October is coming out month, so the interview series dedicates a special edition to Outober. We asked four women, from all around the world, what they think of coming out.
The timing for this question is actually perfect, as it is the 10th anniversary of my first coming out. Since then I have accumulated quite some experience. One of the things I learned quite quickly is that most of the time coming out gives an occasion to the people around you to show their best selves. Even when reactions are negative, coming out is one of the best tools to evaluate how strong a relationship is and on which grounds it is based. I have to say that most of my experiences have been rather positive; in fact, never have I received very negative reactions from the people I really cared about. Even the "difficult" coming outs (to my parents, for example) ended up being stories with happy endings
My first coming out was in high school, but the truth is I had been very nervous and hesitant for a long time before I got ready to say it. But after I came out, everyone's attitude towards me remained the same, which was very touching. After that, I was not afraid to tell others about this, except my parents. Therefore, my message to everyone about coming out is to encourage you all to be brave and do it, not being apologetic for your lives.
After I had come out to my mother and father, I came out to my brother. His reaction was like this:
My brother: Leila, I’m disappointed.
My brother: Because you came out to me last and that makes me sad.
Me: Well, you were the third person on a long list…
The lesson of the story is that you may realize that some of the people who you fear the most coming out to will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner or why you did not come to them first.
Recently I was invited to speak at an event on LBQ women's leadership in Bishkek, and as I was preparing to open the event I realised that none of the other speakers openly identified as a lesbian* (in fact, a few of them deemed it necessary to 'come out' as straight after my speech). So I did a double coming out - as a lesbian and as a communist; I am not sure which shocked people more.
Also, a few years ago I wrote an article criticising the concept of 'coming out' as the necessary rite of passage for queer people, because of its cis-hetero-normative nature. Instead, I offered to pronounce an International Coming-In Day, whereby queer people invite the 'straights' to come and join us in our wondrous world, to experiment with their sexuality, to have fun with their gender!
Happy Outober, you’all!