Why I feel compelled to come out, often, under the Trump administration
As the skies rain ash from the massive garbage fire fueled by this administration, I am protected by an umbrella of privilege. I am white, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, and not poor. I also “pass” as straight. Sure, my offbeat style, queer-as-day social posts, and lack of boyfriends might suggest to some people an identity other than heterosexual. But mostly, my queerness is visibly understated based on society’s standards for what queer and straight look like. I’ve rarely feared for my safety because of it. I’ve never been “outed” in a violent way. I can move through the world deciding when and if it’s safe for me to talk about who I am (the privileges above are also a crucial part of this).
Choosing when, and to whom, to come out has been a hallmark of my queer years. While I never intentionally hid my sexuality, I was reluctant to address anything so personal. Coworkers would ask about my weekend and I’d conveniently leave out who I went to the movies with. Family members questioned with a sly smile whether I was seeing someone, and I artfully evaded. It wasn’t that I feared their reactions; I’m just an incredibly private person. I’ve always hated talking about myself, especially when it comes to dating or sex. I avoided being seen with a crush as if I were allergic. The floor was PDA. Thanks to this administration, though, I no longer have a choice about making my identity known.
It took a government that’s one of the most openly hell-bent on perpetrating and inspiring violence against LGBTQ people for me to recognize my “privacy” as a cover for privilege.
To recap: In just the past six months, the Justice and Education departments undid the Title IX protections President Obama made possible for trans kids in public schools. Trump and the Justice Department have moved to reverse the protections granted to LGBTQ workers against employment discrimination. The Justice Department also scrapped the federal lawsuit against North Carolina over its discriminatory and dangerous “bathroom bill.”
In addition, thanks to Congress’s ongoing threats to oppress the American people whom they supposedly serve, this country’s roughly 1.4 million trans people could be at risk for losing their health insurance in the near future. For many folks, this would make it financially impossible to secure the therapies and surgeries deemed medically necessary for their wellbeing, or prohibit them from accessing basic care if preexisting conditions again become grounds for denial of coverage (being trans was considered a preexisting condition before the Affordable Care Act). The president’s recent declaration that trans people will no longer be allowed to serve in the military — to military officials’ surprise — is the latest vicious, unsurprising notch in his belt of atrocities.
This list is not exhaustive, and it will likely only grow. As someone who presents as stereotypically feminine, and can be read as straight, I won’t be subjected to future cruelties inflicted upon the bodies and minds of more masculine-presenting women, or of trans people. If I want to truthfully stand in solidarity with my community, I can’t hang out in my privacy privilege — I have to assume the visibility so many LGBTQ folks are forced to reckon with.
I’m making it a practice in 45’s America to suck it up and answer questions with the full truth. “What’d I do this weekend? My girlfriend and I went to the movies.” I’m trying to inject frequent low-key queerness into everyday conversation. I’m over wanting to be “the one no one knows anything about,” and will instead gladly accept “the one who turned out gay.” I strive to be “the one who won’t shut up about politics and queer stuff and social justice.”
This may seem insignificant (it’s certainly not where my activism stops), but reminding the sometimes close-minded people in my life that I’m queer forces them to contend with the fact that they care about someone in the LGBTQ community.
Maybe they start to see me as a resource, a place to direct their questions. Hopefully, they learn to catch themselves before repeating hateful rhetoric, or voting for a candidate whose platform depends on destroying my people. And if nothing else, I become a gleefully dedicated thorn in their side.
For queer folks who live at the intersections of oppressions and cannot safely come out, privacy can be a life-or-death issue. But I’m less at risk for harm, so it’s my responsibility to continue doing it. It’s a mindset that works for other issues, too. With hate crimes increasing against the most marginalized in our society, and violence becoming legislation, I plan to keep “outing” myself however I can. That means speaking up for Muslims when talking to my wrongly fearful Christian family, breaking down casual racism to a friend who’s complicit, and centering our trans siblings, especially trans women of color, in community activism.
That means being super queer, and loud, and proud, about it every chance I get.