I still remember when Ricky Martin came out of the closet 10 years ago. The media went wild about it, naturally, but most of us already knew. It was more a collective sigh of relief than a celebration.
But then other celebrities have “come out” which were somewhat surprising. Wentworth Miller from Prison Break startled me when he randomly announced he liked men. My initial thought then was that he looked too macho to be gay. Thankfully, I learned quickly that even macho men can be flaming homosexuals.
And that’s exactly why we come out of the closet in the first place!
For as long as I can remember, the act of coming out was considered a powerful step towards social acceptance. The more we shared our existence, the more accepted we became, and the more understood our community would be. And across the western world right now, we’ve surpassed acceptance and society truly understands who we are.
Which begs the question: why is “coming out” still considered a big thing?
Branding Your Identity
The act of coming out does not require a response. Indeed, being accepted is important, but it’s not the sole reason we come out. It’s also done as a personal affirmation. The final step in accepting our own sexuality.
So why do so many of us still feel the need to sit the family down and spill the tea? Why can’t we just be and let the people around us see who we really are?
Well, the main issue is that society likes to assume we’re straight unless proven otherwise.
Personally, I am an out gay man and unapologetically open about my sexuality. Nobody could ever mistake me for being straight. But there are lesbians and gays who don’t adhere to the stereotypes. They’re not feminine enough to be gay and they’re not masculine enough to be lesbian. As if these personality traits are strictly beholden to who they have sex with. And that’s why bisexuals are so downplayed because it’s so hard to box them into a particular category.
Side note: Can we stop putting people in boxes, please?
Society needs to realise that sexuality is purely about sex. You don’t need to look a certain way or act in a particular manner to be gay or straight. You just need to be sexually attracted to one or more sexes or genders. And why is that such a big deal?
Telling people you’re gay shouldn’t be a grand affair. It should simply be ordinary.
But, I think for some time yet, the classic act of coming out will still be the norm. Teens will sit down with their parents and tell the truth and celebrities will open up to their fans via some long-form blog post or video. And over time, the responses will become less celebratory and less conflicting, and just more nonchalant. We won’t make it a big thing anymore. And doesn’t that sound blissful?
A Carefree Future
There are other, more important things to celebrate in this world. Milestones in careers, beautiful wedding proposals, pregnancies and perhaps turning 30. But who you have sex with? Why do we need to turn that into an event?
I dream of a future where coming out is just a simple exchange. Like telling your parents you love acting or playing soccer.
Can you imagine coming home after a day at school and casually telling your Mum you like boys? And then her looking up from the bubbling casserole she’s cooking and just saying “okay” with a nonplussed smile. Or when you’re helping dad with the washing up and you tell him your lesbian, and he just goes “that’s cool” before handing you a soapy plate to dry.
Or when, during a deep and meaningful with your best friend, you tell them you’re bisexual and they smile before saying “really? that’s good.”
What a time that would be when coming out is simply ordinary. Perhaps then we could all learn to just be ourselves.