Today is National Coming Out Day.
I’m not coming out, but as this day had been approaching, I’d been thinking about how things have changed for me in the time that has passed since I publicly came out over 3.5 years ago.
In particular, I’ve been noticing how I act.
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You see, as someone who started elementary school in the 1970s, entered high school in the 1980s, and became an adult in the early 1990s, I had very few queer role models.
None of my family were queer. None of my friends were. No one I went to school with. At least not openly. And any straying from cisheteronormative masculinity was ridiculed with homophobic slurs.
As a result, I grew up in an environment where there was a lot of pressure to express my own sexuality within strict parameters. Like, not just who I showed attraction to, but how I even physically conducted myself through mannerisms and speech.
I had to walk a certain way, hold my hands a certain way, wave a certain way, dress a certain way, speak a certain way.
Over the last 3.5 years, I’ve been trying to peel back the forced heterosexuality I had to endure for decades, especially recently.
I’m still mindful about how I act and speak, but now, instead of trying to stop myself from waving a certain way, or hold my wrist a certain way, I’m trying to be mindful of these things so I can tell myself that it’s okay to do these things.
I’m just, like, “Dude, if your body is doing a limp wrist right now, just let it. It’s fine to wave with twinkling fingers. Forcing yourself into a societal construct is unnatural.”
I’ve also found that being in queer spaces has given me the confidence to accept who I am and start shedding the artificial persona that society had forced upon me for over 46 years. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been honoured to have volunteered with OUTreach Southern Alberta Society for the last two years and now serve as their current president.
People should be free to embrace who they are. They shouldn’t have to force themselves into a costume that their family, their friend group, their church, or their society has constructed for them.
Forcing people to be who they’re not is one of the leading causes of mental distress in our society and can lead to long-term consequences.
Just let people be who they are.
Better yet, help people be who they are.