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When It Comes To Coming Out (or Not)

Let’s distinguish between “belonging” and “fitting in”. To belong means to be fully and unconditionally accepted for who you are. It would be great to belong, and, all things considered, belonging is a need and a requirement when it comes to basic human development. To fit in, on the other hand, means to strive towards meeting the conditions for acceptance. We all play the game of fitting in, although the molds that society constructs for people to fit in do not provide all people with equal opportunity to do so.

This doesn’t mean that adaptation is innately wrong, and it doesn’t mean that having or using skills to adapt is innately bad. Individual styles of adaptation are unique and authentic to each person, not only to the situation.

Belonging might seem like a passive thing, though those of us fortunate enough to have found it—as if belonging were an object rather than a process—might notice a constantly flow with how belonging is affirmed and re-affirmed.

Fitting in might seem like an objective thing, but anyone who’s grappled with and analyzed societal expectations would find layers upon conflicting layers of expectations and implications. It’s complex and contextual—and, one upside of this is that particular styles of adaptation can, in some small way, shape the mold that’s set for us to fit into instead of the other way around.

We can take that final sentiment to a simple conclusion: Coming out is an effective way to fight homophobia. Be a living challenge, break the mold society has set, and step up to represent this oppressed minority. Refuse to be invisible. The mold of the world won’t change any other way, and we need that mold to change.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate that determination and commitment—let’s take many moments, whenever that happens, to support community members who take this path. Hurrah!

Now, let’s remember that celebration doesn’t confer an obligation, and it can be hypocritically oppressive to create such an obligation. True, the consequences of coming out as gay can influence and inform an individual’s comfort level with coming out—whether there’s a challenge of discomfort, a threat of fatally violent aggression, or something in between that would affect a personal or professional support system.

Whatever the influence, an individual’s boundaries are their own.

Many of us are hungry for recognition, and to be able to recognize others that could share similar ideals and experiences, perhaps even share our lives with. We need support, we deserve belonging—but when it comes to the personal choice of another individual, we must be aware not to become entitled to the stuff of someone else’s life.

The fact is, not everyone is comfortable with expressing one’s own sexuality, and having that known to others. This is a personal boundary that must be honored as well as we do celebrate individuals who openly represent their sexual orientation.

Let’s be supportive of those who come out. Let’s be supportive of those who are private. Let’s be supportive of individuals in our community, and remember that we’re dealing with individuals—different people, with different lives—There is no one adaptation style that everybody in this community must (or should) adopt in order to be honored or respected.

What would that mean, to honor and respect each individual’s privacy and expressiveness? No prying into their sexuality, no interrogations, no gaydar, no guessing-games, no attitudes of biphobia, no outing other people (and yes to recognizing that, just because they came out to some people, doesn’t mean that it’s fair or right to out an individual to everyone else.)

In short: Let’s be the place that people can belong.

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