Coming out, Without Saying the Words.
Question: Would LGBTQIAH… peoples increase acceptance & understanding in their communities more by building up confidence or coming out?
This video by Kamari really got me thinking about coming out. There’s so much emphasis in our community on the importance of individuals to “come out”, but is this good advice?
Coming Out (as I generally understand it), means the act of revealing oneself, through linguistic means, to another individual as something not completely socially sanctioned by our culture. For example: Telling a friend that you have a crush on a person of the same* gender for the first time. -or- Informing your guidance counselor that you are undocumented. For the purpose of this conversation (and my experience), I’m interested in coming out for sexual and gender minorities.
When I’ve come out, I’ve done it to find someone to talk to, someone to accept me, or to connect more deeply with someone I love. My biggest fear always being complete rejection. However, in 6 years, both these clear reactions have happened maybe 20%. More often, the reactions are ambiguous and silent. This reaction was incredibly disheartening because it made me feel that the person didn’t care, they didn’t believe, or they hated and didn’t want to say. When I wanted to make a big change, like starting hormones, my family’s reaction was again confusion, and one step up to disappointment – another ambiguous stance. They were not going to give me the approval I was looking for. Instead, they tried to explain to me the irrationality of my decision by such components as timing. So I moved forward without them.
Now, I have a different approach to coming out. My way is to not come out. Meaning, my default stance is to not talk about my trans*/queer experience without, what I would call, an invitation. Instead I explore other topics with people. I do not hide or change my attitudes, except when in fear of my safety. I dress in whatever way feels most comfortable, and let questions happen on their own. In essence, I am confident (or try to be) and don’t come out unless asked (and then is it really coming out?).
Amusingly, this confidence has been the best method of teaching and way to gain acceptance/support I have tried thus far. It has forced some in my family to start grappling with their own doubts. They’ve started to believe what I’m saying because of what they’re seeing. For example: My mom was completely silent on the topic for YEARS! (and I mean absolute silence and at times immobility). Since taking hormones and becoming more confident, she’s started to vocally share that she’s having a hard time letting go of the dream of me as a daughter. It is difficult for me to watch this type of mourning, when I’m still standing in front of her, but I’m just so thrilled to see her being reflective. I know she’ll come around, but I guess I never considered (or understood) how difficult of a leap I was asking her mind to make when I first came out. I didn’t know what she needed from me to believe. She was never going to understand me, without seeing me (fully confident in that life) first . This has been true for many people.
As Kamari expresses in the video, he is able to acclamate his family to his non-normative life by slowly and consistently incorporating these attitudes (tattoos and genderbending) into his daily life, and in turn saving himself from a more vocally communicated coming out process. When he finally makes a blatant move, such as starting hormones, his family is as prepared as possible, because without realizing, they had already accepted much of him. They had already seen him confident. Yes, their response could’ve gone another way, but Kamari also built up his own confidence during this process, and only takes the risk of vocalizing his non-normative behavior when it is unavoidable. He’s best prepared to handle negative or ambiguous reactions (in a way that does not adversely effect his life), rather than reap the benefits of a simply positive reaction.
I want to see more confident, fabulous, curvy, kissing, bulging, and messy haired LGBTQIAH… peoples walking down the street, in the park, and at work. To live without an apology. If we’re willing to admit who we are and accept the consequence, why must we ask for permission? Can’t we just demand it by being it? Why do we give people more opportunities to reject us?
Another very fun video by Kamari. Is this a Real Man?