One day in the grocery store, someone approached me and stared in a moment of apparent disbelief before saying, “Do people tell you all the time that you look just like Stephanie Gosk from the Today Show?” (No, it was the first I’d ever heard it.) Then they catalogued all the similarities between Gosk and me, all very complimentary. And then they said, quietly, “The only difference is that she is married to a woman.”
As I turned to continue my shopping, I thought to myself, “Huh. How do they know I’m not married to a woman?” After a minute or so, they approached me again and said, “Of course, you could be married to a woman, too. What do I know?”
It felt like progress. This person, who looked to me like a relatively traditional person (though, what do I know?) noticed their own assumption and quickly corrected for it. It was all very congenial, and oddly encouraging.
October 11th is National Coming Out Day – a day on which, for the past three decades, we have celebrated coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or as allies.
Some years I have observed this day by stating publicly that I’m not straight, despite outward appearances. I want us to cultivate more openness about the breadth and depth and fluidity of our sexualities. I want my children to grow up in a world where they’re not confined by narrow labels and rigid expectations about who they are and how they express themselves and relate to others.
It shouldn’t matter whether anyone beyond my most intimate relationships knows the specifics of my sexual orientation or gender identity. But it does matter, because I have the privilege of being in a marriage and a body that doesn’t subject me to undue and threatening scrutiny.
And I do hope that someday – in my children’s lifetime? – National Coming Out Day will seem essentially superfluous, because we will make no assumptions, or at least far fewer of them, about one another’s sexual orientations and genders.
Then, National Coming Out Day would be superfluous, because we’d all have to come out to one another all the time.
National Coming Out Day would be superfluous, because we would understand that identities – everyone’s identities – evolve.
National Coming Out Day would be superfluous, because we’d all be truly free to be fully ourselves.