Straight people, this is what you should to do celebrate National Coming Out Day

At best you'll pleasantly surprise gay people; at worst you will cause a straight person a moment of confusion

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The Independent Online

People who know me might find it surprising, but I don't always come out. I was recently on my way to a bar to meet my fiancé, who had my passport in his bag, when the man on the door stopped me to ask for ID. I could have said “My boyfriend is waiting in the bar for me”, but, for whatever reason, I chose to say “my friend is waiting in the bar for me”. 

Looking back at my decision, it was definitely a way of making my sexuality irrelevant to the situation. “Boyfriend” feels like a more natural way for me to refer to my partner, but exposing myself to the potential prejudices of this burly unknown doorman when all I want to do is get into the bar felt like an unnecessary risk. 

Many of us have friends with dramatic “coming out” stories. My coming out to my parents, for instance, could I'm sure be turned into a pretty engrossing sitcom. But it's the little daily coming out stories like this that matter too, even though you perhaps don't think as much about. Even I ‘come out’ subconsciously, and it's only recently that I've started realising just how often I do it.

For LGBT people, coming out is one common experience we all have, which means we talk about it quite a bit. But, whether you’re gay or straight, it’s a very human process and far more relatable than you might think, especially because it’s happening every day.

I imagine the idea of “Coming Out Day” feels like something it would be hard to participate in as a straight person. It probably sounds rather alienating. After all, if you have never had to come out, and never will, then what possible involvement could you have in National Coming Out Day? But if anything, National Coming Out Day is more relevant to the straight community than any other – especially for the majority of straight people have no idea that it’s even happening.

For straight people, “coming out” is generally understood as meaning “telling people that you are gay”. This can be a bit problematic. Why, after all, should anyone and everyone know your sexual preference? It seems a little overly intimate, to say the least. 

The motivation to come out in public is often simply to avoid any awkward misconceptions and to pre-empt any implicit or explicit assumptions. As soon as someone asks me whether I have a girlfriend, or even starts engaging in laddish banter (are we calling it “locker room talk” now?) about women with me, I find myself at a crossroads: either I need to nip it in the bud now and somehow cleverly reference to my male fiancé, or just go with the flow and ‘not make a fuss'. 

Because that’s what coming out really is: constantly trying to manage other people's perceptions of you, and having to decide over and over again, day after day, whether or not you need to let them know that you're gay.

So, if you're a straight person, what then can you do for National Coming Out Day? It's quite simple – just be more aware of the assumptions you are making when you talk to others. 

If you find this difficult, then try this exercise. For the next week, operate under the assumption that everyone you meet is gay until proven otherwise. At best you'll pleasantly surprise gay people; at worst you will cause a straight person an instant of momentary confusion.

Because until more of us think like this, gay people will always have to keep “coming out”. We don't come out for us, we come out for you.

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