So I’m sitting here with my sorority sister talking abut new member stuff (that’s about as descriptive I can be) and we come across things about LGBTQIA history. That’s fine and all and well or whatever but… underneath that one of the topics was “coming out as an ally.”
Pause -_-Coming out is problematic in itself. So why are allies involved? Is this another way white feminism wants to write the narratives of marginalized folks? Allow me to elaborate. Coming out has always been seen as the pivotal moment in a queer persons life. It’s defined as the “psychological process” or “journey” in which a queer person goes through and decides to disclose their life with others. It’s more complex than that but, that’s the basis of it. I’ll admit, I was one of those people. ‘Just say it’ was my mantra. Tell them, it’ll be a relief once it’s out in the universe. That’s possibly the worst advice I’d ever given anyone… There’s plenty of people who haven’t come out to themselves yet or they have and just won’t accept it. “Coming out” or whatever that experience may be is such a personal experience, no one on the outside looking in can put a label on it or even box it into just one experience that is “coming out”. And this can happen in any amount of time, so to say that there is a moment in every queer person’s life where they decided to come out or have a “story” or “epiphany” of their queer experience is trivializing their narrative. Especially because we’re continuously coming out as well.
And not only are we placing it on a time frame but we’re ignoring the fact that coming out is a privilege of the LGBTQIA narrative. I’m not one to advocate the “Homophobia of the black community” myth but, homophobia among people of color is a very real thing and coming out is not the fix-it tool that people think it is.
My most recent thing has been calling in instead of calling out because not all mistakes among social justice warriors is deserving of reprimanding. It’s a fairly violent thing us SJW’s do to make ourselves look knowledgeable and more versed about something and can further hinder the production of a movement. And yeah as a QPOC that seems awfully docile of me but TRUST! There’s a time and place for me to get shady and snatch edges. And BELIEVE when I do, you won’t even know it. You’ll just feel the burn of your barren sensitive scalp of where your edges used to be. Don’t get a thing twisted boo boo (insert claps).
So allow me to call in and tell you the issue with coming out. Society likes to define it’s majority population in relation to the marginalized. So we have labels like gay, lesbian, cis, trans, queer and etc. to set “us” a part from “them” in a constant attempt to isolate who’s important and who’s “disposable”. It’s rhetoric. If “us” can’t see “them”, then “they” aren’t associated with “us” and “we” can continue to ignore “their” issues and experiences and never have to help “them” because “they” don’t affect us. Got it so far?
So I, society, need you to come out and tell me who you’re sleeping with, who you’re attracted to and what’s between your legs so I can know this about myself as it regards to whether or not I’m “normal”. I need to know whether to keep giving you benefits I receive because you and I are not the same. Should I find out you’re different from me in regards to your gender/sexuality, then I know who I am not and I can know my importance in society. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but what other reason are people so obsessed with knowing this very intimate and personal information? It’s surely not to accommodate, so what for?
An example of that would be my experience as a student at a very white hetero-normative university. My sophomore year I spent some time “in the closet” for lack of a better term. I understand as a gender studies major it’s kind of strange to separate my experience from my studies but in order to let the dialogue continue, I had to realize the song wasn’t always about me. But more and more I was pushed into a corner as I listened painfully as my classmates spoke about shit they knew nothing about. So I was faced with a hard decision: coming out and calling out or sit quiet and perpetuate ignorance. For the most part I was able to debunk their statements with factual evidence that came from our textbooks all written by queer identified folks but this one class where this upper class cis straight white dude INSISTED on speaking about the lives of queer women, I had to make a decision quick and come out. The conversation was fine until my professor stepped in with general confusion about the topic. “I identify as queer and I have to say, that’s just not true” I said. They all looked at me as if I wore neckties and converse as a unique fashion choice… Sure my gender identity has nothing to do with my sexuality but I thought they got the point.
