Taking a leap out of the closet

Dirk Schnoes, Staff Writer

“Mom, Dad….I’m gay.”

It’s a classic line. Used in movies and TV shows and either followed by a heart-warming scene of acceptance or a heart-wrenching scene of rejection. But that’s not how it actually works.

There is no one single “coming out event.” Coming out is a life-long process that takes place every single time a person interacts with someone else.

For the rest of their life, an Out person has to frequently reaffirm their sexuality and/or gender. This reality isn’t limited to just gays and lesbians, either, but applies to every member of the LGBT+ community.

“I discovered my sexuality and gender identity freshman year and decided to come out,” said Lee, a sophomore here at WSC, who is pansexual and genderfluid, and goes by they/them/their.

“My mom called me, telling me this wasn’t god’s plan, that I was going to hell. Then [she] told me to not bother coming home. I contacted YES (youth emergency services) in Omaha and they got me a place to stay for a week.”

Although Lee was allowed back home, they didn’t stay.

“I went back and then left again for space, because after that, it’s hard to trust someone who could throw you away so easily.”

It isn’t only Lee’s parents that are troublesome. “People’s reactions are usually confused and just not wanting to understand, but then the ones who do understand also get confused at some point.

“People don’t understand and think I’m bisexual, people think I’m uncomfortable in my skin just because of being the other gender for a day.”

Fortunately, there are some pros, as well. “I see beauty in everyone. It’s nice to find an attractive attribute in people and people are cute,” they said.

For Ashley, a junior, being pansexual causes problems in a similar way.

“A lot of people that only recognize the binary genders discredit the idea of pansexuality existing,” she said. “I’m often having to explain my orientation to people. Dating hasn’t really changed. People are pretty accepting once I inform them what it is.

People I’m close with are surprisingly accepting. It’s not frustrating being pansexual [in the dating scene]. It’s frustrating being attracted to someone, say of the same gender, and not being able to tell if their orientation works with yours.”

Other members of the LGBT+ community might only be out to close friends or certain members of their family.

Charlie is a prime example, as a cisgender, bisexual female. She is only out to her friends and one brother. Even then, coming out has backlash. “I get labeled as ‘greedy,’ ‘confused,’ or ‘easy,’” Charlie said.

“Many people, both heterosexual and homosexual alike, don’t think that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual preference, so potentially, there is just as much, if not more, of a chance for me and those like me to be ostracized because of our sexual preference,” Charlie said.

There are, however, benefits to being out, as well.

“I don’t really get treated any different by those close to me, not in ways that I notice,” Charlie said. “It brings me and my boyfriend closer because we can bond with each other even more over ‘checking out’ other females. Having the ability to communicate openly and honestly about intimate subjects is a significant comfort.”

Like any other Out person, Charlie has to reaffirm her sexuality to even her close friends.

“Once in class, I sat next to a good friend who also happened to be queer. They had apparently never figured out I identified as bisexual until our teacher ‘forgot’ to wear a bra and we sat in the back wiping drool off of our notebooks.”

“I felt like someone in my family needed to know,” Charlie said. “It had to be my youngest brother. Being the most rational of my siblings, not only was he not surprised at all, he was completely accepting of me.

He had apparently known since I was a young teenager, and I didn’t come out to him until I was in my early twenties. I was relieved that at least someone really knew me.”

Regardless of anyone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, there is only one steel-built, set-in-stone, you-will-never-truly-be-forgiven rule about coming out—never, EVER, out anyone without their explicit permission, even if you think they wouldn’t mind.

Coming out is a difficult process that takes a lot of time, consideration and energy, and being outed is infinitely worse than deer-in-the-headlights syndrome because it feels like actually getting hit by the truck.

If you have the opportunity to out someone, be a decent human being and make sure it’s okay first. There’s no reason to be careless with someone else’s life.

Terms to Note

Biphobia: Aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion.

Bisexual: A person who is attracted to two or more genders, but not all genders. Also called “bi.”

Cisgender: Type of gender identity where an individual’s experience of their own gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

Coming Out: The process of acknowledging one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to other people.

Gender expression: A term which refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate sense of being male, female, etc.

Gender identity: The sense of “being” male, female, genderqueer, agender, etc. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are separate and that you cannot assume how someone identifies in one category based on how they identify in another category.

Genderqueer: Genderqueer (or genderfluid, agender, genderless) people possess identities which fall outside of the widely accepted sexual binary (i.e. “men” and “women”).

In the closet: Describes a person who keeps their sexual orientation or gender identity a secret from some or all people.

Pansexual: A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions, not just people who fit into the standard gender binary (i.e. men and women).

Sexual orientation: The type of sexual and/or physical attraction someone feels toward others. Often labeled based on the gender identity/expression of the person and who they are attracted to. Common labels: lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, etc.