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A key point of contention between my parents and me recently is if I am really queer or just confused. You know, because being gay is a trend nowadays. “Love, Simon” made it cool or whatever.
To that, I say, there is nothing really fun about being queer in this world, unless you count having your rights debated as a political issue, being either demonized or fetishized depending on whether your existence threatens or turns on straight people, getting hate crimed, being at a higher risk for mental health issues, knowing there are some things that your family’s supposedly unconditional love won’t cover, or being illegal in 72 countries simply because of who you are. The fun parts about being queer — Pride Month and ball culture and banger music and memes about falling in love with our best friends — are things we had to dig down and claw into existence in our own little spaces; they exist precisely because being queer in a largely homophobic and transphobic world is so unfun.
Sure, there are some people who see being queer as a trend, who want in on whatever clout being bisexual gives you (if there is any such clout, please direct me towards it, because I would like to have that instead of just internalized and external biphobia). There are people who mess around with labels and ultimately declare themselves cisgender or straight. So what? People change. Identities change, or our perceptions of them change, or the labels that make us feel best about ourselves change. The Q in BGLTQ does sometimes stand for questioning. There’s no harm done if someone questions their gender or sexuality for a couple of months before realizing that they are in fact cishet. It’s probably better for people to question and explore their gender and sexual identities than to take the social norm of cis- and heteronormativity as indisputable truth, anyways.
But there is harm in assuming because some people come out as queer and later identify themselves as cis or straight, that no one is queer, only confused. That everyone who comes out is dazed by the Pride parade glitter and doing it as a fad.
Coming out is hard. It’s terrifying. So much so that a younger me decided I would just never tell my parents about my sexuality until I realized that eventually, I might end up marrying a woman — and then that would be even harder to explain to my parents at the wedding. We all know the horror stories: getting kicked out of your home, conversion therapy, or getting sent to “pray the gay away.” How we can lose the love of our loved ones because of who we are or who we love. I know many people who continue to put off telling their parents because they don’t know what might happen, or they’re afraid they do. I know many people, myself among them, for whom coming out to their parents has permanently altered their relationship.
Even when coming out goes okay (hooray for basic human decency!) — like in the TikTok compilations of supportive family members’ reactions to coming out that I like to watch when I feel alone — it’s emotional. People cry. There’s catharsis there, whether in finally getting to be out and proud of yourself or in the relief of finding out that you will not be another coming-out-gone-wrong story.
No matter how coming out goes, it’s a big deal and not something to be taken lightly. It takes so much bravery to come out. To say to the world or maybe just the people you care about that this is who I am and how I love when large swathes of the world will hate you for that alone. If someone gathers the courage and strength to come out to you, they do not deserve to be met with skepticism. It could not have been easy for them to come to terms with their own identity, to war within themself over who to tell and how, and to finally say those words to you.
It costs you nothing to respect someone exploring their identity. It costs them a lot to share that exploration with you. So be kind. No one comes out for fun. We do it because we are in the process of understanding ourselves. And if we share that self-expression with you, you’d better appreciate it.
Christina M. Xiao ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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