This is, perhaps, the thing that trips most people up. Recently, I told both of my siblings that I was bi, and I’ll get more in-depth with this next week, but the most important thing that both of them said, right away, was, “Thank you for telling me. I’m glad you felt like you could.” Because, though I’ve got some issues with coming out in general, and I don’t really have any desire to do so in any kind of big way, there have been some people that I wanted to tell, people, like my siblings, that I’ve known for a long time, that I wasn’t able to just introduce myself with my standard I’m here and I’m queer! introduction. (Yes, I absolutely do this, it’s wonderful.)
There’s a pretty clear reason why some people don’t know, though. Whether it’s because I don’t feel safe with them, or because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that a conversation like that will immediately be about them, there’s just some people in my life that I either a) will never tell or b) don’t plan on telling for a long time. And this is not me “living a lie” or whatever that bullshit is. I was recently disappointed in big ways about a book that I was very excited about–I won’t be vague, it’s Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan, and I talk about this in my review of it, too–because it repeated this message consistently throughout. One of the MCs was out, and she was very proud & loud about it, which oh my gosh, applause! I am so happy for you if that’s the way you want to live your life. But, for some people, it’s either not safe to be out, or the people in their life don’t deserve to know that about them. So to see this idea that if you’re not out in big ways, you’re “lying to yourself”, was harmful in more ways than one.
That’s the other thing that really gets me, though. Some people just truly do not deserve to know that about me. I know that I’m not subtle about my queerness, and I don’t hide it or anything, but it’s also not something that I shout about. I’ll use the pronouns we and us when talking about the community, but it’s just not my vibe to be “THIS MATTERS TO ME BECAUSE I’M BI.” And that’s not at all knocking people who are, but one person’s existence as a queer individual does not equal another person’s, and not everyone deserves to know that much about you.
Because it’s not about you. Just like I don’t want to hear about every single intimate detail of your hetero sex life, I don’t really want to tell you about who I’m interested in. For a long time, my sister was adamant that I try dating online, that I couldn’t possibly be happy unless I had someone else in my life. We’ve come a long way from there, and while she still occasionally asks, she knows that that’s a) not something I need and b) not something I want to discuss.
Which is weird for me, honestly, because all of my relationships up until now have been PDA ones. I posted pictures, I found any excuse to talk about my significant other, and I was all about letting the world know that I was in love. And while I have no idea what the future holds, and if I’ll want to be that way again, I seriously doubt it. The people that I hold close to my heart are meant to stay there, and I envision only wanting to share those people with the others that I hold close to my heart. The world knows so much about me already–why should they be privy to this, too?
One of my friends does this to me a lot, too, and it’s honestly not something I’m okay with. The constant prying into my life, this assumption that I can’t be happy if I’m alone, this this is what’s best for you attitude is just–it’s not about you. More than just my queerness, my life is not about you. I’ve said it a million times, in yoga, to friends, shouted at the stars–you are the most important person in your life. What someone else thinks about you, positive or negative, is not their business to share with you because I am not about you.
I think my biggest issue with the idea that queer people have to constantly come out is not even that straight is the default–though let’s dismantle the fuck outta that, please and thanks–but that coming out is often a terrifying thing to do because we’re so stressed out about how the other person is going to react. I knew how my sister & brother would react because I know them better than myself sometimes, but I still felt like I was headed straight to cardiac arrest when I told them. My heart was in my throat, and it was beating so fast, and even though I knew that it couldn’t possibly go wrong, and that I was telling them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I had to, it was still scarier than anything else I think I’ve ever done.
And that’s sad. Being yourself is not about other people.
I think the whole point of this point is something that’s been said over and over and over–if someone trusts you enough to tell you that they’re queer, treat them with love and respect. Coming out has been overshadowed with so much fear and disgust that actually working up the courage to tell someone who you love is almost always a nerve-wracking experience. And if you suspect, with confidence, that someone in your life is queer, but they haven’t told you, that might be a sign that you’re not giving them the space that they need. There are people in my life that I want to tell, but I never will because I don’t trust their reaction, because I know that it’ll become a series of questions that they don’t deserve to ask.
Why didn’t you tell me sooner? How long have you known and not trusted me? Do you know how much this hurts me?
If someone is brave enough to come out to you, the perfect response is the same every time. “Thank you for telling me. I’m glad you felt like you could.”