Before I begin: when I write, I write about my own experiences. Everyone has their own story; this is part of mine.
In honour of Coming Out Day (October 12th), I wanted to write down some of my thoughts about coming out.
Firstly: It is my belief the no-one should be under any obligation to come out. Again, for those following along at home: No-one should be under any obligation to come out. Sure, visibility helps the community, but physical, mental, and emotional safety come before coming out. However, not coming out can be emotionally and mentally damaging, too. It is a really individual and personal choice whether to come out or not.
I have come out multiple times, to multiple people, and sometimes multiple times to the same people. I have gone through lots of 'phases' - each as valid as each other for the way I was feeling and experiencing myself at the time.
I have been quite lucky when I have come out. I have come out to people who were not surprised by the news (they'd figured it out ages ago), or I have shocked people into silence because they totally didn't see it coming (either that or it was my "this is me, take it or leave it" approach).
That's for people I have known for a while and was quite close to.
Other people, strangers, people I thought I knew well, and so on... well, quite a different story.
My road has taken me from the days of identifying as a kinky, polyamorous, and pansexual woman, to more recent times where I identify as asexual (but panromantic), kinkless, and agender. Including many phases before and in-between.
It's been a long road. Sometimes I didn't have a word for how I perceived myself; I sometimes felt like I was wrong for identifying the way I did. However, there has always been a way forward. Sometimes I have had to do a very large amount of adjustment; sometimes other people around me have had to do it. But always, a way forward.
In a way, because my mental illness has impacted so heavily on my life, coming out has been easier for me - also, I've only ever been bullied or otherwise verbally abused for being the way I am - or the way I have been perceived. I don't think that I would have experienced substantial mental ill-health just for being who I am - but I am fortunate in having a supportive birth family and a supportive chosen family; it really, really annoys me that for people who would otherwise have no mental health issues, coming out can be damaging and cause mental ill-health and that for those unable to come out, that that too can be damaging and cause mental ill-health. Of course, I have substantial empathy for people who have issues being who they are and also having mental health challenges.