Coming Out and Staying In: A Rumination on National Coming Out Day

Coming Out and Staying In: A Rumination on National Coming Out Day October 11, 2017

Hello, beautiful creatures. Today is National Coming Out Day.

Established in 1988, National Coming Out Day is an annual observance of the reality that most people under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella1 live in a culture which demands our silence and complicity, under threat of ostracism, isolation, even death. Every queer and trans person out there deals with this, implicitly or explicitly, every single day of our lives. This is the nonstop background radiation through which we live, move, and have our being. We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we’re bad, sick, evil, and wrong, and that we don’t deserve to live. The people who promulgate these messages want us dead… or, failing that, they want to silence us, so they can pretend we don’t exist.

Much of the narrative around “coming out” is centered on the bravery of being out, of being your true self in full view of the public, and I have no desire to deny that it takes a lot of courage to be openly queer in a world where doing so can get you killed2. However, there’s a shadow-side to that narrative, one which implies that not being out is an act of fear, even of cowardice. It’s a narrative I’ve heard promulgated by people who truly meant the best, usually couched in terms of how much better it is to be your authentic self than it is to live a lie, and by angry, bitter folks who suggest that queer people who choose not to live openly as queer are somehow betraying the rest of us.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

Being out involves, among other things, a near-constant engagement both with one’s own selfhood and with the ways that self interfaces with the world around oneself. I would never suggest that anyone who wasn’t ready to engage with the ramifications of being out force themselves out, for many of the same reasons I wouldn’t suggest anyone initiate into a tradition of magical practice without some serious personal work and preparation. Much like being connected to a magical current, it’s difficult, it’s sometimes dangerous, and it can be scary as hell. There are times when I don’t really feel like being out, myself, but one of the awesome things about having reached early middle age is that it affords me a certain degree of latitude, along with a certain degree of voluntarily-assumed responsibility. Put another way, I don’t have to give a damn what other folks think about my gender or sexuality, and publicly3 owning them might just give someone else a bit of hope that they, too, can be who and what they really are.

I’m in the pansexual range of bisexuality. (In some folks’ eyes, that makes me either nonexistent, invisible, or a unicorn. Those people don’t get invited to my parties, though, so neener neener.) What this means, in practical terms, is that gender isn’t a determining factor in whether or not I find someone sexually or romantically attractive. I’ve been romantically and sexually involved with women, men, and people who don’t fit into either of those categories.

I’ve been non-binary, identifying as neither female nor male, since before I had the words for either. From some perspectives, this puts me under the “transgender umbrella,” while from others, it doesn’t. My answer to that question is, of course, complicated. On the one hand, I’m loath to lay claim to an identity from whose struggles I’m largely insulated because most people clock me as cisgender. On the other hand, I’m emphatically not cisgender, and I never have been, not even when I was too young to understand that I would never, ever be the gender I was expected to be. I suppose that counts for something, huh?

So, yeah. Happy National Coming Out Day.

In writing this blog, I’ve put myself out there as someone who’s willing to talk about issues of gender and sexuality, as well as magic, polytheism, and Dungeons & Dragons. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog to a wearying degree, I have a BA in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. The most common question I’m asked when I tell people this is, “So, what are you going to DO with that?” which I usually answer with some variation on the theme of “advocacy for queer youth.” The follow-up to that is usually admiration, and followed by asking why I want to go into that field. That’s a complicated question, and much harder to answer.

The short summation, though, is this: I want to live in a world where we can celebrate the lives of queer people without having to mourn their deaths by violence. I want to live in a world where queer kids can grow up in homes where they’re loved and supported for who they are, in a culture that doesn’t tell them they’re broken from birth, in a world that doesn’t assume they’re predators, assault them in bathrooms, and murder them in alleys. I want them to grow up with the freedom to be who they truly are, without their very identities putting them at risk of harm. I want them to grow up in a world where they don’t have to “come out of the closet,” because there are no closets to come out of.

In other words, I want them to grow up in a better, safer world than the one in which I grew up as a queer, gender-neutral, gender-nonconforming kid.

So, if you ever wonder why I spend so much time in my blog banging on about queerness, transness, and gender in relation to witchcraft, polytheism, and the like, this might explain a little.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Many of us are “out”—visible, vocal, and open—and many of us are still invisible, still hidden. Even as we step out to be seen, heard, and witnessed, we must also honor those who cannot make that choice, those who remain hidden out of dire, even mortal, necessity.

We are your children, your parents, your siblings. We are your friends, your lovers, your coworkers. We are your coven-siblings, your lodge-mates, your fellow devotees and practitioners.

Celebrate our lives, and honor the memories of those of us who died along the way by helping make the world safer for those of us still living.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Hello.

In or out, you are loved. (Drawing by my partner and me, in homage to Randall Munroe of xkcd.com.)
In or out, you are loved. (Drawing by my partner and me, in homage to Randall Munroe of xkcd.com.)

  1. For those who aren’t familiar, that’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Aromantic, with the plus sign standing in for other identities and orientations not covered by the preceding alphabet soup. It’s a bit unwieldy, I’ll grant you, but I’d rather a mouthful of letters than an unintentional exclusion.
  2. In something of a break with my usual practice of linking to a relevant article or news story, I’m not going to link to any of the thousands of news stories about LGBTQIA+ folks being assaulted and murdered. If you’re curious just how prevalent the phenomenon of queer people being murdered for being queer is, I encourage you to do some research on the subject. Just maybe, y’know, not today.
  3. The literal-minded reader may note that I’m writing these bold statements whilst using a pen name, which might detract a bit from their impact. The only rejoinders I can offer here are that (a.) I’ve been pretty upfront about it being a pen name and (b.) it’s not like my legal name is any kind of secret. Anyone who’s sufficiently motivated could probably work it out with little effort, though why anyone would care is another matter.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Pagan
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anna Arimina

    You can start by not referring to yourselves as “queer”. If you don’t want to be thought of as different then stop thinking of yourselves that way. TBH, how you self-identify regarding your own gender is of little interest to most people, and really none of their business. Unless you’re intimately involved with a person or would like to be, there’s no reason to have such concern about what someone thinks regarding your sexual preference or lifestyle choices in general.

    • Anna Arimina

      all those “queer” kids attacked or murdered according to so many articles, yet only one of the 10 people I grew up with who are homosexual has endured some verbal harassment on the streets because of her attitude which attracts it like a magnet… and EVERYONE has experienced some form of harassment from others at some point in their life, it’s not just because of being LQBTQIA+. This might come as a shock to you, but you’re not actually different from anyone else just because you’re gay or into magicks.

      • If all of this is of so little interest to you, why are you bothering to comment here in the first place? I mean, really.

        On second thought, don’t bother responding. None of what you’ve brought to the conversation here is novel or insightful, and I have no investment in arguing with Jane Q. Rando from The Internet who has the astounding lack of foresight to think her platform of “OMG JUST SHUT UP YOU’RE NOT SPECIAL” is some sort of devastating response to this post. Bye now!

      • Thesseli

        Maybe they just didn’t feel comfortable talking to you about the harassment they endured. Also, the attitude that people bring on their own harassment? Totally victim-blaming.

    • Thesseli

      Methinks the lady doth protest too much…

      • Indeed she did, which is why she’s no longer appearing in this film. I’ve said elsewhere that I don’t have a “free speech” policy, but rather, a “don’t annoy Misha with your speech” policy. Anna annoyed me, so she got a free ride on the trebuchet. ^_^