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July 22, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Come Out, Come Out Queerever You Are

I hate the phrase ‘coming out’. Its very nature implies that sexuality is black and white: You’re straight or you’re gay. You’re in or you’re out. Such an over-simplification can just make it all the more confusing to get your head around. In reality, sexuality is more like a continuum, rather than a set of categories. The range of rainbow colours proudly donned by many a queer during demonstrations of pride symbolises the spectrum of difference that the nature of sexuality encompasses.

I didn’t really understand these nuances until late in my sexually formative years. The dark closet that your inner conflicts and anxieties construct can make it hard to notice the different colours that might suit you. Over the last two years I’ve been slowly making my way through the quagmire of coming to terms with my own sexuality, though I imagine writing about it in Salient may speed the informing aspect up a bit. Hi Gran, if you’re reading. Having settled on a particular shade of bisexual blue, I can say that sometimes it was really great, sometimes it really fucking sucked, but ultimately it’s a journey that has made me a lot happier than I was at the start.

‘Coming out’ implies that you should be leaping out onto a stage, letting your sexuality lead you into a song and dance about how proud you are to be queer. For some this comes naturally, for some it doesn’t. Groups of difference need leaders to carry them into acceptance, and the queer-rights movement certainly wouldn’t be where it is today without such flamboyant characters. But it’s not always that simple for everyone, and it is all too easy to feel guilty or ashamed that you aren’t shouting from the rooftops with your queer peers.

Marion Kirker, a counsellor at Victoria’s Student Counselling Service (a free service available to all students), says that such pressures are all too common. “It’s really sad for me when I see people getting squeezed between a really appropriate—but political stance—that coming out is really important, versus a kind of personal experience for that individual,” she says.

“If you’re choosing to come out, think of it as a process and do it at your own pace. Think about when, where, and how. It can be loud, it can be quiet. It’s really okay that you pace it to suit you, your time, your people around you… Some people will give up a lot more than others by coming out.”

It’s very easy to assume how someone will react when coming out to them, but a lot harder to actually pluck up the courage to put your assumptions to the test. All the difficulties I found were self-inflicted; I had built up in my head worries about how people would react, or how they would treat me differently. Luckily for me, compared to how much I had built it up in my head, actually coming out turned out to be somewhat of an anticlimax.

I was fortunate enough to come out on the basis of having [drunkenly] stumbled into the feminine embrace of a friend, which would soon see me overcome a fear of commitment for want of a safe space to ‘be myself ’. Who couldn’t resist the pick-up line “Do you want to come inside and watch Bridget Jones?”, anyway? It took me four months of being with said girlfriend before I told my Mum. She didn’t say anything and we both made a hasty physical exit from the conversation. She’s not mentioned it once since, but I don’t consider this necessarily unsupportive. Her having lent me a DeLonghi dehumidifier, and a sudden increase in frequency of gifted blocks of cheese really gave meaning to Ronan Keating’s lyric, “You say it best, when you say nothing at all”.

Gradually I proceeded to tell various friends, a stomach-churning experience that proved to be as anticlimactic as the initial step had been. I went from writing it on a piece of paper and handing it to a friend, to sending another a text because I couldn’t bring myself to say it – and the last time I’d tried, my friend couldn’t actually read my handwriting, which made it all the more awkward anyway. Eventually I was able to tell people out loud. Some reacted by asking, “What’s it like to eat pussy?”, others declaring that they already knew because I’d forgotten to turn Find Friends off and kept having sleepovers at my new home away from home.

It took me a long time to get to the stage where I was comfortable talking about sexuality, and this just meant the personal difficulties I was having in coming to terms with them were prolonged. As Kirker says, it can be very helpful to find yourself some space where you can talk about it.

“It’s a really good thing to go somewhere disconnected to you personally, but not everybody has to. If you’ve got good sounding boards then that’s okay. If you haven’t then sometimes it’s really good to talk to someone who’s been through it before, or who’s open to just exploring what could be really great and what could be really hard.”

She says the same can be said for giving space to those who you choose to come out to.

“You can’t always know what’s going to happen. You can make a lot of guesses about what might happen, or how somebody might respond and be quite surprised.

“Some people will be all good, like ‘yeah, we knew, whatever’. And others will be surprised, shocked, they’ll have their own homophobic assumptions that might make them feel really really frightened. That’s not to say you should ever put up with someone being harassing or discriminatory towards you, but there is a kind of space that requires a bit of time… and then going back to check in. Especially for the really important people in our lives… often that’s families.”

If my experience has taught me anything, it was that embracing what I saw as a point of difference has only enabled me to feel all the more normal. Queer relationships, like straight ones, all eventually end. It still hurts just as much – though I’m not sure any ex-boyfriend would sing ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ with me to wind up our friends.

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