Today is National Coming Out Day.
I am queer. Or bisexual. Meaning I am attracted to people of my same gender, and people of other genders. I have known this about myself for a hot minute.
Many people who know and love me, including my partner, already know this about me. Others don’t.
Face to face, I’m usually not too reluctant to make people aware of this part of my identity. But for friendships/acquaintance-ships that don’t happen face to face, I have struggled in deciding whether it is really anyone’s business.
Partly, I worried that it would confuse people or invite unnecessary questions about me and my partner’s relationship. Bi-erasure and biphobia is real in both straight and queer communities, but contrary to popular belief, a queer woman partnered to a man is not any less queer, and a bisexual person is not any more apt to cheat than a gay or straight person.
I also think we are altogether too nosy about other people’s gender and sexuality. Yes, we should endeavor to create spaces, large and small, public and private, where people feel safe and comfortable to present as their full selves, that we might know and accept them in the fullness of who they are. But also, the spaces trans and queer people occupy are often not safe, and even when they are, it’s their choice what they disclose to whom, and they/we don’t owe anyone shit. Often times our interest in knowing people’s gender or sexual identities is, at best, rooted in our need to categorize people, and at worst, a voyeuristic curiosity about their genitals, medical history, or bedroom behaviors, and we need to cut it out.
On the other side of the coming-out argument, while it’s true that it’s not anyone’s business, it’s also true that people sometimes struggle to recognize the humanity of folks different from them, unless they have a personal relationship with someone who holds that identity.
It’s infuriating, really. Why does a woman have to be someone’s sister, mother, or daughter to merit your compassion and protection against assault and harassment? Why do you have to have a gay brother to understand that your church’s policy restricting non-straight non-cisgender people from serving in leadership positions is fundamentally homophobic, transphobic, and is in direct contradiction of your supposed “love” for all God’s children? Why do you have to know a woman who survived sexual assault and then needed an abortion in order to make the (insufficient) concession that *some* people with uteruses deserve bodily autonomy *sometimes*?
I think this dependence on proximity in order to acknowledge an individual’s or a group’s humanity is pretty shitty to be honest. But I also want to do everything in my power to get us freer quicker. So, if proximity is what you need to get on this collective liberation train, then me coming out in this space means that I am now available as a point of reference for you to understand that queer people are literally everywhere, and we deserve every shred of dignity, joy, and recognition that we are fighting for.
A more important motivation for claiming this part of me publicly is: I love myself. I love and embrace the complexity of my identity and my story. I love the community I have found with other queer folks, and especially other queer folks of color in the south. I love the analysis that a black queer feminist politic offers us – the invitation to center and uplift the most marginalized among us, to see that wins for the freedom and well-being of queer black women (trans or cis) are wins for us all.
Even with this new public declaration, my relatively privileged position in society remains, as a cisgender, able-bodied, U.S. citizen with multiple degrees and a middle class background. I am committed to the active work of solidarity with people who lack the privileges I enjoy. That means educating myself on the experience of trans and nonbinary people, queer and trans folks who are poor, or immigrants, or disabled or any combination thereof. It means putting my body, my money, my vote, and my social standing on the line. We are each other’s business. Ain’t nobody free till everybody’s free.
To my queer and trans and non binary compas, wherever you live, whomever you love, whatever level of visibility you embody at this moment, Happy National Coming Out Day.