Illustration by Laura Estrada.

Dear Queer: Coming Out

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Molly Whuppie /// Staff Writer

All throughout high school, I knew that I was bisexual, but I never came out. Should I come out in college? ––Bi-Guy

Dear Bi-Guy,

First of all, it is an indictment against our culture that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people even need, or feel the need to, come out. Secondly, I think the term coming out has multiple meanings. For a queer person, coming out has historically been used as a term to describe a process of understanding, accepting and valuing one’s sexual orientation and identity.

Coming out, in my opinion, is a very flawed term for describing that process, not only because it implies that speaking publicly about who you like to have sex with is the normal thing to do, but it makes those who do not choose to broadcast their sexual preferences seem like they are still not being honest with themselves. Also, coming out is not only applied to queer people. People with physical or mental disabilities, trans people and other identities that are typically viewed as outside of the norm have described the process of understanding, accepting and valuing their identity as similar to queer coming out tales.

The process of understanding your own sexual orientation and being public about who you are is important and incredibly validating for some people. In fact, whether you mean it or not, many people would see a queer couple holding hands in public as a political statement.

But I am adverse to the term coming out, because, as my friend put it, “being queer is like a fraction of who I am.” We (the world) need to come up with better language for describing what it means to process your sexual identity without using archaic terms like coming out, which just muddle everything up. I do want to say that coming out is a way of letting your Great Aunt Susie know to stop asking if you have a girlfriend yet, but the amount of assuming and judgment that people have about queers is infuriating, which is what makes us feel like we need to come out in the first place.

I don’t want you to feel pressured by society or others to talk about something that is just one part of who you are. So if coming out publicly helps your process, then I say to go for it in whatever way you want. However, it is really tough for me to tell someone what he or she should or should not do when I am not really sure whattheir motives are.

While I think Lewis & Clark has been a generally safe space for me to be queer, that is not always true for others. Each person should have the right to decide how much they want to talk about one part of their identity.

 

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