Coming Out Via Press Release
If you think about it — it’s all pretty gay. The drama!
This piece originally appeared in Issue #2. Subscribe to get our bi-weekly newsletter! - Amina and Lincoln
I was sitting at my desk, staring at a google doc. On the screen was a draft press release for a film project I had been working on for around three months. The release discussed the impetus for the project — a damaging and violent climate for LGBTQ youth of color. The bones of the release were there, and all the blinking cursor was calling for was a personal quote from me. As I felt a sense of dread as I glared at my computer screen, but I knew exactly what I wanted to type.
“As someone who grew up Black and Queer in rural Texas, I know first-hand that when you’re feeling isolated, witnessing a person who shares your lived experiences thriving can feel like necessary oxygen.”
I left Texas in 2012 to attend college in Washington D.C. Seven years later, I’ve built a home in the District with a community that has nurtured me and made me feel safer in my truth. My work is largely focused on LGBTQ health and rights, so it’s inextricably tied to my core identity. This was by no means news to many who know me. However, that one-sentence would be the first time that extended family and others back home would read such a clear and direct declaration.
I realized the dread I was feeling wasn’t at the thought of people knowing my truth, it was more in the way that people were “supposed” to find out. They were supposed to find out from a joyous Facebook post with rainbow flag emojis on #ComingOutDay, not a matter-of-fact press release.
I’m well aware that for some, coming out can be a therapeutic and necessary part of their journey. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to make a personal announcement, it’s the oppressive notion that such a declaration is a mandatory requirement that I specifically take issue with.
We live in a world that celebrates the cis, heterosexual, and white as the gold standard — a world that pushes for anyone outside of those rigid confines to concede that they’re going against the grain. At a time when trans women of color are being murdered at staggering rates, seven in ten LGBTQ students reported experiencing verbal harassment at school. The rights of LGBTQ people are being stripped away and it’s time we acknowledge that not everyone has the safety, security, or even the desire to perform their identity how we believe they should.
The irony of me writing about this in such a public format isn’t lost on me. It’s not about speaking openly and honestly about my truth. It’s the feeling that I was conditioned to package myself, and my identity, in a more digestible format for those around me. As a kid, I would daydream about how I would eventually “come out.” No matter the different scenarios I came up with in my head, it always felt as if I was asking permission to be myself. Asking for forgiveness.
The news was out. The week the project launched I was speaking to reporters and discussing why the work was so close to home for me. There wasn’t any fanfare around the articles other than congratulations and well wishes, which was a good reminder that people are living their own lives. Fortunately, my sexual orientation isn’t at the top of their priorities. Perhaps comically, this current google doc that I’m staring at may be the first time some friends and family back home may learn my truth.
I know I didn’t conjure up the dread I was feeling all by myself. There’s no wrong way to “come out,” and this experience confirmed what I’ve learned from so many of the incredible friends, colleagues, and youth activists that I’ve come to know. I don’t owe anyone not even my family, anything when it comes to my truth. It’s mine and mine alone.