Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is Coming out a Privilege?

By Diva R. McMillan

"How to be brave, when being your self is a subversive act, and in some locations can cost you your life."

Is coming out a privilege? I had this interesting conversation with a dance friend of mine. She said that the ability to come out (as queer or GLBT), is a privilege. Now before she said that, My energy had been focused on how the ability to be able to pass as Heteronormal, in any of it's give possibilities, gives the passer the ability to keep the privilege of being thought of as straight. I mean in many people's cases the ability support ones self, the ability to form non nuclear families, or families of choice allow us to garner the support needed to come out. Is this resource collecting, or community building process a form of privilege?

For those of you who know me know that I have very strong feelings about people who stake a lot of their identity in wanting to or attempting to assimilate in straight culture, especailly when this assimilation leads to schisms in queer communities. This schism, at least for gay men produces questions of Down low-ness and St8 acting as preferable and better form of male gender expression. HOLD ON for those of you who think i am bashing st* acting gay men... well...maybe..:) NO. I think it's problematic when your identity is based not upon what you are, but what you are not,specifically when it's directed towards people who are similar to you. I know this may sound hippies Dipy but I find that my life is connected to other people on the spectrum. I am not interested in transitioning for instance, but i protect and encourage people who need to, rights to do so. If there was a revolution and all of the spectrum people had to leave the USA... I promise you despite their gender normality or performance of it (butler)...they would be on that boat to gay land. We are so connected...

Since I have been in London I have been passing a lot, now either people are scared to to ask if I like penis, or boys in London are girly... but now I have met a guy at work, who is cool and St8.He ask me to grab a beer with him... while drinking he ask me if I had a girlfriend in the USA I told him I was seeing someone, but we broke up. I had an opportunity to come out, but i did not and so I was filled up with guilt, I did not use male pronouns and said partner when refering to my ex, to make my self feel better, yet I did not say explicitly I am queer.

How to be proud when the flame is invisible? I spent so much of my life struggling to be proud of the flame, while gays in Uganda could be executed for just coming out yet, I am choosing to hide in a city this progressive. I am ashamed .... this leaves with this question

"How to be brave, when being your self is a living subversive act, and in some locations can cost you the very life your trying to live."


  1. This is very interresting post he/she should write more.

  2. Diva -

    Thank you. There is a spectrum of passing privilege, both in terms of straight-passing while moving and living in the "outside" Hetero World and queer-passing while moving and living in queer spaces/communities/circles. Neither feels good and it seems to me that every kind of social privilege can impact your passing privilege depending on the situation. And as always, neither privilege beats out the other. "Passing" well enough to get hired for a job in a homophobic workplace is one kind of privilege, and so is being welcomed and identified as belonging to the queer community where you'll be taken care of if you lose that job.

    As for your situation in London, I have this to add:

    1. Our skills for surviving homophobia, such as our ability to lie and remain silent, should not shame us. They have been essential to survival just as breaking that silence has been essential to survival. Even when we reject them for extremely good reasons, the pressure and/or need to use them is not our fault and we should not take the blame.

    2. I have never found it easy to come out on someone else's terms, by actively contradicting an assumption they made about my life and identity in a conversation they initiated. So I feel you.

    3. It is never too late to stop doing something.

    <3 A. F. Wyatt

  3. I try not to judge people for not being able to come out. I don't know what they have been through or what they are dealing with. For many, the fear of coming out may not even be due to their present situation.

    Growing up with homophobia can leave irreparable scars that continue to influence behavior long after the person leaves the hate filled environment.

    I think coming out is often a privilege, and I think that your friend has some excellent insight. It can involve a certain level of security in the present along with a childhood where the person's sense of self was not completely crushed.

    Courage is extremely admirable. It is amazing when someone takes a stand against horrendous odds to fight for what is right, but courage is not something that can be demanded of another.

    All we can really do is support one another as best we can. Support the people who are more courageous than us, and speak up for the people who are too afraid to speak for themselves.


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