“When did you come out?”
It’s a question that I get asked often, and it never ceases to make me smile wryly due to the impossibility of answering it in the straightforward and simple way that is invariably expected.
“When did you come out” presumes that the act of naming one’s truth and self-identity is a one-time, all-encompassing event, a clear and unmistakable milestone on the linear timeline of one’s life. It also presumes that there is only one facet of self-identity that is deserving of such a declaration.
Two weeks ago I came out about my decision to start taking testosterone. It wasn’t an act of naming my identity—testosterone changes nothing about my understanding of myself; rather, it was an act of sharing an intimate choice I had made that would bring me greater ease and keep me connected with my authentic sense of self. It was the first time I have ever “come out” about something so publicly and asked for the support I needed from my community, and I will forever be grateful for the outpouring of love I received.
Some people can say that there was a single moment in their life when they came out of a closet that they had been living in, a single moment that changed everything. I count myself as one of the lucky ones who has never experienced such a closet, and I honor all those who came before me who made it possible for me to have been born outside of the closet walls. Please don’t misunderstand me—it’s not that I haven’t faced barriers to embracing and living as my authentic self. But I have never kept knowledge and understanding of myself buried in a closet, never denied the truth of my identity to myself.
For me, life is a constant journey of coming out. Every day that I live my truth, every day that I fully embody the self that I am today, every day that I embrace my authenticity, I come out. I am not the same self that I was yesterday—today I am a day older, I have had new and unique experiences that have impacted me, and millions of cells in my body have died, divided, or been born anew.
Just as our very bodies are in an incredible, constant state of change, so too are our identities. No sense of self is static—it is frankly impossible. To be alive is to be ever-changing. For some people, this means that their sense of self will shift slowly and almost imperceptibly as their time on this earth lengthens—our identity in terms of age impacts who we feel ourselves to be in myriad other ways. For others, their identity shifts breathtakingly quickly. As someone who is gender fluid, there have been times in my life when my sense of self and relationship to gender changed from day to day or even from morning to evening.
So in this brave new world, what does it mean to be out? To me, it first and foremost means knowing and naming myself. I could be out as queer without ever needing to tell a single soul. I could be out as genderqueer in the privacy of my own mind. It’s not the labels that matter, nor the ways in which others perceive me. It’s about my own self-understanding, self-love, and self-worth.Although some people are unable to share the truth of who they are with others because of well-founded fears of violence, discrimination, judgment, punishment, or murder (and those who are most marginalized have the fewest resources for living into their authentic sense of self and the most risk of brutality and bias), other people have no need to share their identity with others—no need to put words to their truth for the sake of others’ understanding. You don’t necessarily need to throw a party or blast the world on all social media channels in order to be out (although if you do throw a party I will definitely show up with whatever your favorite color of glitter is). All it takes is living your truth every day in whatever ways you need or or are able to live it at the moment.
I want to be a part of building a world where there are no closets, where everyone experiences curiosity and joy in each new self-discovery, as well as love and support in sharing those discoveries with others.
In this world with no closets, all “defaults” will be destroyed—there will no longer be any presumed and prioritized normal, ideal, correct way to be. In this world people will come out as straight in the same manner that others come out as queer. People will come out as loving the color pink, or finding joy in building things with their hands, or feeling a calling to be a caregiver, or taking comfort in solitude, with no sense that any of these things are innately connected to their biological sex or gender identity. People will draw their own meaning from the things that bring them joy, the way they feel inside and express themselves in the world, and the people they find themselves most drawn to and connected with—and they will use whatever language personally rings true to describe these things.
And it doesn’t stop there. In a world with no closets, people will embrace their identity and experience as white, others will find joy and meaning in their identity and experience as Latina, and still others will receive love and support in exploring and naming their multifaceted, multiracial sense of self as Oglala Lakota, Afro-Caribbean, and ethnically Jewish. In this world, people will experience wonder in the face of the diversity of human bodies and their abilities: bodies that are short or tall or round or bean-pole or hourglass; bodies that experience deafness or blindness or allergies or autism or chronic pain; bodies that have every possible configuration of chromosomes, hormones, gonads, and secondary sex characteristics; bodies that move slowly or quickly or haltingly or smoothly on wheels or mindfully with canes, walkers, or service animals; bodies that are furry or freckled or scarred or hairless or tattooed—all bodies will be sources of power, beauty, and self-determination.
I firmly believe the world needs us all to be our full, authentic selves, and to bring the fullness of who we are forward in whatever ways are best for each of us. I will never stop working to create a world in which all people are free and empowered to do just that.