As a non-binary queer person of color “National Coming Out Day” is not limited to one day of the year. For me, coming out is a daily ritual (battle? journey? freedom? struggle? liberation? risk factor?). That at times, directly affects my physical safety and how I experience everyday life.
As I’ve become more and more gender-nonconforming in my gender expression throughout the years, “coming out” doesn’t always happen when I want it to. The way people read my gender in passing as I walk in the grocery store, or when I first walk into the classroom is often out of my control. I am often read as a teenage boy, masculine-girl, imposter, lesbian, or confused adolescent and I am yet to find a consistent gender determining algorithm that passersby use to conclude my gender.
For example, just a few weeks ago at the Mt. Baker Transit Center, I was followed across the street by a large cisman who had been staring at me as I walked by. He followed me to the bus stop where I was standing and repeatedly and aggressively bumped into me. I asked him to stop.
He continued to invade my personal space and yell, “why do you gotta get me so riled up?!”. Mind you, this guy was about a foot taller than me and about twice as wide. I was pretty scared at this point. He then squashes a tomato in front of my face (random?) getting bits of tomato all over me and yells in my face, “what are you a man or a woman?!”. I proceeded to flee the area.
This was only at 6pm and it was still light out. I consider myself pretty lucky that the situation did not escalate further. And the reality is that this happened just because my queer appearance walking down the street upset someone.
Just over the last few months there have been multiple incidents of (reported) violence towards gender non-conforming and trans folks.
On June 23rd, 2016, this summer after attending A Queer Benefit for Orlando on Capitol Hill transman Michael Voltz was attacked on the street. This September in Olympia drag king, Lila Hadway was beaten up after a show for dressing in drag.
These are “reported” incidents that made it to media outlets. And often the stories of hate-crimes reported in major media outlets are predominantly only representing white folks (yes, in Seattle too).
The National Coalition Of Anti-Violence Programs reported that: in 2013 the majority of victims of violent homicides (72%) were transgender women. 67% (two-thirds) of victims of homicide were Transgender Womxn Of Color.* And these are the “reported” incidents.
Trans Womxn Of Color are also 6X more likely to experience violence interacting with law enforcement. Just for being trans. Just for looking trans.
What I am getting at is that not everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community has a choice about whether they “come out” as part of the community. For some of us it is a daily reality of how the world chooses to perceive us, whether we like it or not.
“National Coming Out Day” enforces an idea that is better to be out. Be proud. Be seen for who you are.
While these are really awesome ideals. Sometimes being out to your family, workplace, or community is not always the safe. And sometimes being out is not really a choice.
Instead of National Coming Out Day (or maybe in addition to), can there be a national day of recognition like: “National Day Of Giving $$ to Trans-Womxn-Of-Color-Serving-Organizations Day”? What about “National Do-Actual-Concrete-Things to Help the LQBTQIA+ Community Day”. Or “National Allies Give Reparations to Black Trans Womxn Day”. Anyway, you get my point.
I am not saying all this to completely knock “Coming Out Day.”
Just on my facebook feed there was some very sweet posts from my amazing queer community posting in celebration of their queerness and how their journey of “coming out” has been liberating and connected them to community. Or people just taking the time to publically declare the utter and complete glory of their existence as a magical and resilient queer person.
Many of these posts also happened to start dialogue about people’s experiences of coming out, or not being able to come out. All of these stories are so important.
We deserve to be proud of who we are. And the courage it takes to “come out” damn well should be celebrated and recognized. But in the same vein, I encourage people to be critical of a culture that emphasises and values “being out”, “being public”, and “being proud” as the best way to be.