One day, I was a single, kissing virgin high-schooler, and the next I was making out with the captain of the girls’ field hockey team. Then in college, I dated a stream of folks who resembled either Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham or Alana Austin from Motocrossed (they’re straight-up queer icons—I swear). But after graduating, I moved to New York, and I never officially came out.
As a straight-passing cisgender woman, I have had the option (nay, luxury) to come out as someone who dates women—or not come out and still date women. And while I may be outspoken on the internet as being a queer-identifying person, IRL I’m simply not.
But apparently, it makes total sense that I went from being a very out student to a very closeted adult. When you’re queer, coming out is an ongoing process, says LGBTQ+ expert and mental-health professional Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW. “Every time you enter a new space or meet a new person, you have to make the decision whether or not to come out again.”
“Every time you enter a new space or meet a new person, you have to make the decision whether or not to come out again.” —LGBTQ+ expert Kryss Shane, MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW
In part, my choice was due to my first relationship in the Big Apple being with a cisgender man (in retrospect, more like cisgender softboy, but that’s another story). So for the 18 months we were together, all the people I met and grew close with saw me as a woman who dated men—because for 18 months I was a woman dating a man. But after he and I broke up, I had to confront the fact that the people with whom I spent the most time in my New York world weren’t aware I was queer.
To be clear, there’s no one right way to be queer and there’s certainly no right time to come out. But I wanted to come out, and I was lucky enough to feel safe and empowered to do so within this loving community of friends.
I tried a casual approach to plant the seed: I half-jokingly told two friends that Hinge might be the best way to meet dudes, but the Instagram DM (hi, Personals) is the best way for me to women and gender non-conforming folks. Soon after, everyone in my adult friend group just kind of knew my deal, which I fully expected. What wasn’t part of my grand plan, though, was for these pals to start superfluously outting me to people who weren’t at all part of our group. For example, one day when we were at the gym, one of my friends turned to an acquaintance and asked, “Did you know GK is kind of gay?” Another day at a bar, someone said, “You should set GK up with one of your friends. She swings both ways, so all the options are open!”
When it comes to sexuality, Liz Powell, PsyD, says people should be following the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want done to them. And clearly, you can’t know what others want done unto them unless they express it to you.
Sex-positive licensed psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD, this oversharing phenomenon is hardly surprising but also likely not malicious. “For some folks who are not queer, the fact of your queerness is no big deal to them. So they follow the Golden Rule.” But when it comes to sexuality, she says, people should be following the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would want done to them. And clearly, you can’t know what others want done unto them unless they express it to you.
For me, there aren’t no risks in anyone knowing that I’m queer. I won’t lose my job, or my apartment, or my friends for it. But that’s not always the case. “Outting someone can have serious consequences,” says Shane. For example, “an LGBT+ identity as an adult can result in being open to discrimination and violence, as well as to losing one’s job and/or their housing, and/or their ability to adopt a child.”
I know my friends don’t actually mean harm, but Shane emphasizes that intention doesn’t matter here, and that I should say something if it made me uncomfortable. So, I decided to be upfront with how being outted made me feel: I sent a text to our group chat—which Dr. Powell helped me craft: “I’m going through a period where I want information about my sexuality to be close and not shared. And I’d appreciate if for now, that we keep this between us and our friend group. When that changes I promise to let you know.” They all responded with exclamation points and hearts, and I felt simultaneously seen and heard and gassed the eff up. Like I said, I’m lucky.
If you consider yourself an ally (and an upstanding human), remember that when the choice is between outting someone and not, always choose not. And if you’re a queer person in a situation similar to mine, but your friends don’t show you the same support mine did, get some new friends, stat.
If you’re thinking about coming out, here’s how to find an LGBTQ+ therapist who can actually support your needs. And if you’re an ally, here’s why you should consider adding your pronouns to your email signature.
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