The other day, my very gay friend came out to one of her old friends (and, like I am of everyone who has ever come out, I am obviously really proud and happy for her). But, as my friend recounted the story to me, something was said by her friend that made me think:
“Is being LGBTQ+ even a big deal anymore?”
And I can see their point.
I think we are living in an increasingly accepting society that makes you feel so glad to be alive today, and the LGBTQ+ community is being more recognised, included and generally normalised more than it has ever been in history before. I think the world still has a way to go, but it makes you so excited for the future where hopefully my grandchildren don’t need to come out like I came out to my grandparents. Maybe coming out will be something really outdated by that time. I live in hope.
But for now, unless the person coming out tells you it isn’t, being LGBTQ+ is probably a big deal to THEM.
I think that people who have never had to come out have a slightly skewed view of it. Which, yes, is fair because coming out isn’t usually accurately represented in the media. I know I definitely did before realising my bisexuality and that coming out was something that I wanted to do. It happens lots of times, not just once. For every LGBTQ+, every experience is different. Unique. Which is exciting but also very scary. There is no way to exactly judge how someone will react (I wish there was. Imagine if an app existed for that, it would be great). I think even if you know that the other person is going to be totally cool with it, I think a little “what-if” can still exist in the back of your mind.
I think this comes from a lot from a big mix of trans/homo/bi-phobia, both internal and external, which are both unpleasant and distressing. I think I am a very lucky person as I’ve experienced very little external phobia, but this leads me to think that the “what-if” question comes very much from internalised phobia more than anything. Because if you don’t unconditionally love and accept who YOU are, you find it hard to see why others would too. This is why coming out might be a big deal to them.
Realising that you fit along the LGBTQ+ spectrum of sexuality or gender and exist outside of the ‘heterosexual’ ‘cisgender’ ideas we’ve been indoctrinated by from birth, isn’t easy. I don’t think I could meet a single person of the LGBTQ+ community who has found it a completely easy ride. Even if the worst that they have had to go through is questioning, that’s enough to deal with. The level that you can feel you don’t even know yourself has consequences.
Coming out can take quite a lot of courage, especially if they’re still questioning, so even just thinking of that as a big deal for them. Questioning is a process, which for some people takes years and for others, maybe even just weeks. If mine had gone on for longer, it probably would have turned out incredibly bad for me. So have a level of appreciation. What they’re doing, dealing with, and who they are, is incredible.
So even if you are one of the most accepting, most awesome coolest people (and credit to you if you are! Love the allies of the community!), don’t dismiss someone who is coming out to you by saying anything that implies it’s not a big deal unless they tell you they don’t want it to be.