It's okay to not come out

It's okay to not come out
Photo by Rumman Amin

It’s a common misconception that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community have to ‘come out of the closet’ eventually if they want to live a truly honest and happy life. Even more, it’s frequently believed that someone only has to come out once, which actually couldn’t be further from the truth. People who choose to come out will have to spend the rest of their lives choosing who and when to come out to whenever they meet new colleagues, classmates, friends, or neighbors. The process never stops, and it is not always as cathartic as typically portrayed in movies, television, or books. Sometimes, to be safe, healthy, and happy, some choose to simply remain 'in the closet.' Though many parts of the world have progressed in acceptance of the gay community, including New Zealand’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013, there still exists plenty of bias, judgment, and homophobia that can bring many different kinds of harm. Listed below are some of the top reasons why someone may choose not to come out:

Religion

Oftentimes, individuals with relatives or loved ones that practice certain religions may remain hesitant in coming out. There are some religions that disapprove of homosexuality, including fundamentalist Islam and certain sects of Christianity and Judaism. Naturally, not all individuals who practice these religions disapprove of homosexuality, but some individuals who do are firm in their beliefs that marriage is just between a "man and a woman." To avoid exclusion from relatives, friends, or other loved ones who hold these beliefs, it could be safer to not come out.

Ethnicity

Another common reason to not come out involves ethnicity. It has been often discussed in various research studies that individuals who are non-white, including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific-Islanders, often suffer from potentially harsher consequences when they decide to come out. This is because homophobia tends to be more widespread in these communities than in white communities. As such, queer ethnic minorities fear backlash from their community that could arrive in the form of emotional, verbal or physical abuse.

Work

Discrimination of sexual orientation is unlawful in New Zealand and protected by the country’s Human Rights Act. Even with this law being in place, those with varying sexualities may still suffer from harassment from colleagues and bosses alike. This can create a highly uncomfortable work environment that is not conducive to productive practices and can leave individuals feeling awkward and judged in their workspace. Therefore, some employees prefer to not discuss their sexuality or intimate relationships and separate their work life from their personal life.

Physical Harm

Unfortunately, physical harm is still very much of a possibility for many queer members across the globe. Physical harm can come from both others and one’s self. Those who are against certain sexualities may commit “hate crimes” against those who have different lifestyles than their own. Physical harm can even lead to murder, which is sadly still largely prevalent with trans individuals. On the other hand, physical harm against one’s self can come in the form of self-harm and even suicide. Those who commit these acts have often met resistance from others due to their sexual preferences. Sometimes the best way to protect one’s self and even save one self’s life is to not come out.

Timing

A person’s identity journey should be lived on their terms and on their time. For some, the current moment may just not be the best to come out just yet. Perhaps they are not ready, or maybe they need some more time to discover themselves. In the end, a person’s coming out moment should only come when the person in question feels comfortable to do so, regardless of what others believe would be best.

Above are just some of the most common reasons why an individual may not feel ready to come out about their sexuality. It’s okay to not come out, and, in the end, no one else is owed any explanation for doing so. Coming out is a beautiful journey that should remain unique for every individual.

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