Today is National Coming Out Day and I really love this holiday. I came out twice so it shouldn’t surprise people that I’m a fan of this fantastic holiday. Coming out has changed my life for the better and I’m not going to say that it will have the same impact on everyone who comes out, but for me coming out was a difficult choice both of the times I did it I made it easier for other people to do so.
The first time I came out:
I became an atheist in March of 2014. Or I realized my atheism in March of 2014. I still debate with myself which word more accurately reflects my deconversion. I remember it very clearly because there was a single powderkeg moment for me after which I could no longer deny my disbelief which is far from always the case for atheists. The very first time I told myself I was an atheist was when the end credits began rolling during an opening night showing of God’s Not Dead in Greensboro, North Carolina. I had been clinging to some vestige of my old faith for months and that movie was the tipping point for me. The very next day I made a Facebook post about the movie and my atheism. This is a story I’ve told over and over again on various podcasts and a handful of live streams. What I’ve never told anyone is that when I made that specific Facebook post I made it using modified audience settings. Family members and former teachers of mine couldn’t see it. I had decided to tell my friends about my atheism and hold off on telling my family members.
I’d tell my mom and dad on the same day, a few months after I made that post. It was summer of my freshman year of college when I’d come out as an atheist to them. I was in Columbus, Georgia and in the car with my mom driving back to where they lived at the time, Fort Benning. I had made a silent promise to myself not to bring up the topic of religion and faith but if she brought it up I’d tell her and then tell my dad when she and I got home. She brought up religion and so I went ahead and followed through on my silent promise. When I got home I’d tell my dad. I can’t think of many choices I’ve made that have so profoundly impacted my life. Telling people about my atheism has given me courage and my vocalness has given other people courage.
Several different family members have approached me in private letting me know that I am the only vocal nonbeliever in our family they know of. And then they’ve told me that I might be a lone voice but that doesn’t mean that I’m actually alone in our family in terms of skepticism and disbelief. Some older members of my family are not fond of my atheism and they’re less fond of my outspokenness but they know fewer believers than they realize and their words discourage their relatives and in some cases their children from telling them but even with my family members who are skeptics are encouraged by the existence of a vocal member of the family who is willing to take the social risks that come with public skepticism.
Friends have approached me and asked me my thoughts on religion and more since I’m an outspoken atheist. Some of them have confided in me that they are also nonbelievers. They feel alone but knowing that there are others like them, and who are brave enough to be vocal is encouraging and makes them feel less alone. It encourages them to digitally meet other non-believers and get closer to them.
The second time I came out:
I’ve mentioned this before but it’s not a huge part of my writing. I’m asexual. I’ve known about my asexuality consciously for just about 2 years now. I was quiet about it for a while, not writing about it publicly or identifying it in any particular way until National Coming Out Day 2017. During last year’s National Coming Out Day I wrote a post where I publicly identified myself as asexual.
Within minutes of writing that post, I received a phone call from a family member curious about me coming out. They asked if someone had raped me and if that’s why I was an asexual. There are people who believe that being sexually abused will lead to asexuality and it’s to the point that asexual people ourselves talk about it. I myself don’t believe these things are linked, and even if there is a link it’s far from a requirement because I wasn’t sexually assaulted and I’m asexual. That being said, that was… a disorienting thing to be asked and it’s one of my keenest memories from that day.
In the future, I might write more about asexuality but for now, I just want other asexual folks, especially other Hispanic asexual folks to realize that asexuality is perfectly fine and it’s not something they should feel ashamed of. I was ashamed of my asexuality for a while. It took me a long time to get over that. That’s why I want to see more people coming out as asexual. I believe that more people coming out and becoming resources for their friends and families will go a long way towards destigmatizing asexuality and maybe even begin to depathologize it.
Things To Remember On National Coming Out Day:
Some people, like me, come out more than once.
Some people come out even when it might not be safe for them to do. That’s not something I recommend if it can be avoided, but there a lot of people for whom it’ll never be safe to come out and they come out anyway which is a testament to their bravery and deserves an insane amount of respect.
Outing someone is never okay. It doesn’t matter what you think of them, what they think of you, or anything like that. People deserve agency when it comes to their private lives.
If you’re out and you can be a resource and friend to people who aren’t, please do so. One of the greatest joys of my life thus far has been my being a resource for people who’ve had to struggle with this, some of whom have since come out and others of them haven’t. I approached someone who wasn’t asexual but was bisexual and knew about the asexual community at our university when I had questions about asexuality and wanted to know other people who were ace but didn’t know who was public about. She pointed me in the right direction and helped me meet some of the only other asexual people I’ve met even to this day. Listening to them helped me accept my asexuality and helped me begin to stop being ashamed of it. That’s the sort of power that visibility and courage can have for people who are asexual. It’s worth it, believe me.