Keep It Queer is an original, biweekly feature on my blog where I talk about being queer and all the various things this has meant to me over the years. Sometimes this will also involve me babbling about LGBTQ books. It’s also a chance for others to share their stories.
People talk about coming out as though it’s this big one-time event. But really, most people have to come out over and over basically to every new person they meet. I’m only eighteen and already it exhausts me.
The other day I read Laurel's review for Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour on her blog, Rainbow Reading, and she reminded me of this quote I love from the book. It's a gorgeous quote because it's so true. I remembered a few years ago, reading a blog post written by a person who was in her thirties, about exactly this. About the fact that coming out isn't a one-time thing, but it's something you do over and over again in your life.
I think that that's something we really need to remember. Practically speaking, I feel like I'm out. I'm out to the friends that I talk to on a regular basis. I'm out on this blog, where I use my real name and I have a picture of me so I mean, anyone I know in real life could potentially stumble upon this blog and find out that I'm bi if they didn't know already. I'm out to my mum.
But I'm not out to everybody. Many times I've wondered whether to put it on my Facebook profile. I have a boyfriend, and that's what most people whom I don't talk to very much know about me. If it's someone I don't talk to all the time, chances are I've never told them I'm bi. This is especially the case with people from my old school. I keep in touch regularly with precisely two people from my old school, and both of them know. But occasionally, maybe once or twice a year, I meet up with this other girl from my old school. I had dinner with her last month. I'm not out to her. I struggle with coming out to people from my old school because as I've mentioned before, my old school was not a very welcoming environment for queer girls.
She asks me about what societies and stuff I go to at uni, and I can't tell her about LGBTQ Soc even though that's one of the main things I go to. I keep thinking it's probably okay to tell her, but my tongue just freezes up and I can't do it.
I'm not out to my dad. (Once again, he could potentially stumble upon this blog. In which case, hi Dad, I'm not straight!) My parents are divorced and I don't see my dad that often, but I see him at least once every half a year or so, and he knows I have a boyfriend. I just don't really know if I see the point in telling him. I think he'd probably be okay with it, but I don't know. I'm not out to my grandparents, who know I have a boyfriend. My mum told me I shouldn't come out to them. I think that's probably wise.
When I was younger, I desperately, desperately wanted to be out. I was out to a couple of friends, but I wanted to be out to everybody. I think it was particularly because I felt so lonely at my old school, and I was sick of all the homophobic comments I kept hearing from the people all around me. I thought, if I was out, would they still say this horrible stuff to my face? But I couldn't do it. I wanted to tell my mum for years and years, but it took until I was 18 before I managed to tell her. Sometimes I would start thinking about how much I wanted to tell her and I would cry for hours.
We say that we don't need 'coming out' books anymore. To be honest, I can't remember actually once reading a 'coming out' book. All the LGBTQ books I've read have been about so much more than that. But I think the even more important thing is: our lives are about coming out, whether we like it or not. Every interaction with someone who doesn't already know can turn into this in my brain: Should I come out? What would happen if I did? Why do I even want to come out to this person?
No one is ever simply just out. Because we don't just know the same group of people all our lives. We are constantly meeting new people.
Coming out isn't a one-time thing. And yes, it can be huge and frightening and saddening, and it has been for me. But sometimes it's just annoying. Sometimes it's wondering why you can't just pluck up the courage to change your Facebook profile. Sometimes it's wondering whether it would make a difference if you just made an offhand comment to someone about going to LGBTQ Society events. Sometimes it's just frustrating that you've managed to come out to so many people already and yet you still can't come out to this one person. It's in so many of the choices we make when we meet new people and when we see old friends we haven't talked to in years. What do I say? Does it even matter? Why do I care about this so much that it still makes me want to cry sometimes?
So yeah. It's exhausting. And I would like it if more books appreciated how complicated this can be.