I was recently reminded that there are many reasons to “come out” — that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with gender or sexuality. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day, I would like to come out about a variety of things.
I love the glossy feel of lipgloss and the smooth, lush look of a dark lipstick. I can’t handle wearing either (I think I started to hyperventilate the last time I tried), but part of me wishes I could. I love glitter, sparkles, and sequins. I love the look of a hot pair of stilettos. My inner femme may be buried way down deep inside, but ze’s there (ze’s just a little different from most).
I still watch (and love) crime dramas. My favorites are NCIS and Criminal Minds (runners up probably being NCIS: LA and Bones). I know these shows are problematic because they reinforce the normalization of the prison system, the idea that people who break the law must naturally be locked up behind bars, and the idea that prisons are the solution to society’s problems. The story lines are generally written so that the audience wants the “bad people” to end up in prison — that’s what makes a happily-every-after sort of ending. This makes me incredibly conflicted because I don’t believe that prisons are the answer to our problems; I don’t actually agree with the message that imprisoning people is a triumph. At the same time, the shows are interesting (the crime procedural plot line means there doesn’t need to be the contrived, soap opera-esque, drama drama drama of other types of shows), and I’ve come to really like the characters on the shows (that’s the real reason why I keep watching them). So, I’m trying to work my way through this and figure out what to do.
I watch America’s Next Top Model. It’d definitely a guilty pleasure. I started watching with a group of people in my dorm because a fellow Mawrtyr (the gorgeous Fatima Siad) was on the show. I keep watching — even though it’s shallow and ridiculous and reinforces an unrealistic, gendered standard of beauty — because I love the photography. The contestants are generally catty and annoying, so I typically only pay attention when it comes to the actual challenges, photo shoots, and judging tables.
I like Kraft singles (American cheese). It melts fabulously in grilled cheese sandwiches and over roasted/fried potatoes. It’s utterly processed, obviously not vegan, and considered by some to barely be food (chemicals). It doesn’t fit into my foodie or vegan attempts . . . and yet I have some in my refrigerator right now.
I’m not always the person I want to be. I’m not always as strong or courageous or out as I sometimes pretend to be. I’m not always as deep or intellectual or socially conscious as I feel I should be. I’m not as radical or interesting or independent as I wish to be. I don’t know my philosophers as I should. I’m not as knowledgable about current events and politics as well as I’d like people to think.
There are so many little things that we sometimes hide. Coming out really doesn’t always need to be about gender or sexuality. Whether it involves watching children’s TV shows or having footie pajamas, we all have our quirks. Some of them are perhaps more like bad habits, and others are closer to harmless eccentricities. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to admit to them. Sometimes we just don’t know how people will respond.
Even when “coming out” about something that isn’t considered “serious” or “important,” revealing something previously kept secret still takes courage, and it can still open us up to criticism or rejection. Perhaps we should try to acknowledge when people make themselves vulnerable as they offer up information about themselves and respect that. Coming out as conservative, or religious, or atheist, or a virgin, or poly, or into BDSM, or vegan, or straight, or liberal, or intersex, or having a learning disability, or anarchist — that can be scary, even if it’s not what people tend to think of in terms of “coming out.” Coming out as wanting to be a housewife, or not wanting children, or having a chronic illness, or wanting to be a stay-at-home dad, or even not liking chocolate, or never having been on a plane, or not knowing how to swim — there really are so many things, big and small, that feel as though they set us apart and make us “other.” It’s easy to respond in a way that could make the person uncomfortable (“What do you mean, you don’t want kids? Of course you do!” “Don’t you want a ‘real’ job?” “Everyone likes chocolate!” “You really mean you never been on a plane? Do you just not travel?”), especially when what they say is not what you’re used to. I’m likely as guilty of that as anyone. But I think it’s important to try to recognize these comings out for what they are and treat them with sensitivity the way we generally assume coming out regarding gender or sexuality should be treated.