[This is a "reprint"; originally written by Jennifer Reitz. I'm reposting it here, because it is relevant to my life. The original is here: Coming Out]
In which is explained some of the reasons anyone would want - or need - to come out of the closet.
"Why do you have to tell anyone about whether or not you are gay" is a question put to many homosexuals "Can't you just keep your mouth shut - nobody would even be able to tell you were queer! Why rub our noses in what you do in bed?"
My mother once asked me "Why can't you just be Gay? then nobody would have to even know!"
Why would anyone ever need to come out, to reveal that they were Queer, whether being Gay, or even Gender Queer, such as the transsexual? Why not stay in the closet, and avoid any difficulty? Why tell? Why not just keep silent?
Let me explain why.
The true, heartfelt value of Coming Out is not a lot of things that many people seem to think it is. At the deepest level, Coming Out is not about being part of a community of other queers, it is not about political change or theory, it is not about rubbing anyone's nose in metaphoric do-do.
Coming Out is a matter of personal validation.
Our culture still puts a lot of energy into hatred and damnation of difference in general, and being queer in particular. From grade school on, the constant use of terms like 'fag' and 'lesbo' and 'sex change' as curses and disparagement inflicts and instills a deep set shame in almost everyone. This subtle and pervasive bigotry is quickly escalated to actual violence or discrimination that occurs on a daily basis that can affect almost every aspect of life.
Within such a toxic environment of both overt and covert condemnation, the queer individual is constantly under psychological and emotional attack.
This attack easily - and early in life - becomes internalized to varying degrees. Not only is the queer individual buffeted by storms of hatred outside, but soon becomes infected with hatred from the inside. Self worth becomes replaced with varying degrees of shame and even self loathing. Inevitably this leads to suffering, and even self destruction.
A vicious circle is created, one that derives from cultural pressure, and is sustained by internal judgment. The queer person hides to avoid pain and shame. The pain and shame become internalized as the cultural messages that cause it become part of the individual. Constant hiding implies the need to hide, and that need is based on the fear of rejection and harm. The individual, alone against society, finds it difficult to entirely reject the basis of the hatred of so many, and a resulting self condemnation abets the impulse to hide. In turn, the act of hiding reinforces the internalized self condemnation, and so it goes, round and round.
To Come Out, is to stop hiding, and to break that vicious circle of self loathing.
We live in a culture focused on family and friends, on human interaction. The basis of most everyday communication is about our lives and our relationships. The closeted individual must either lie about their lives, or must fall silent and otherwise avoid basic human communication.
Over time, this causes multiple levels of suffering. To feel unable to express the joy of a happy day with a loved one, or to tell a funny story about one's life, or to share wisdom gained, is to be made mute. Such self censorship destroys the soul, and leads to withdrawal and depression.
When a person dares to Come Out, it is not about broadcasting the wonders of being gay, or of being transgendered, it is simply making a stand against the constant minimization and obliteration of their existence. To be Out is to claim the basic human feelings of dignity, self worth and the freedom to speak, to share, to be. The ability to communicate about one's own life in an honest and real manner, devoid of lies or subterfuge, without fear of discovery or embarrassment, just like any other person, is the deepest reason to Come Out.
The reason this site exists is because your author decided she was sick of forever being mute. The pain of having to fall silent, to hide, to change a subject to avoid accidental discovery, the constant terror that anyone should find out my awful secret, became too much to bear. I was living like a phantom, hiding invisibly in the shadows and margins of society.
Basic to that behavior, is the concept that my 'secret' was in fact 'awful'. Why? Why should it be so awful to be a transsexual? Why should it be so embarrassing, so shameful?
It is true that much of our society has a serious problem with the condition. There are those who feel fatal levels of hatred toward transsexuality, who care nothing about understanding it, or the suffering of its victims. There are narrow souls that refuse to accept the validity of the plight of the transsexual, or who would just as soon see all transsexuals dead.
There are some potential nasty consequences for the public transsexual, just as there is for the public queer of any stripe.
But perhaps even more so for the transgendered, because the issue of gender is so important to people. Gender is part of self definition, and intrinsic to the constancy of the world view of many people. Certain that the sun will come up tomorrow, many people also hold sex and gender to be equally absolute. The transsexual calls into question the absoluteness of a fundamental part of reality itself. For those with a weak grasp of reality, this becomes deeply disturbing. The world is not lacking for those with such a weak grasp.
Even so, even with the possible dangers, there comes a point where hiding, where cowering to avoid the expected disdain of nameless 'others' becomes unendurable. To achieve a solid self worth it sometimes becomes necessary to be open about that self, to simply refuse to be silenced any longer. In order to feel good about my self, I needed to claim the same freedom that most humans take for granted, the freedom to simply exist, as myself, openly.
Coming Out serves to break the circle of torment and self condemnation. It destroys the act of hiding behind lies, and with it the implication that such behavior is preferable to honesty. It is the supreme act of a person who refuses to be damned, and who stands up as an individual with the basic natural right to exist.
Coming Out is freedom from enslavement and oppression. It is not easy. It can have consequences. But it sometimes must be done, to stop internalized self loathing, to achieve self acceptance.
It is not always safe or prudent to Come Out in all circumstances. It is not always wise to be completely open. Sometimes the only rational thing to do is to be invisible, especially for the much maligned transsexual. No one should ever be forced to be Out, just as no one should be forced to hide. But sometimes, sometimes, just to know peace and contentment of self, it becomes useful and important to be Out.
The bottom line of Coming Out is to be alive in the world.