By Victor Baspin
First celebrated in 1988 in the US, National Coming Out (NCOD) day is on October 11, and is an opportunity for LGBTQI people to celebrate the importance of presenting one’s authentic self to the world.
The date was chosen by psychologist Robert Eichberg and American lesbian activist Jean O’Leary to honor the second national march for gay rights, which took place in Washington in 1987.
Thirty two years later visibility has grown immensely, with Facebook even creating a “Came Out” life event last year, where users could post the date they came out on their personal feed.
Breaking the silence around sexuality is never easy, with the reaction of loved ones often the most feared step in this important decision.
Readers of the Star Observer shared a few insights on their process.
“I first came out to my closest friends, when I was fifteen years old.” Said Pirmin S, a software developer in Melbourne’s CBD.
“It helped me get used to being open to those close to me and also accepting myself in a social environment. Talking to them at school in everyday life showed me support and the realisation that things would be okay.”
But when Pirmin came out to his parents, it was a spur of the moment decision.
“I was on a hike with them and it just had to be said,” Pirmin told the Star Observer.
“Without ceremony as they were strolling in front of me, I just heard the words ‘I’m gay’ coming out of my mouth. Both my parents said they knew since I was four years old, and I felt an immense relief.”
For masters student Mark Chen, the experience was very different, but equally significant.
“I was having dinner with my parents and started talking about how I would never marry a woman, then quickly went upstairs to my room,” Chen told the Star Observer.
“I had a tremendous feeling of sadness take over me. Soon after, my father came into the room and I just told the truth. I had never seen him cry before.”
“My father took me to a psychiatrist because of my sexuality and luckily she stood by me, which helped to dismantle the tension and make them understand that it was something perfectly natural. It took about half a year for my parents to come to terms with me, but it was the best decision I ever made and I couldn’t be happier.”
Raphael Canty, queer officer at the University of Melbourne’s LGBTQI+ ally network, gives a few tips on how and when to come out.
“The most important factor to consider is to not do it until you’re ready,” Canty said.
“Don’t feel pressured and make sure you’re in a position where you feel safe, and have a good understanding on how your relatives and loved ones might react at that moment.”
According to Canty, patience is key for a secure and friendly outcome.
“Take it slow and don’t rush into it. Small steps at the start are really important, coming out is not something that happens overnight. Telling only a close friend at first and gradually moving on to more people, for example, can help to realise that it shouldn’t be a big deal. When it’s time for you to be out, it’s like the world has been lifted from your shoulders.”