October 27, 2011

To Be (Out) Or Not To Be (Out)...

All clichés aside, this is actually a really important question. For those of you who came out to the Faculty/Staff-Student Reception at the center last week, I’m sure you can remember those wonderful speeches we heard about life as an LGBTQ student, professor, job applicant, etc. We heard about the challenges and fears those speakers faced, and still face, when coming out to their peers. For those of you who came out to the Our Lives discussion group last week, I’m sure you can remember how we talked about coming out experiences and how we go about deciding who to come out to and when.

The questions I pose to all of you, regardless of your “affiliation” with the LGBTQ community is this: Why do we decide to come out? When should we come out? Who should we come out to? Do we have a responsibility to come out?

Although each of us could easily give a million different answers to each of these questions, some answers are simpler than others. When should I come out? That’s easy- when I am damn well ready, of course! Well….maybe I’ll never be quite ready, so should I force myself to just start telling people? Maybe the who is easier- the people who matter most to me should know, of course! Well…what if they don’t approve? What will my family think? Will I get kicked out of the house? What about the why question? Easy! Because it’s who I am! I’ve already come out as smart and funny and friendly and blah blah I could go on forever—wait…this is different though. Maybe it’s not such a good idea… What about this “should” question? What the hell does that mean?! What do you mean “should” I come out?

Do you see where I’m going with this? None of these questions have straight answers (get it?!), because all of them force us to consider the consequences of coming out, no matter the situation.

The question I really want to focus on is the Should because I feel like it is this question that we are most likely to neglect. Let’s take applying for jobs as an example. Read this article and tell me it’s “no big deal” to come out on your resume or in an interview.

You might say, “I would only want to work at an LGBTQ friendly employer anyway.” To which I would reply, “Me too!” But in the back of my mind all I can think about is the bad economy and how I may not have the luxury of getting my first choice job. In this instance, it might actually be better to “play it safe” by “playing it straight”.

But then I have to ask the question; do members of the “community” have a responsibility to be out? How else are people going to be exposed to people who are different? If we don’t make an effort to let people know who we are, how can we expect people to change?

I’ll leave my opinion on this issue for a later post, but I’m interested in what you all have to say. So I'll ask again, should we?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kory, If your questions had “woulds” in place of “shoulds”, they would have been much simpler to reply to. I’d just like to say a bit about the questions you raised in the second last paragraph. To me, it’s about the little things. Members of the “community” have the right to do however they please, but being out in some sense does bring lots of affirmation to someone like myself who’s not openly out. Be it wearing an identifying wristband, a bag pin of some sort, posting on this blog (I do have the urge to come up and say hello to bloggers, but there’s the “was that you or not” shadow of doubt.), hanging a pride flag, dropping that knowing smile at the right time and place, “members of the community” provide an unspeakable empowerment to the silent. While I am deeply appreciative of the firebrands (the in-your-face types) who advance the cause, there’s a certain charm and resilience the silently out types exude, a charm as endearing as the genuine tears that flowed in last year’s Laramie Project on campus. If I were to come out one day, it would be to one of the “silently-outs”, and I’m so grateful for the several on campus.Sure, the optimal way varies from one job to the next, and one person to another but at work (ie for most jobs where how we identify is not important), we could aim to draw a clear line between our sexualities and work performance. The day this disconnect is obvious to the majority of employers is the time society can be said to have moved forward.