Today is National Coming Out Day, and every day on this year, I find myself scrolling through social media getting increasingly pissed off at all the celebratory posts reminiscing about coming out stories and congratulating recently-out baby queers.
Now don’t get me wrong — I recognize that for many, many people, coming out is a tremendous occasion. It takes bravery and often hardship, and in a world set on tearing us down, I understand why so many queer folks value celebrating it. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade (or as we say in the world of Somatic Sex Education, “yuck anyone’s yum”); I know that everyone has a different relationship to this stuff.
But speaking for myself, I’m totally sick of the idea of coming out. What “coming out” implies is that there’s a normal way to be, and that if you find yourself to be anything other than normal, it’s on you to let everybody know that. Because otherwise, they’re gonna assume you’re just like everyone else. And frankly, that pisses me off.
There is no such thing as normal, people.
The creation of a dominant norm is harmful to all of us, because in reality, almost no one fits into it. We all have idiosyncrasies, unique ways of being and doing and seeing the world. There are as many sexualities as there are humans on earth — and for most folks I know, our sexualities change (in big ways or in small) over the course of our lives. We are wildly unique, ever-changing beings, and the idea that there is a normal and and a not-normal is bullshit binary thinking that forces all of us into boxes.
Can’t we stop making assumptions about each other and let folks define themselves, in whatever ways they want to?
As someone who tried to force myself into the “normal” box for way too long because I didn’t know there were other options, I feel particularly ragey about this topic. I grew up in a Pleasantville-like suburb of Seattle, and I knew two gay kids growing up, both of whom were Abercrombie-wearing white boys with nice haircuts. There were no queer kids around, no punk or anarchist gays, not even (as far as I knew) any lesbians. (Of course, after high school, I found out that many folks I grew up with turned out to be somewhere on the queer spectrum). The way life was presented to me as a teen was: you go to college, get married, get a job that pays well and impresses your parents’ friends, have kids, retire, and die. And if you’re gay, you do all the same stuff, just with someone with the same genitals you have. Coming out was for those folks, not for someone who was just a weirdo like me.
Since I found boys cute and seemed to be able to tolerate a dick, it didn’t even occur to me that I might be something other than straight until my senior year of college, when I suddenly found myself crushing hard on a girl (s/o to Marina: if you ever happen to stumble upon this, it was me who added you on Wescam during senior week – sorry I was too bashful to admit it). And even once I started dating women and nonbinary folks, I was still so inundated by the social pressure to find my hetero soulmate that I continued to end up partnered exclusively with cis men for another five or six years.
I never really came out, at least about my sexuality. My straightness just kinda faded into queerness over time, and no one in my life seemed confused by that. I remember talking on the phone with my mom one time and she said that someone we knew was dating people of the same gender, and I think I said something to her like, “Oh, ya, me too,” and that was as close as I came to officially coming out to anybody I knew. (Coming out to my family as a therapeutic s=x worker, on the other hand, was a whole other story — but I’ll save that for another post.)
Even after I discovered how expansive and uncategorizable my sexuality was, it took me years to unwind the toxic threads of heteronormativity from my mind and body (lol let’s be real, I’ll be unwinding those for the rest of my life). But what felt so powerful about discovering the label queer was the way it said FUCK YOU not just to normative understandings of sexuality but to normative ways of being in general. Queerness was permission to leave my 9-to-5 job and take the leap into this fringe modality of healing work that makes me so so happy; queerness was permission to not want to be partnered, even with someone other than a cis man, maybe ever; queerness was permission to form all sorts of counter-normative domestic structures, from nesting partnerships with old friends to pseudo-utopian communities to living solo in a van up and down the west coast. Queerness was permission to be me, in my fullest expression, as I am — no boxes, no categories, nothing to come into or out of.
I often hear friends griping about how little “queer” means these days — how you can’t really tell anything about someone when they say they identify as queer anymore. But I’m 100% here for that shit. Because isn’t the whole point of queerness that we stop making assumptions about which box someone fits in? That we acknowledge there are an infinite number of ways to be in the world?
If I had it my way, the whole world would identify as queer. And to be honest (uh oh here comes the hate mail), I think the whole world is queer. Because there is no such thing as normal. There’s just people, doing their people-ing thing, in their own unique-ass way. And that’s queer af if you ask me.