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Reframing ‘coming out’ as ‘letting in’

Reframing ‘coming out’ as ‘letting in’

Reframing ‘coming out’ as ‘letting in’
May 17
12:00 2022

Coming out has always been portrayed as a monumental moment in a queer person’s life — the turning point that changes everything and the moment we can begin living a life more true to ourselves. However, the modern phrasing, wording and intention behind this term are more aligned with placating those outside the community than serving those within. 

Coming out is a profoundly personal decision and its history in queer liberation cannot be understated. 

As a young kid who was part of the LGBTQ+ community during the rise of YouTube, I consumed countless coming-out videos in preparation for that fateful day. They were deeply comforting and powerful. However, modern conceptions of the phrase need to be expounded upon, as the LGBTQ+ community isn’t only coming out, but letting people in.

While exiting the “closet” on one’s own terms can signify growth and self-acceptance, the narrative is part of service to the straight and the cis. 

It is an explanation of who we are and why we are different. There is nothing wrong with educating those around you. Still, making our identities palpable to others often waters down our existence, strips away our individuality and merges us into a monolithic experience. 

These narratives that are easier to digest have societal repercussions, such as making one form of queerness more viable than others or alienating those who express it differently.

“Coming out” is a phrase that holds a lot of meaning. Its usage has changed and shifted as LGBTQ+ culture evolved over the years. Initially, the term referred to gay men “coming out” into gay society in the early 19th and 20th centuries. 

However, after rampant homophobia began to lash out at the increasingly visible queer community, gay culture began to hide out of necessity. This was until the gay liberation movement, including the 1969 Stonewall riots. From there, coming out began to have a more political connotation.

Organizers of the first Gay Liberation March in June 1970 said “[they’ll] never have the freedom and civil rights [they] deserve unless [they] stop hiding in closets.”

From then on, “coming out” and “the closet” became two inseparable coinciding concepts. Coming out of the closet and its importance in queer liberation should not be diminished. However, modern society should begin to update how we speak about the LGBTQ+ community by addressing the shame and stigmatization that often leads to our ostracization. 

Coming out of the closet refers to queer people hiding but insinuates they have something to be ashamed of. While it is common for queer people not to be open with their sexuality or gender, this is not a product of our own doing. 

It is not that queer people are born with this internal sense of shame, but that society has instilled it into us. Furthermore, instead of just existing as straight society does, the idea we have to come out continues to “other” us. 

Queer lives should not focus on educating everyone around us about our existence. In an ideal world, people should be able to introduce their partner no matter their gender without a conversation occurring prior. 

Framing this conversation around “letting people in” marks a shift in how we discuss sexuality and gender. “Letting people in” is something we all have the power to do. Introducing people to your partner whether it be a gay or straight relationship is fundamentally the same. 

Additionally, letting people in it is an invitation to my world as a person who is part of the LGBTQ+ community rather than looking for acceptance in the straight-cis society. The phrase “coming out” is of importance regarding gay liberation. It’s a term that will never lose its relevance. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be conscious and continue to grow and develop the way we think of queer lives.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

About Author

Lake Smith

Lake Smith

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