Kids Queer-ies: What does coming out of the closet mean?

Art+by+Ryan+Thomas-Palmer.

Art by Ryan Thomas-Palmer.

Disclaimer: Much of the queer experience and queer indentity does not exist in black-and-white and it is hard for many queer people to definitively explain or categorize things about themselves or their lives. That being said, if you believe any of the information below to be inaccurate or you have other concerns regarding this series, please comment below, or contact us at kidsqueeries@gmail.com.

When someone comes out of the closet, they tell people around them what their sexual orientation or gender identity is. Coming out is usually something queer people do, because being straight is often viewed as “normal” or “the default sexuality.” This is why many LGBTQIA+ people don’t only have to come out once; queer people are often assumed to be straight, so they come out throughout their life. A queer person might come out to their family first, then to their friends, then to people they see in passing — maybe a waiter at a restaurant who assumes they and their significant other are friends, a coworker wrongly assumes their gneder, or someone of the opposite sex who invites them on a date.

Another effect of straightness being viewed the as the default sexuality is that straight people don’t usually have to come out like queer people do. Because of this, some LGBTQIA+ people don’t like the idea of coming out. They view coming out as a burden placed on them because they don’t fit many people’s idea of normal. Others don’t like coming out because they find the concept of announcing their sexuality to the world stressful, tiring or unnecessary.

On the other hand, some queer people feel they’ve benefited from coming out. It can be a reminder that the people in their lives love and support them, making it easier for them to be themselves. Coming out has helped some LGBTQIA+ people understand themselves. For these reasons, some people feel that coming out is something everyone should experience: queer and straight alike.

For more information on coming out, please listen to Episode Four of Kids These Days, a podcast by Michigan Radio and CHS.