Being straight about ‘coming out’

Being straight about ‘coming out’

It is hardly an original or acute observation to note that heterosexuals feel no need to ‘come out’, but that LGBTQ people do. And yet it raises a very important point; immediately there is a separation between the two which specifically singles out the queer community. Why, then, is this is the case, and is ‘coming out’ actually a good thing?

For many within the LGBTQ community, ‘coming out’ is undoubtedly one of the most significant, and most difficult, moments of their lives. But why is ‘coming out’ something that occurs at all? After all, if you heard that a heterosexual had decided to announce to their family and friends that they were ‘straight’, you would, I imagine, find this a bit weird. However, if you heard that a homosexual had felt the same need to declare their sexuality, this would not seem strange at all- but why? After all, they are both just simply forms of love and attraction. The answer is found in the disparity of attitudes towards heterosexuals and queer people.

The act of ‘coming out’ only helps perpetuate a cycle of injury. Society says that they are ‘different’… ‘coming out’ helps restate it

In our increasingly tolerant and diverse society, it’s extremely strange to consider that fifty years ago, homosexual acts between two consenting men over the age of twenty-one were illegal in England and Wales. It’s even stranger to think that there are still seventy-eight countries with criminal laws against sexual activities that aren’t heterosexual. More worrying is the fact that, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre in April last year: 72 per cent of Russian citizens, 61 per cent of Chinese citizens, 45 per cent of Greek citizens and 37 per cent of US citizens think that homosexuality is ‘morally unacceptable’, with only 23 per cent of US citizens stating that it is “morally acceptable” (Thankfully Britain’s statistics are more encouraging; just 17 per cent say that homosexuality is ‘morally unacceptable’). Clearly, whilst significant progress is being made for the rights and equality of LGBTQ people, there is still a significant stigma and narrow-minded beliefs are still in existence.

There are various reasons behind an individual’s motivation to ‘come out’: pride, acceptance, honesty or even guilt. No matter the individual motivation, it seems that the overarching reason for the need to ‘come out’ is caused by society’s suggestion that queer people are in some way ‘different’.

It shouldn’t need to be a ‘brave’ thing because it shouldn’t need to happen at all. By labelling it as such, we are simply reinforcing the need to declare your sexuality if it doesn’t coincide with heterosexual norms.

The act of ‘coming out’ only helps perpetuate a cycle of injury. Society says that they are ‘different’, causing people to feel as though they need to ‘come out’ to the world, which then helps restate the idea that they really are ‘different’, and so society continues to retain this idea. There is a worry here in that many young people identifying as LGBTQ might be stifled, scared or suppressed by the feeling that being anything other than heterosexual is something that needs to be announced or confessed, but that it is dangerous to do so. This is reinforced by the almost habitual application of the word ‘brave’ to anyone, particularly in the media, who ‘comes out’. Yet the sad thing about this is that it shouldn’t need to be a ‘brave’ thing because it shouldn’t need to happen at all. By labelling it as such, we are simply reinforcing the need to declare your sexuality if it doesn’t coincide with heterosexual norms.

So what should we hope for, then? What is the answer to an obviously complex and personal problem? For what it’s worth, I think the answer is quite simple: addressing the problem at its roots. If we were to be able to successfully rid the stigma and feelings of ‘difference’ towards the LGBTQ community from society then there would be no need to ‘come out’; it would simply be as accepted and normalised as it is to be heterosexual. To do this, though, we need to challenge the idiotic, bigoted, sexually xenophobic views that make this ridiculous concept a necessity

Liam Kerrigan

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