Today is national coming out day, but LGBT+ people will be coming out for years, decades to come. Those who don't quite get it might wonder why there’s no similar day for straight people, but the simple truth is that while LGBT+ people are normal, they’re not the norm. Making up around 10% of the population, the odds are when you meet someone new (outside of a gay bar, obviously) odds are, they’re not LGBT+. So the pressure is then on LGBT+ people to come out, to say who they are. Because, when you're straight, you may never realise how often sexuality comes up in conversation, or is something that needs to be disclosed. Here are seven more things to know about coming out
1. Coming out doesn’t only happen once
Because the assumption is that people are straight until otherwise declared, and queer people in film and TV are so often coded as outrageously, obviously queer, real life people don't always give off the same stereotyped clues, so have to come out over and over and over again. At work, at home, in the coffee shop, at the club…over and over. That can be draining.
2. People can come out in unspoken ways
Why do lesbians act so butch and gay men act so camp, you might wonder. Well, it’s not always so simple - some lesbians are very feminine (femme) and some gay men can be incredibly masculine (masc). And bisexuals, well, how are they meant to present? What is for sure, though, is that when you’re not attracted to the opposite sex, you don’t necessarily dress or behave in a way to attract the opposite sex. You think outside of the guidelines set by straight society, because, well, how else will you get laid? On top of that, acting queer can really help queer people to not have to do that labour of coming out over and over again. They can give off non-verbal signs - from the subtle to the extravagant - that they’re attracted to the same sex without having to spell it out.
3. No-one has to come out on National Coming Out Day
Unless they’re a massive self-loathing homophobic hypocrite with a major public platform, no-one should be forced out of the closet before they’re ready. While some people do choose National Coming Out Day to come out to someone, anyone, the point of the day is to raise awareness (through articles like this, hopefully) of what coming out is and how it works.
4. There's no right or wrong way to come out
Letters, texts, voice notes, tweets, Instagram posts…there are loads of routes to letting someone know you're LGBT+. Some people like to be away from the person they’re coming out to when they find out, others like to be right there when they say it. The important thing is everyone is made to feel ready.
5. Coming out as trans or non-binary is really, really hard.
Trans people face all sorts of stigma and oppression, simply because they feel their gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. Coming out is not necessarily about love in a way that coming out as LGB is, it’s about self-definition and identity, things that, to many, can seem like they’re in the eye of the beholder.
6. Coming out as intersex is really, really hard.
Born with genitals that seem neither male nor female, intersex people’s parents will likely know their intersex status from the off. But that doesn’t mean explaining it to new people - especially prospective sexual partners - is easy. While some intersex people who appear clearly male or female and present in a corresponding masculine or feminine way can go through the world not seeming too different to whatever normal looks like, it’s likely knowing that they’re fundamentally different to so many other people out there can be very troubling.
7. You can come out at any time.
Decades of stigma against LGBT+ people mean that people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s even, who’ve long felt they’ve needed to keep their sexuality, intersex status or gender identity secret, will be coming out in 2018. However, hopefully, with acceptance of LGBT+ people improving over the years, at least in the UK, which is meant to be the most LGBT+ accepting country in all of Europe, coming out won’t be something to put off for so long.