Coming out and its variants

October 13, 2009

[A commercial for my students.]


This is National Coming Out Week, also known as LGBT Awareness Week. Coming out is short for coming out of the closet, meaning bringing out into the open something that has been hidden away. I encourage my students to be compassionate when a friend “comes out” to them–coming out is very traumatic for some people; for others it’s not an issue.

The empathy muscle used in supporting a friend coming out as a gay or lesbian person, is also put to use in other personal confessions that have nothing to do with sexual preference. Imagine the following confessions that one person might make to another:

“I’m pregnant.”
“I’m going to get married.”
“My husband is cheating on me.”
“I have cancer.”
“I didn’t get into Harvard.”
“I love you.”

Each of these scenarios is a type of coming out. As the person listening and as a good friend, you’ll be there for them, realizing how difficult it must have been to make this confession.

On the other hand, coming out feels good–letting the world–or perhaps just a close friend–know who you are. As my old pal and collaborator John Hall wrote in our “Flashpoint/Stonewall:”

“Your difference is your strength, you see.
Come out! Come out! for all to see.”

[Illustration by Keith Haring]

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