Coming-Out Day is Every Day for Queer Folks

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I came out as queer during my sophomore year of high school, but that wasn’t the end of my coming out experience. I came out during my junior year, my senior year, and again in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. I will come out in 2020, and I will continue to come out until the day I die.

This is because the experience of “coming out”—though we culturally understand it to mean one individual action taken when a person makes their LGBTQ+ identity public—is not just one singular moment. And that assumption reduces the experience of being queer to the moment I told my friends and family, and when they “accepted” (or chose not to accept) my identity.

Today, my identity doesn’t solely exist as a public persona, and I choose not to be defined by the ways that others may validate or invalidate that identity. My queerness extends far beyond the moment my friends and family knew about it. 

When I say I’m queer, that identity is a powerful current that flows through every day of my life—when I spent hours on my computer secretly Googling “how do you know you’re gay,” when I privately prayed every night at age 10 begging not to be gay, and today, when I continue to unlearn the ways society has taught me to hate myself and other LGBTQ+ people.

That being said, my identity is a public one—whether I want it to be or not. When I say I’m queer, I take a step into the spotlight, violating the norms of heterosexuality and masculinity in ways that aren’t allowed to be private. I cannot exist without taking on a political identity.

Being queer is exhausting. Every year, National Coming Out Day comes and goes, and I remember the ways I exist “out of the closet” as an inherently political talking point. In some ways, it’s a day of mourning, where I wish that I could exist without the closet.

But more than anything, it’s a day of celebration, as I continue to live my truth and challenge the heteronormative status quo. Queerness is empowering—the ability to see past the norms of heteropatriarchy and to destabilize the power structures of modern day are an asset, not a curse. And even further, it’s a responsibility I take on when I say that I’m queer.

Queerness is a constant performance, and it’s one that I’ve undertaken for my entire life, whether I’ve known it or not. And now that I’m in a place where I don’t keep my identity secret from the world around me, it’s critical to be able to appropriate my public and inherently political queerness—not as something to be afraid of, but something I use in order to be a beacon for those still not out.

In all, coming out is not just a singular moment, and it’s not always a moment of release. It’s a moment of stepping into a political purpose, and the pain that follows along with that. But that pain serves a purpose—it’s the growing pain of a society that is moving away from structural inequality.

The status quo wants nothing more than for me to be silent; for me to pretend to be heterosexual. But my queerness is a political weapon, and I will use it every day of my life to remind non-LGBTQ+ folks of why heterosexual norms are a prison, and what we can gain by throwing them to the wind.

A queer existence is inflammatory. It’s angering for non-LGBTQ+ folks to witness, and that’s a constant fear as I live day-to-day. But if I don’t make a handful of straight people boil with blind rage on National Coming Out Day, have I done my duty as a gay man?

Josh Merchant, Investigative Editor