The Perks and Un-Perks of Coming Out of the Closet
No matter how accepting society is these days, coming out is still a huge step. Should you finally go for it? Here are the pros and cons. By Nina Rizon
Closet Case is an urban slang used to describe a homosexual who is unaware of, denies or hides being gay or one who knows that he or she is gay but has not yet come out. Other similarly coined labels include, but are not limited to, iron closet, below deck or Saturday-night-lesbian. They all essentially mean the same thing.
Coming Out is short for coming out of the closet. It’s the process of accepting, acknowledging, recognizing and sharing one’s gender identity. In a way, it is partly synonymous with TRUTH. It is a choice by which one can be truly honest with themselves. However, coming out is not just as easy as “Hey buddy, guess what? I’m gay.” It’s a sort of a dark route that never ends.
In fact, for some, this journey has not even started. More so, even if you do it on national TV, in social media or other public platforms, it remains to be a decision to make with every new person you meet along the way and the course, not to mention the reception, is not the same for everyone. [Read: How to react to a confession]
Some say that coming out is quite common or universal today. But I believe that it is not exactly true. It may not be as worse as it used to be in 1960’s, when gays in the military were issued blue colored discharge papers and forced to face civilian rejection, despite having served their country in the armed forces. You probably do not need another Stonewall riot to come out of your shell and tell your parents or friends that you like rainbows.
But unfortunately, the underlying theme of every coming out encounter is still the same, FEAR. It still obviously entails a great deal of courage to come out in the open, just as it was decades ago and until god-knows-when.
Oh, please stop rolling your eyes now! I am not going to convince you to do it today in one big flamboyant gesture. I will only try to give you some of the best and worst things about coming out in the open and help you decide what’s best for you. The call is still yours to make. No pressure folks!
Reasons you should NOT come out of the closet
Let’s get started on the cons of coming out of the closet. You know there will be cons, so here’s what you should look out for.
#1 Not everybody will accept or understand that you are gay. This is one of the many sad truths about actually coming out. I am sorry to break the bad news, but unconditional understanding or acceptance doesn’t necessarily follow. Your mom may not throw a pool party to celebrate your queerness. Your dad may not give you a hug or a pat on the back. Your friends may no longer share the same table with you at the cafeteria. And you definitely cannot expect your parish priest or pastor to cry Hallelujah!
I am not discouraging anyone here. All I am saying is that you have to be mindful of these things ahead of time because there will always be people who will not be pleased with who you are. The thing is, the more you know about the unexpected, the less you bleed in combat.
The only thing that coming out can guarantee is the possibility that people will react differently. It could be a response of frustration, betrayal, anger, confusion, sometimes even shock and outright denial. Thanks to the countless misconceptions and myths we learned from the misinformed mainstream media!
Yet, regardless of how erratic the reactions would be, remember to be honest about who you really are and address every issue and question respectfully. It is impossible to expect sincere understanding by disclosing something at gun point, isn’t it? Plus, you don’t get the right to be aggressive and offensive just because you are coming out. Right?
#2 You could get disowned. To lose financial support and be thrown out of the house are some of the most common setbacks of coming out. So if you are young and financially dependent on your parents for support, make sure you can sustain yourself independently, if necessary, while giving your loved ones enough time to absorb everything first.
Unless you are comfortable foregoing college or living at the sidewalks, be prepared for the worst case scenario and have a concrete plan to fall back on. Better yet, as much as I hate saying this, you can choose to wait up until you are capable of self-support.
#3 You can’t hop back into the closet. There is no backspace or delete button in coming out. It is either you do it or you don’t. Once said, it’s done and irreversible. As Julius Caesar puts it, Alea iacta est, or “The die is cast.”
#4 You can’t expect others to do the same. It’s true that coming out is liberating and fulfilling at the same time. But keep in mind that the whole coming out process varies for just about everyone. No one should feel pressured to come out, not even your own partner!
You are entitled to encourage and provide reliable support, but you don’t get to decide for others. They are free to come out when they are ready and ONLY when they are ready, just like you did. I bet you wouldn’t want to be held responsible for every coming-out-gone-bad story, would you? Give them a break and don’t be pushy! You were once a closet-gay too.
#5 It’s not enough to change the world. Because you are expected to do more than that. The entire LGBTQ community is proud of you for opening up, but your coming out story is only the beginning of a life-long commitment to look after the entire community.
We have rights to uphold and responsibilities to honor. You can do better than just coming out and living your own queery life while gay children are killing themselves, being bullied upon, harassed and treated like scumbags. Anyway, you don’t have to be the next Harvey Milk, you just have to CARE.
Reasons you SHOULD come out of the closet
Okay, enough of the negative stuff. This time, let’s talk about the PLUSES of coming out, because everybody loves a happy ending, don’t we?
#1 It’s a one way ticket to freedom. Coming out is a chance to finally stop faking things and start keeping everything genuinely real. Stepping out of the closet is an opportunity to live your life without homophobic boundaries, exactly the way you want it to be: to love whomever you want to love and whenever you want to, to dress in a manner that you deem fit, to let your inner voice out, and most especially to do all these without trepidation of being discovered.
It is the ultimate sense of utopian acceptance of your own skin and flesh, regardless of how much less others may think of you. It is an indescribable state of happiness, a self-declared autonomy from always having to either explain oneself or apologize for who you really are.
I cannot think of anything more invigorating than facing your bathroom mirror everyday and saying “I am f*cking queer as sh*t and I am more than f*cking proud of ME!” [Read: 11 tips to fall in love with yourself and be a better you]
#2 It’s an effective filter. How amazing it is to know those who are willing to put their necks on the line for you, who are more than geared up to fight your own battles when the world suddenly becomes more bigoted than ever, who will never hesitate to hold your hand when someone gives you the humiliating I-hate-faggots look.
Coming out isn’t that bad at all, it gives us a fresh start to spring clean our relationships and weed out those who cannot handle our honesty. It is safe to say that friends who support you are the ones worthwhile, after all, who cares about all those other people anyway?
#3 You’ll realize a bunch of myths. You recognized that you are not sick and that you don’t need a therapist. You realized it was not just a phase: it is life. You come to accept that someone’s personal judgment against you is not a fact. Above all, that you are neither immoral nor deviant, that God loves you and He will understand.
#4 It gives us more strength to deal with the backlash. The famous author Rachel Maddow once said, “the single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.” I completely agree with her except that I don’t think it is the lone best thing that could happen to anyone who decides to come clean.
But Rachel is right, isn’t it dumb for people to insult you with what you just said? Nevertheless, people will always be entitled to their own opinions, no matter what. But coming out will empower you to learn not to let their opinions overpower yours. Remember that you are the captain of your ship and you are the master of your fate, your life is yours to control. [Read: Should you worry about justifying your life choices?]
Whether you choose to come out or not, you must always remember to love yourself, no matter what. You can wait for the right moment, or do it as you’re reading this. But the most important thing is that you love yourself enough to be able to handle what happens when you finally decide to come out.