Marks: A review of National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 had people all over the world celebrating their sexuality. Events were held both locally and globally. The day is supported every year by the Human Rights Campaign, which also provides themes for the day. Furthermore, they have an entire section on their website to explain National Coming Out Day’s 28-year-old history.
The first National Coming Out Day was held 28 years ago, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The reason for this celebration was to commemorate “the power of coming out.”
Since then, the day has expanded to include celebrations all over the world. Locally, the University of Oregon has events planned all week. On National Coming Out Day itself, there was a bouncy house, a beach ball and tables with information on the lawn by the Erb Memorial Union. On Oct. 12, there was a trans poetry event including readings by KOKUMO and Cat Fitzpatrick, transgender poets, as well as a mixer for graduate and nontraditional LGBTQIA+ students, hosted by the LGBTQA3. On Oct. 13, there was a talk about queering up the bedroom. Finally, tonight, the LGBTQA3 is hosting “Queeraoke,” a friendly space for queer people to lip-sync and sing karaoke. All of these events are a great way for queer people to get together and celebrate their identities.
However, all these events specific to queer people brings the question, why do we have a National Coming Out Day?
In an ideal world, people wouldn’t have to come out as queer. The only reason people feel the need to come out today is because we live in a heteronormative society. This means that heterosexuality is the default sexuality, so people assume an individual is heterosexual unless they state otherwise. If people didn’t automatically assume one’s romantic and sexual attraction, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal to identify as queer.
Today, if you don’t come out as queer, people may assume you’re straight. This can be annoying and even damaging to people because their identities are being erased. This is especially a problem for people in a heterosexual-assuming relationship. An example of this is a man and a woman together, wherein one or both of the people are pansexual (attracted to all genders). People assume that the people in the relationship are straight, even though they aren’t. This is just one of the reasons why queer people choose to come out, in order to avoid being mislabeled.
National Coming Out Day is a great opportunity for queer people to be open about their sexuality, but it’s not for everybody. One of the great debates among the queer community, and beyond, is whether allies, those who support the LGBTQIA+ community, should come out to events on National Coming Out Day.
While I always appreciate the support and love I receive from allies, I don’t think they should come out on National Coming Out Day. Queer people gain confidence from coming out and being accepted, and this day is meant for them. National Coming Out Day is historically for queer people, and allies coming out to show support draw the focus away from the people who actually derive power from the experience. However, I do think that allies should make themselves known, so that queer people have more people they can feel safe and comfortable around. National Coming Out Day just isn’t the day to do it.
The other group of people that National Coming Out Day isn’t necessarily for is a select group of queer people for whom it isn’t safe. Whether you’re still living with your parents who are homophobic or transphobic, or you don’t feel comfortable about your sexuality, you should know that it’s okay not to come out on National Coming Out Day. You may want to consider the following things before coming out: whether it’s safe, if you have a support system and a plan and whether you’re comfortable with it. Regardless of whether you choose to come out or not, know that there are people out there that will love and support you unconditionally.
Whether you’re queer or not, National Coming Out Day is a great way to celebrate the queer people in your life. Don’t forget to reach out to them at this time.
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