Why ‘coming out’ is so complex (and how we’re all in the closet).
For the most part of my adolescence, I was burning inside, split between two worlds.
Two sticks inside of me rubbing up against each other, creating such heat, I’d burn on the inside. My inner-world and deeper-knowing telling me I was this way, my inhabited-narrative and the world around me telling me I should be otherwise.
How was I to reconcile this?
You may feel this in many ways also. Something in our reality that simply does not match the story we are told. Some vulnerability on the inside seeking to be seen and acknowledged.
Either I’d give in and live in complete dissonance with myself, shun and ‘other’ a core part of my identity. Or, I’d take the leap, honour my self fully and come-out. Not as gay, but maybe ‘queer,’ if I was to put a word to it. That’s a whole other piece 😉
I’m now 25 and couldn’t be more grateful for the nurturing, loving and deeply-understanding journey I’ve had to being who I am and where I am.
Of course, many who identify in any way other than heterosexual, have not been and are not graced with such tenderness in their journey of coming home to themselves in our world.
This leads me to note that this piece is written – of course – from my experience. Which to note was a fairly comfortable experience with my very accepting and understanding family. It feels important to acknowledge this, to make sure there is space for others who may disagree or have alternative perspectives to my sharing, so please comment and let this be a conversation starter.
Behind the notion of ‘coming out.’
It’s a complex, challenging and quite revealing notion. Telling much about our culture and the core assumptions, biases and dualistic beliefs ingrained into our unconscious social agreements.
For one to need to come-out, connotes that they are ‘other than’ the norm. Otherwise, it is assumed that they are ‘as everyone else is.’ Wouldn’t it be so pleasant and easy if we were all just like each other. Kidding. It would probably be quite a glib and bland experience I would think.
So what if we all had to come out? What if, we didn’t have a tightly-held assumed orientation (gender or any identifiers for that matter) at birth?
What if our culture had a compassionate and curious tone. One that might come to know us, be curious about who we are, as we navigate that journey ourselves? What if the messaging instead of attempting to encourage us in one direction or the other was a little more, should I say, open in its nature?
Ok, yes maybe it would make checking those boxes at the doctor or when filling out that government services form a little less ’streamlined.’
The practice of coming out is an incredibly important practice for all humans. The recognition of who we are, the explicit acknowledgment of our identity is something very few of us have felt.
Ancient cultures has practices Rites of Passage ceremonies and ‘rite’ for centuries. When the elders in the community noticed a young teenager become agitated and restless, they would let them know they are to prepare for their ‘ritual of transition.’ This would consist of any number of rituals, ceremonies, group processes and culminate in the individual coming out the other side, and being publicly acknowledged as now being a ‘young adult.’
The social cohesion, the strengthening of identity, the community that is formed when there is a public acknowledgement and ritual to celebrate someone’s identity is incredible. When I slowly started sharing people in my family, friendship circles and wider-community that I was other-than “normal,” each time I felt heard, accepted and seen I felt myself drop further into feeling at home in our world. I felt the hiding drip away.
So what if there wasn’t an assumed ’norm?’ We do all truly exist on a spectrum of identities and the more intimately we get to know ourselves the more we come to know this. My hope is for a world of self-aware, embodied and authentically-expressive leaders.
For this to happen, we need to create space in our culture.
Aren’t we all in the closet about something?
Whether it’s our sexual orientation, gender, spiritual belief, our sense of loneliness, the truth that we actually don’t know where we’re headed; aren’t we all hiding something? Aren’t we all impacted by the multiplicity of assumed norms that exist in our culture? I would think we are, even in the most subtle ways.
Now I’m dreaming. Imagine, if as close friendship groups we sat in a ‘coming out, coming home’ circle once a month, and each shared something that we needed to ‘come out’ about. Some vulnerability is inside us that wants to be seen, to be acknowledged?
Our responsibility as leaders.
Firstly, may we all acknowledge the assumed norms and biases we carry as we walk the world. May we recognize them as malleable, and upon noticing an outdated colonial story running its script, question it and course-correct when we can.
In Buddhism it is called ‘shoshin,’ beginners mind. Forgetting all that we think we know, allowing the person in front of us to teach us something, even if it is deeply uncomfortable and conflicts many of our beliefs. Can we build the willingness to listen, more than we know to speak.
Secondly, may we all give ourselves the freedom in coming out, and in that, coming home to ourselves. To reflect upon what it is in us that wants so badly to be seen. Then, to share it with one person, a group of people. Coming out is a deeply-courageous, incredibly inspiring and honorable act, offering permission and guidance for others to do the same.
To a world of individuals who are allowed and confident in themselves. A world where the culture we weave and re-weave in each moment, creates space for individuality and ultimately, that which is our gift, our expression.
Please do share any comments, perspectives or alternative thinking here. This is intended to be a conversation starter, and so I do acknowledge that I have not addressed all the many layers and complexities to this notion in varying contexts.
Also published on Medium.