Coming Out: A Permission Slip

I was 21 years old when I came out to my parents. Considering that I know several people who came out to their families as pre-teens, I felt pretty backwards. I’d bought into the lie that coming out — living “authentically” — was the gateway to happiness and self-actualisation, and might even clear up the spot breakout on my chin if I was lucky.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why I built up coming out to my parents to the degree I did. I never formally came out to most of my friends — I just dated girls and let them join the dots, so it wasn’t founded in bad previous experiences. In fact, I was confident my parents would accept and support me, as they always have.

Maybe it’s because my best friend kept telling me to just do it, and get it out of the way. Maybe it’s because my first girlfriend thought I was keeping our relationship from my parents out of spite, or shame. So many of the people I was close to made it sound so important, so pivotal, so freeing. Maybe the pressure scared me.

The truth is that I’m not sure why it took me so long, but I am glad I didn’t do it sooner. It allowed me to develop confidence in my queer identity without have to prove myself on the regular to the members of my family for whom queerness is still a foreign and confusing concept. And, for those wondering, I’m still depressed (now with a side order of anxiety) and I still have to pop the whiteheads on my chin every other day.

So, what’s changed? Nothing, aside from how frustrated I am by the relentless pressure from queer media and individuals alike — and from time to time, even straight cisgender people — to come out Right This Second to everyone in your life. I don’t believe this is a helpful or realistic goal.

The truth is that coming out isn’t a singular event. You have to do it again, and again, and again. Sometimes it’s a profound bonding experience, and sometimes it’s a mundane necessity. Sometimes it’s downright irritating. Some reactions may be entirely predictable, whilst others may surprise you. It is rarely simple, and no two occurrences will be the same.

Sometimes partners don’t want to be with someone who isn’t ‘out’, whatever their definition may be. Keep walking. You don’t want a partner who doesn’t respect the boundaries you maintain, much like you don’t want friends who out you ‘for your own good’. Use what others consider to be a weakness as a litmus test for others in your life.

There is one person, however, that it’s utterly imperative that you come out to. Unsurprisingly, this person is you. Keep an honest dialogue going in your mind and be open to redefining how you see yourself, as and when necessary. Not being ‘out’ to everyone in your life is not the same as being closeted, despite what many loud and proud advocates would have you believe.

This is a permission slip. This is permission to prioritise your safety, happiness, and comfort, over black-and-white opinions. This is permission to take your time.

This is a reminder that life is long, and the way you are living it is beautiful.