Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. A day to proudly stand up and be counted. But today, I don't feel proud. I feel guilty. Not because of my sexual orientation, but because I'm still hiding in the closet. And it's not even that I'm in the closet, so much as why I'm still in the closet, if I'm really honest with myself.

Some friends tagged me in some gay-rights photos on Facebook. Just me, holding up a sign. That's nothing to be ashamed of. But what if my fellow youth group volunteers saw, and I was asked to stop working with the group because of it? Or what if my siblings saw and questioned me? I don't want to lie, but I'm waiting to come out to the family until I'm in a long-term relationship.

After all, that's what my brother did. That's what's reasonable, because it's when some of my siblings want to know. Besides, if I never find someone, then there's no point in putting them through all those emotions, right? But as I make friends locally, as I start to date, it becomes riskier that someone could slip up and out me on Facebook. And I know that finding out from a stranger would really hurt my family members.

Today, all someone did was tag me in an innocuous photo. But I freaked and deleted the notification from my wall. My brother still managed to see the picture, however. And then he re-posted it to his wall -- noting how much he appreciates my support. And that's when the guilt started.

I didn't attend the event for him, so much as I did it for me -- to get closer to new LGBT friends, to become more comfortable being "out" in my local community, to see what kind of community it is. I want to tell my brother, "I'm not your ally; I'm one of you." Honestly, I thought he knew (or at least suspected), but it's been a while since he's made an ambiguous comment.

On a day like today, I want to stand up and be counted. I want to post a message on Facebook proclaiming my orientation to the world. But the fear of others' reactions, the fear of being judged, and the worry that I'll be treated differently afterward hold me back. It's not consideration for others' feelings. It's fear. And so right now, I'm taking advantage of being closeted to enjoy the privileges of a straight person -- while trying to enter my local LGBT community and take advantage of the opportunities for friendship, dating, and solidarity that it offers.

Would they want me? I know I wouldn't want a friend who denied they knew me. But I also know that each member of the community has had to struggle with coming out, so if anyone would understand my turmoil, they would. But I'm a grown woman. How much longer, really, am I going to hide who I am from the world?

It took over ten years, but I've accepted my orientation as a part of the person God made me, as something to celebrate -- at least to myself. So why can't I share that with the world? Today, I won't be making any posts about National Coming Out Day on Facebook -- not until I actually have the guts to participate. My hats off to those who did.

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