Someone’s come out. So what?

Someone’s come out. Big whoop, right? Who cares anyway? People come out every day. It’s not like it’s a big deal. Can’t we move on and talk about something interesting?

You get this every time someone comes out. Straight people- it’s almost always straight people- falling over themselves to talk about how they don’t care. It’s not just when celebrities come out, either. How many conversations have you heard recounted where someone comes out to someone close to them- a best friend, a close relative- and that person reacts with a “so what” or a “cool.. pass the peas, will you?”

I’m not saying there aren’t situations where that’s appropriate. When you’re dealing with someone who’s been out for yonks who you’ve just met? Good reaction. If I mentioned, say, fancying Ellen Page or a woman I was dating in the staff room at work? I’m hoping for blasé.

But when someone is coming out for the first time? This cooler-than-thou insistence on not caring about someone’s orientation- on it being irrelevant- is horrible. It ignores how hard it is to come out. It ignores the fact that this thing you won’t acknowledge as important could be something that they’ve been holding in for years. For decades. It shuts its eyes and ears to the harm that heteronormativity and homophobia have done to the person standing right in front of you. All so that you can feel good about how progressive and right-on you are, without taking a single moment to account for the consequences of the privilege you wear to lightly.

It’s something I thought about as I watched Ingrid Nilsen’s coming out video. You know what’s palpable thoughout? The years of pain that this young woman went through- her feelings of not deserving happiness, of playacting at what she was supposed to be, of shoving her real feelings into a box, and the years of pushing even the possibility of love or connection away.

Whether she or I is queer or straight might not matter to you, straight people. But it sure as hell matters to us. And the harm that people like us go through is your harm to fix.

So next time someone comes out to you? Put the goddamn peas down and listen to them.

 

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Someone’s come out. So what?
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