We still need to come out.
Yesterday, the Washington Post published a piece declaring “It’s time to end National Coming Out Day” by a nice gay man who is a Columbia grad, with a masters and PhD from Princeton whose 2013 wedding was covered in the New York Times.
I don’t know about his childhood, but maybe Mr. Birkhold’s gay adulthood has been so lovely and privileged that he thinks it’s time to switch and have straight people come out à la switcheroo-musical Zanna Don’t!, which I’m listening to as I type this (and you probably should, too).
But I grew up in a small town, where I was called a dyke and a feminist cunt on the regular, and if two women or men lived together they were definitely “roommates”, and my family (who loves me dearly) for the most part is still a part of a Christian denomination that does not officially accept queer folks into its membership. I just stepped away from that nonsense a few months ago myself.
And I know that small town hasn’t changed so much that coming out is no longer necessary and no longer a huge risk. And I’m still friends with so many queer Mennonites in daily pain from the spiritual violence of the church. A group of youth at a Mennonite conference a few years back shouting “Dyke!!” at me still haunts me.
And I haven’t even mentioned trans folks who hateful people are just straight up murdering, or queer and trans people of color who face violence and discrimination, or queer folks sitting at other intersections of ability, wellness, size, age, and gender identity; or that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQIA2S+!
But hey, everything’s ok for Assistant Professor Birkhold, so let’s just NORMALIZE queerness.
And that’s where his argument really falls apart for me.
The last thing my queer as fuck self wants is to become part of normal white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy. You can take your normal, and its racist police brutality, and its misogynist raping and murdering of women by their straight male partners, and its election of President Donald Trump, and its homophobic houses of worship, and its cultural norms of passive-aggressive nice half-truths instead of meaningful intimate connection. I. Don’t. Want. That.
And look, yes, I know I just named a bunch of shit that lives in our LGBTQIA2S+ communities too, and that sometimes, though far less often, straight women are violent against straight men too. I know, I know, I know.
But for me, my queerness isn’t just who I fuck or who I love or who I fruitlessly try to get to meet up with me in real life after a string of noncommittal texts and messages from social apps.
Queerness is so much more
My queerness is committing to creating something different. It’s committing to rooting out racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and all oppressions inside ourselves, toward ourselves and others, and in our communities. It’s committing to creating a community practice and norm of honesty, directness, and vulnerability. My queerness commits to making room for and celebrating, as Audre Lorde directs us, difference among us. It commits to do better, to be better than the violence and the hate and the toxicity all around us.
So yes, today, and every day, and every moment I have the opportunity I come out as queer in a hundred different ways, from responding with clear directness to passive aggression, to pulling over to the side of the road every damn time I see a police officer (or more often a whole crew of them) confronting a Black person, to holding a partner’s hand in public, to offering a kind word to a stressed mom or her kid in a grocery store, to speaking up about those confederate flags being sold by a vendor at Kennywood on First Responder’s Day.
There are so many opportunities to come out as queer in a society built to separate us and turn us one against the other, that trains us to look away from violence and avoid even nominal discomfort at all costs.
Again, as I’ll say every time I talk about my queerness and activism: I screw up. I am imperfect and wired for struggle (thanks again, shame researcher Brene Brown!).
And I’m also Queer. As. Fuck. And I’m worthy of deep love and intimate belonging, and so are you.
So come on out.
Tell the world today that you are queer, and don’t want any damn part of white supremacist cis-heteropatriarchy, and that you want something different, something better for all of us.
I’m here. I’m queer. Don’t get used to it. Be challenged by it.
Beliefs and views expressed by contributors on this site are not necessarily the views of QueerPGH, (although in this case, they totally are). We aim to provide a platform for many points of view within our community. We respect the experiences of individuals and make space for folks to share those experiences.