The spectacle of coming out

by The Beyond Bullying Project Blog

vijay saravanamuthu headshot
Mikaela Clarke
Beyond Bullying Project 
Research Assistant

You don’t owe the world a coming out story, because you certainly don’t owe the world a coming out.

This is the sentiment I always feel myself desperate to express in the face of queer teenagers riddled with questions about how to come out, who to come out to, and whether or not to do it at all. Yet something about this answer seems fraudulent, considering I myself did exactly that: hatching an elaborate coming out scheme in high school to broadcast my sexuality to a mass population. Sometimes I look back at my own coming out sequence and wonder why I did it at all. It was a student question addressed to the Beyond Bullying Project about how to come out to classmates in the midst of the pandemic that prompted me to revisit my own coming out sequence.

When I came out, it certainly didn’t feel like a brave, admirable act. It didn’t feel like a sign of strength, courage, or honesty. I came out to my peers through an Instagram post on my public page, one that could be shared with anybody aside from the family members I had intentionally blocked. This online spectacle felt somewhat selfish. I did it out of a need for control. I knew that I didn’t owe anybody an explanation. I knew that many of the kids I went to school with didn’t necessarily need to know me like that. In fact, I questioned whether or not they even cared.

My coming out didn’t happen out of any commitment to honesty or pride in my identity. Quite frankly, I was thinking of a girl, one I met on a dating app and really liked, despite ghosting her in response to her attempts to meet in person. I continued checking her social media long enough to see her get an actual girlfriend, one that responded to her messages and was free to go out in public. I lamented over what I felt was a missed opportunity, and my coming out post was really saying: “hey, if you see me on a date with a girl, mind your business.” I came out on a public page to students I had never even talked to, solely to ensure that nobody could ever come out for me. I wanted it all out in the open so that nobody could speculate about my story. So, I chose an identifier, typed up an “explanation” and conveyed a confidence I didn’t even truly possess.

At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to come out. There is no right or wrong time, place, audience or motivation. In fact, nothing about the act of having to come out has ever felt right to me at all. And still, it is a thing I partake in time and time again over the course of my queer life, as trivial as it may sometimes seem. No matter what your reasons are for coming out, the method should prioritize your comfort over that of others. As a queer individual who will likely come out time and time again, there will likely be no such thing as one, single, truly authentic coming out moment. It is okay to tailor your coming out story to be what you need it to be, when you need it to be that.

Photo by Takashi Miyazaki on Unsplash