As the old saying goes, equality only feels like oppression to those in a position of privilege, which rings no more true than on National Coming Out Day.
On 11 October 2017, social networks flooded with stories and brave statements from people all over the world, who finally felt able to reveal their true identity to those around them. To assume this is an easy, throwaway kind of Twitter session would be completely and utterly wrong.
Many LGTQIA+ people don’t feel safe, have the confidence or feel ready to confess their true feelings for a variety of reasons — it could be due to an unaccepting family who may turn against them if they do, a community around them that just doesn’t understand or even the threat of violence purely for being who they really are. Similarly, many people feel the complete opposite, and are fortunate enough to have their sexual or gender identity seen as a non-issue by their nearest and dearest.
Heart goes out to the people who can’t come out due to bullying and discrimination today…. #NationalComingOutDay
— A Very Spoopy Phox! (@brianna_foxwell) 11 October 2017
In short, coming out is a complex minefield for many, as anything other than heterosexual is still often seen as not the norm. But it’s not just coming out to your parents once and getting it over and done with, it’s telling the rest of your family, your friends, people at university, work colleagues and any new people you meet at any point in your life. Coming out is an ongoing, never-ending experience, which can never be guaranteed to end well each and every time it takes place.
Happy #NationalComingOutDay You never stop coming out, but it does start getting easier. You still get scared, but less so. We’re so strong.
— Katelyn S. Pumpkins (@katelyn__ann) 11 October 2017
So to see heterosexual people having some *lolz* on a very important day for many is not just disrespectful, it’s naive and a shortsighted display of unchecked privilege. You’re sure to see plenty of tweets along the lines of “surprise! I’m straight” or the even worse “I’m an out heterosexual and proud” today, which sees straight people attempt to downplay to importance of this day to those who identify as anything but.
Heterosexual people never have to go through the process of coming out, because essentially we’re all assumed ‘out’ from birth. They don’t have to suffer the anxiety of what people will think when they confess to being attracted to someone of the opposite sex, or that they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. They’re not assaulted in the street for holding hands with their partner. They don’t have to suffer verbal abuse based purely on who they love. They don’t have to scream internally every time someone says “maybe it’s just a phase”. They don’t have to endure ignorant questions like ‘”so, how do you…. you know… do it?”
There’s not coming out day for heterosexuals for a simple reason: we just don’t need it. And to say we do ‘need’ one because, ‘well, queer people have one so why don’t we?’ is akin to proclaiming ‘why is there no International Men’s Day?’ despite women still earning 30 per cent less than men and 88 per cent of rape victims in the UK being female. While it’s important to respect everyone, we need to support equality for those who don’t have it, rather than try and belittle their struggles by flexing our own innate privilege.
For as long as LGBTQIA+ people have to suffer abuse based on nothing other than sexuality or gender identity, us heterosexuals should be helping to fight their corner, not make a day designed exactly for that purpose about our non-existent struggle to be straight, safe and happy — we already are.