Initially the rest of the conversation went smoothly and it was fine. It just sucks that I had to compromise my privacy in order to have a productive conversation. But as the remainder of it went well, the rest of the semester was something I wasn’t prepared for. I became the spokes person for all queer women of color everywhere in that one classroom and the pressure was impeccable. Bad enough there were only three black people in the class and they all gave us side eyes when we discussed race, from then on every time we came across the topic of sexuality they all looked at me anticipating my words. Even on the days I felt exhausted with participating, they still waited for my truth about the queer community. I found that ironic seeing as I’d disclosed my major at the beginning of class but it wasn’t until I outed myself that they were looking to me to tell them all the things.
Now this wasn’t explicitly a situation where I was pressured to come out, I made that decision on my own. But immediately upon gaining this knowledge, their prior respect of my silence went out of the window. I was expected to speak up for all queers everywhere whether I wanted to or not. It was fucking stressful. Even when it came to my final presentation, I was expected to write about my queer identity or something fairly related to it. That pressure and constant scrutiny molded my experience for the rest of the semester. The guys in the class had different conversations with me, the girls approached me with caution because we live in a society where a woman loving woman is still seen as the big bad sexual wolf who will fuck and get fucked by any woman in creation (problematic as F U C K) and generally I was just stressed from shifting from a student to a gay student in the matter of one class. It literally only took an hour and forty five minutes for that to happen. A bit less to be honest. And it continued to happen in other classes and even at a campus job where co-workers would consistently have heterosexist, homophobic and transphobic conversations while spewing slurs about queer people. I didn’t feel safe and coming out didn’t solve any of the problems I occurred, it only made them worse.
With that, queer people have to constantly come out. And with coming out of the closet, you’re essentially stepping into a bigger one. My peers hear me talk about this all the time, allow me to explain this. It isn’t a new concept. It’s origins come from Judith Butler who’s famous for her perfomativity theories. She writes in “Imitation and Gender insubordination” that sexuality is not something you come into or learn, it’s something that you are. You can’t come out as something you already are. From children we’re conditioned into gender and sexuality from the pink and blue baby showers to Barbie and Ken’s gender roles. You can’t figure out you’re gay or trans because you’ve been that way, however you learned of it in relation to yourself. The only reason we “come out” is because we’ve been all filed under cisgender and heterosexual. So we’re in a state of normalizing our own identities even though they’ve been around before we have. Normative society is just now catching up to it and putting a name on it.
And another thing, “coming out as an ally” is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t know of an ally experiencing housing or job discrimination because of their association with queer people… I get that ally-ship is super important but once again, this song ain’t about you. But I digress…Coming out is definitely a privilege the white feminist and HRC gay movement continuously rally’s behind. There was that whole “Born this way” foolishness that Lady Gaga spewed at gay whites for them to completely take and run with. And as per usual, they’re always at the forefront of LGBTQIA movements. It’s easy for them to come out, they’re men and want to be productive in the world, continuing to make culture and create a better future for the children (full sarcasm locked and loaded in all of that). And that’s all fine well and dandy if you have the privilege to think about futurity, but I won’t get into that here. Non-threatening, harmless cisgender white men who just want what the straights want and docile, sensitive, fragile white women who just wanna love other women in peace. That’s not the case for trans and queer people of color.
A part from having being of color, the racism, misogyny and transmisogyny that runs freely in society literally makes it unsafe for trans people and qpoc to come out on the scale that white cis people do. I’m not saying that it isn’t the same for white cis people and it’s not equally as dangerous… But it surely has it’s differences in that aspect. So much so where there’s data to back up the disproportionate death rates of queer youth of color.. But if you can honestly see nothing wrong with someone coming out and you think it’s totally fine, maybe you need to step back and check your privilege.
But take what I’ve given as an antidote to be a real ally. Don’t tell people to come out. Hell, let’s do away with that phrase completely. Coming out is such a personal experience I cannot emphasize that enough. Focus on what’s important and ask yourself these questions: Is this person a fuck? No? Cool. Be their friend. You don’t be a fuck. Does their sexuality/gender/gender identity/gender performance effect their work with you? Your friendship? Anything?? No? THEN MIND YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS. Unless they explicitly ask you for help or come to you and tell you, don’t go trying to be a hero of some sort. You’ll only do more harm than good.