Beyond the closet: Manifesting our “outness”

by Dustin Woods
Visionary Columnist

There are many aspects to being gay that make you different from others. One of the more interesting is the act of coming out. If you are a closeted LGBT+ individual I implore you to shed the shackles of the closet.

National Coming Out Day is October 11. It focuses on this major life event for LGBT+ individuals and is celebrated with events extolling those newly out individuals for their courage to join the family openly. For those of you still in the closet, come join your fellow rainbow warriors. Show the world you are proud of our differences and as normal as everyone else.

It’s not only our closeted friends who need to consider a change this October 11. We should all consider how we manifest our outness.

To be out is not only to acknowledge your sexuality to others. For example, one can be out to those who ask them but not ever mention it if it isn't brought up. They are out but not very open about it. I honestly don't feel the need to tell people I meet that I'm gay, so I can be said to be not very open.

Inhibition in being out comes when you are inhibited by a situation to not act as you normally would. For instance, being out in public and not holding hands with your partner to not invite uncomfortable stares, whispers, outright criticism or even violence.

How out are you?

Outness is a spectrum and we should all consider our place on that spectrum. I probably should have had a conversation with my grandparents about my sexuality, but I would have rather gotten a major dental procedure unanesthetized. However, if my grandparents brought up the topic, I would engage them in a conversation about my being gay. I'm out, but I'm not very open about it to them.

I would like to think that I'm relatively uninhibited. But when it comes to public displays of affection (PDA), I limit this to gay safe settings like the gay bars. These places are ours and it is easy to be our true self there.

On the other hand, I would hold my boyfriend’s hand no matter where I was if I had a boyfriend who wasn't afraid of haters. His inhibitions are my lost opportunities for natural affection. I hope that one day, everyone who makes decisions like this considers how these acts can advance the gay agenda of equality.

Managing one’s level of outness depending on situation is understandable. I do it myself, but it is a trait we seriously need to rethink. If we are going to have the type of society that treats us as equals, we must treat society like we are equal. We must show the world that our love is natural even when some sources of hate say we are unnatural.

We need to acknowledge that even though our PDA’s may make some people uncomfortable, that should not limit our inclination to partake in them. By forcing people to confront their feelings we can only hope that over enough time they will begin to change and we will be more accepted. This model has proven to be successful given we have seen more and more LGBT+ characters and themes and higher and higher levels of acceptance for our issues like marriage equality. Popular opinion and culture are bending toward the gravity that those who are out have created.

Coming out is a major life decision and isn't come to lightly. It's not a single decision marked by crossing one line in the sand; it's a continual process of being your open, uninhibited, natural and true self.

Copyright The Gayly – October 11, 2017 @ 6:30 a.m. CDT.