Coming Out of Coming Out
“Okay… I’m doing this,” a woman says with a small tremor in her voice. “There is something that I want you to know, and that something is...” She pauses, eyebrows lifted as she takes a large gulp of air.
On June 9th, 2015, internet celebrity Ingrid Nilsen disclosed her sexual orientation to millions of subscribers through the popular video-sharing website, YouTube. However, Nilsen is not the only person to have released a “coming out” video in the recent months; popular content creators such as Joey Graceffa, Connor Franta, and the Rhodes Brothers are among many who have done the same.
In our increasingly connected world — thanks to the Internet — all forms of “coming out” statements have been brought into the forefront of our social media. Take fourth-year Life Science student Kevan McDougall’s story, for instance. In a “Humans of McMaster” post back in March (which has been viewed over 10,000 times) McDougall shared that he owed himself the courage to be more vulnerable, before discussing personal experiences with his mental health and identifying as gay.
While some may liken the idea of “coming out” to a social media fad — a contest for internet virality — it has been, in reality, anything but a simple fad. In fact, “coming out” is a highly personal process that is not reduced to a single event in time.
“It was definitely a process,” McDougall shares, “one that included coming to terms with myself, speaking with family, coming to university, and being in the right, supportive environment.” The reality of all coming out experiences is that most of it happens away from cameras and cellphones. It is a natural and ongoing process of personal discovery that can span from weeks to years, and even decades.
Although “coming out” statements today are increasingly met with acceptance, there has also been space for fair criticism. Specifically, in an age where the discourse of LGBTQ+ related issues is moving towards normalization, we find ourselves living with a strange dissonance in which this discourse is simultaneously normalized and sometimes over-dramatized.
This is not to dismiss the challenging experiences of many LGBTQ+ identified individuals in their own self-discoveries — but the truth is that our sexual orientation is simply one single side of us, and by no means should we let it define who we are.
“Moving forward, I think we need to stop treating LGBTQ+ discussions as an abnormal topic we always dance around,” explains Jennifer Chan, a third-year Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour student, “we are just people who want to love and be loved — like everyone else.”
Similarly, Marina Monahar, a third-year Communication Studies and Multimedia student, also encourages readers to think about “coming out” differently. “I think if society wants to become more progressive, we should eliminate that entire notion,” she shares. “Sexuality is very fluid, and people should just do as they please without labels.”
While it may not be possible to completely wipe out the idea of “coming out”, what we can do is redefine the phrase for ourselves. Choose to see “coming out” as an enlightening process of self-discovery, instead of a single moment when one dramatically comes out of hiding. Choose to learn about the fluidity and plurality of our sexualities. Lastly, choose to understand everyone’s story — the only thing we should come out of is a closed mind.
This article was published in Vol. 82, Issue 2 of The Silhouette.