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Lifestyle & Leisure

Why It's Difficult For LGBTQ+ Individuals To "Come Out Of The Closet”


Mark Galieo

Vybeliving #232 Mission Street


13 Mar 2020


Non-queer individuals and allies often struggle to understand why people in the LGBTQ+ community find it difficult to ‘come out’. “Just live your life”, they say. “Who cares what anyone thinks?” Well, believe me when I say that queer individuals would love nothing more than to do that, but it’s not as easy as that. And very often, just the process of coming out can be very difficult for them

What actually is coming out?

Coming out is a step in the process of accepting your sexuality and making the people in your life aware of your sexual or gender identity. You’re probably wondering why that’s a big thing, but have you ever seen heterosexuals announcing (and many times explaining) their identities to everyone around them? Coming out is a complex affair, both liberating and burdensome, and only LGBTQ+ could possibly understand its ramifications to the full extent.

Why is coming out so difficult?

Besides the fact that there’s a long history of violence and ostracization of LGBTQ+ individuals, there are many other factors at play that make them reluctant to ‘come out of the closet’.

1.  There’s still a lot of stigmas.

Despite the progress we’ve made in terms of awareness and acceptance, there is still a lot of stigmas attached to the LGBTQ+ community. Being out of the closet can open you up to discrimination—both intended and unintended. It’s only natural that they would want to prevent this stigma from spilling into their lives, friendships, and workplaces by keeping their identity to themselves.

2.  They’re afraid to be treated differently.

Whether we like it or not, our perceptions of others change based on what we learn about them. Something as simple as having sleepovers with friends to important issues like access to public spaces such as restrooms can be affected when you come out. This fear holds LGBTQ+ back from revealing their true selves just so that they’re treated the same as everyone else.

3.  It’s difficult to make yourself so vulnerable.

It isn’t easy to reveal something so personal to you and invite judgment into your private life. People still take coming out as a free pass to invade into an individual’s private life and often take their questions to incredibly personal levels. This inquiry may not always be ill-intentioned and people may only be looking to learn more, but it’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

4. They might be afraid of losing their relationships.

One of the biggest reasons LGBTQ+ individuals struggle with coming out is the fear of losing their loved ones. Even when surrounded by the most accepting and open-minded people, there’s always a sliver of doubt about the reactions you’re going to get. Religious sentiments and family beliefs might also contribute to this reluctance.

5. They might still be unsure of their sexuality.

Whether they’re still figuring things out or fear being stuck with the wrong label, LGBTQ+ might think it’s better to know for sure before officially coming out. Sexuality and gender are also often fluid, but society, in general, is not so accepting. Our labels have a way of sticking with us, so LGBTQ+ individuals often feel unsure about coming out and putting any one particular label on themselves.

6.  They’re afraid of losing opportunities.

It doesn’t matter what age you’ve reached or position you’ve achieved, there’s always the fear of losing what you have for something as natural and uncontrollable as your identity. For teens, this could be the financial and emotional support of their parents and the opportunities open to them at school. Older LGBTQ+ faces the dangers of discrimination at work. The need to achieve their goals and ambitions in life can hold them back from revealing their true identities.

7.  The amount of hate crime can be scary.

While we can say that the atmosphere is much better now than before, the truth remains that we still live in a toxic and unstable environment where hate crime is not uncommon. Coming out opens you up to the possibility of bullying and hate, especially in educational spaces and the more conservative parts of the world. It’s a huge reason why LGBTQ+ individuals hide their identities from even their closest friends.

All these reasons are why more and more queer individuals are claiming their own spaces as well as looking for communities that are more accepting and open-minded. And it’s heartening to see that things are changing. The young generation, in particular, is not willing to keep things as they are and is working diligently to create safe spaces for everyone. Whether that’s the formation of clubs and unions or organizing exclusive events and spaces for queer individuals, there’s been huge leaps forward in creating accepting environments where individuals can live peacefully and without fear. We may yet be close to a day where people might not have to ‘come out’ at all.

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