear about our grand plans (if it isn’t obvious, we were feeling rather clever).

    But I noticed something rather odd. Every time my friend brought it up, I would start feeling something akin to shame in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of my sexuality, I’ve never been. And then it hit: I hated people being told that I had “come out”.  I found that with the phrase came the sense that I had been hiding something, or that I had only just come to terms with who I was. It was then that I decided that the phrase might not actually be appropriate for me, or anyone for that matter.

    As Americans, we live in a heteronormative society. For those of you not in the know (and don’t worry if you’re not, Microsoft Office doesn’t even recognize it as a real word) heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the norm, and all other sexualities are deviations from that norm. So in a heteronormative society, being gay, while perhaps acceptable, is not considered to be normal.

   So what does this have to do with coming out?  I maintain that the very idea of having to ‘come out’ is heteronormative. It is expected of gay people to, at some point in their lives, publicly state that they are in fact gay (or bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual/asexual/ the list goes on). Until they do as much, they will remain ‘in the closet’.

    I’m sorry, but why should I have to make some sort of public declaration in order to legitimize my sexuality? I’ve never tried to actively hide my sexuality from anyone, and yet the assumption is that if I have not told everyone that I’m gay, then I must be ashamed of it. No, I haven’t told everyone because the only people whose business my sexuality is is myself and the person I’m screwing. What’s more, no one should ever be made to feel lesser simply because they haven’t gone through, or felt the need to go through, a process created specifically for the purpose of validating their “conventional “sexuality in the eyes of others.

   Look, I understand that ‘coming out’ is a big deal for some people. I get that there are those for whom the act of coming out represents a personal revelation. And they are free to do as they wish because everyone has different experiences and different ways of expressing themselves. But don’t think that just because a person is gay that must mean that at some point they felt shame about. And don’t think that a person needs to be affirmed by you, or anyone, in order to feel secure in their identity. Because when it comes to the closet, the fact of the matter is that many of us were never in it to begin with