It’s not something you have to say or, the more idealistic, Straight people don’t have to come out, why should we?, are phrases that I have commonly heard following a discussion of or the act of someone coming out. As society becomes more open to different types of sexualities that divert from the established heterosexual norm, we—both members of the LGBTQ community and apparent allies of it—pose the question over whether or not queer people still need to publicly reveal their sexuality, instead of simply acting on it without any sort of reveal, like straight people do.
It’s a good concept, there’s no doubt about it. Queer people should feel that the society we find ourselves in is secure and tolerant enough to embrace our non-heterosexual attraction, but to believe that it is globally anywhere near it is ignorant at best and insulting at worst.
Even with cultural and social advancements, our society is still very much discriminatory against the gay community. Lest it be homophobic enough to lead to violence, or an undesirable comment directed towards a member of the community, we still find ourselves having to carefully consider the people who surround us in fear that one person—or more—will not approve of our sexuality or gender identity, which, research shows, can lead to fatal consequences.
To say that there’s no need for LGBTQ people to come out is to ignore the current situation of the community, a situation that we have been fighting against since the inception of our history, one that isn’t solved by blindly believing that society is open enough towards the queer community that we can express our sexuality or gender identity without fear that one person could, quite literally, kill us for it.
Coming out is also not simply just for the reveal of our orientation or identity to others; the verbal expression of our orientation brings with it an assurance within ourselves that can only come by the declaration of our identity against a society that persecutes us for it. It represents the acceptance that we can be okay while being something that has been demonized—and continues to be so—around us our entire lives.
The act of coming out is a personal decision based on how secure the person feels within themselves and in the environment that surrounds them. Some might be selective of those they tell, but each experience is valid and proves to be important in the process of adapting to the world around us. It helps us determine the people we should keep in our lives, while indicating those we should distance ourselves from.
The utopian society where queer people can openly express their identity from the moment they realize it without having to “declare” it is something that we should aspire to, but it’s, sadly, not something that is a current reality. We will take a step closer to that accepting society each time we embrace someone that finds the bravery to share their queer identity with us, not by questioning whether or not they have to share it in the first place.