October 29, 2010

Queer Issue: Coming Out

It's been said that "coming out" is a process that can last a lifetime. Certainly, no queer has only had to come out once and only once.

When I first came out, it was in high-school. I did it during a presentation on same sex marriage and gay adoption for my participation in government class. When I gave the presentation, I explained that the reason I had chosen my topic was because I actually was gay. That was the hardest time I had coming out. Before then, I had told a few friends and family members, but that was the first time I had come out to a large group.

In college, I found it very easy to come out to people as being gay. A lot easier than in high-school at least. I cannot recall receiving any negative attention at all, for coming out while I was in college. I even gave a presentation on the implications of biological causes of same sex attraction in regards to free will. I even received plenty of positive feedback from my peers for it.

Of course, coming out in college is not the same thing as coming out on the job. Once, when I was volunteering at a place I'd rather not specify, I experienced what I felt - but could never actually prove - to be a homophobic incident.

The incident was that I was unexpectedly asked to leave by one of the regular staff members. Whilst no homophobic slurs or language was used at the time, I felt that the individual was acting on homophobic impulses, due to the way that they had been behaving that evening and their inexplicable anger at me. Afterwards, I was mortified and embarrassed. I complained to the administration and the staff member in question was subsequently let go.

While, I got over my embarrassment, the incident got me thinking about how difficult it must be in many places for LGBTQIA individuals to come out at their place of employment. Anti-discrimination laws are all well and good, but I can imagine many cases in which they would not offer adequate protection to those who would need it.

In my case, I was lucky, I was a volunteer, providing (what I would like to think) constituted a much needed and appreciated service.

"Coming Out" is not a simple one step process. Whilst I certainly experienced a great deal of personal difficulties as the result of being closeted for nearly my entire adolescence, it bears remarking that the reason for it was that I knew deep down that there would be hard consequences for coming out. My experience as a volunteer of being asked to leave, was not the first time, nor do I expect it be the last, that someone made it clear that I was not welcome because I was gay.

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