Part 1 of a 3 article series on the different sides of “National Coming Out Day”
National Coming Out day is often a very stressful day for LGBTQ+ people that cannot come out/don’t want to come out. There is an overwhelming sense of pressure as they watch their fellow community celebrate, since many of the ones that are out will try to convince their friends to join them. In some circles, individuals who are in the closet might be forcefully outed, or may have retreated back into the closet after a bad coming out experience. Bisexuals and other MGA identities can have an especially difficult time during the celebrations; those in same gender relationships are often outed by their partners (but rarely as the identity they actually claim), and those in different-gender relationships are barely given the stage if they want to come out.
Whatever your reasons/circumstances, the decision to not come out is not one that will negatively reflect on you. Only you can make that choice, only you can judge how safe it is for you to come out. If anyone that is out gives you any kind of hell for not coming out just ignore them.
Your worth as a member of the bisexual/MGA community is not found in your public label. If you identify as one of us, you are one of us. If you make the decision to come out later, great! If you just don’t know how, that’s alright! If you don’t plan on making the choice right now or ever, that’s cool! There will not be a massive The Purge-like “outing” movement that will throw you into cold waters with family, friends, partners, etc.
Just because you aren’t out, however, that doesn’t mean you should remain a quiet member of our community. Be an ally, advocate alongside of us, and think about following these 3 tips.
1- Share the voices of those that are out
People who’ve come out of the closet often have stories about their experiences in the community; stories about acceptance, rejection, joy, laughter, pain, violence, and so much more. Publicly out people have dealt with physical and verbal violence, prejudice, and rejection alongside wonderful comments of belonging, acceptance, and freedom. When you hear these stories you need to absorb them. Grow through their experiences, and share them so people of every walk of life will know they belong.
This goes beyond verbal storytelling. If someone gives you permission to, share their experiences they’ve posted on social media. Testimonials, hurt or upset rants, and celebrations of life need to be read and circulated on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.
Even if these rants, articles, publications, and twitter threads have nothing to do with bisexuality, read it. A bisexual sharing their experiences on the front line of a protest is still a marginalized voice that needs to be uplifted. I’ve said it multiple times on my page and I’ll say it again here; bisexuality provides us with a wonderful intersection of various religions, income levels, ethnic groups, genders, mental/physical illnesses, disabilities, and so much more. Bisexuals can experience all of these things, often overlapping with one another, and they are all very important aspects of their bisexual identity. We need to work on lifting up all of our voices, and that can be done by simply sharing the content of bisexual writers and artists.
2- Support the communities through donations or publicity
No, I’m not saying funneling your money into the community is something vital to do to be a good ally.
What I am saying is that we are a grouping of people who do not have funds to pay rent, to get groceries, to take care of ourselves or others. Our not-for-profits struggle to keep the lights on and the information flowing. GoFundMe’s, Kickstarters, and PayPal donation stories are everywhere. Our community has an obvious problem with funding and as much as we try to do something about it nothing will change without support.
“But why is that my problem,” you might be asking, “I don’t even have that much money.”
That’s my point. None of us really do. The bisexual community faces some of the highest rates of disabled individuals and individuals living in poverty. We are all in the broke-boat. Yet without members of the community willing to support those that need it, our community will remain in poverty, abusive situations, neglectful homes, or unable to get a treatment/medication they desperately need.
When you see these fundraisers, consider donating a dollar. It’ll look good during tax season, and may bring someone closer to being able to keep heat on in their apartment.
Can’t donate? Already donated a few too many times this year? Boost the donation posts on social media. Share donation pages, pay extremely close attention to those in positions of disadvantage, and let the fundraiser know that you care about them. It only takes a few seconds to do any of these things, and all can make a difference.
3- Continue to educate yourself about discourse and changes in your community
Even working among us as an ally, keeping up with the issues within the community is vital. New subjects of discourse pop up every day. Changes can happen instantly. Staying up to date on the ideas and actions of the bisexual community means that if you do decide to come out, you will not be hit with an overwhelming amount of information (which does happen, trust me I know).
A good way to stay up to date is social media. Follow bisexual pages (you can do that without actually liking the page), join private bisexual groups, follow bisexual blogs on Tumblr, or just pick a few well known bisexual actors/writers/artists to follow on Twitter. All can give you the information you need to stay current, without accidentally outing you.
These three tips can be used for any branch of the LGBTQ+ with members that have not/don’t want to come out but still want to remain an ally for their community. The most important thing to remember is you are still valid among us no matter how public your sexuality is. If you need to share your voice, frustrations, anger, or even joy, we are here for you. And we love you.
So, happy *belated* Coming Out Day, my closeted friends and family, and best wishes to you and yours.