Still, coming out is always your choice. Because it’s your life. And no one can tell how to live your life. And no one can tell you who you are. Only you can do that for yourself. At your own time. When you are ready.
Last night’s “Glee” was many things. It was way too focused on the vomit-inducing student-teacher cliché that is Puck and Shelby. It was way too invested in this ridiculous Crazy Quinn storyline and its equally ridiculous commentary on adoption. It was too confused about election law and what constitutes legal, non-slanderous political advertising. And it was probably way too close to home for many young or questioning people who aren’t out of the closet.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: No one has the right to out you. When you come out is up to you, period.
So then just because Santana can be a raging bitch sometimes, doesn’t mean she deserves to be outed. Just because she’s mean to Finn, doesn’t mean she deserves to be outed. Just because she hasn’t made the decision to be out for herself yet, doesn’t mean she deserves to be outed. Santana did not deserve to be outed.
The last four minutes of “Glee” last night were particularly powerful. And, no, not just because that Adele mash-up is still SOFA KING AMAZING even after 3,876 repeat viewings. But because it showed, through Naya Rivera’s extraordinarily nuanced performance, what it means to be outed. You can see Santana’s whole world crumble in an instant. “I can’t believe this is happening.” “I haven’t even told my parents yet.” It’s all there, on the surface. The panic. The fear. The despair.
And here’s the other thing about being gay. Straight people, even the super allies and the most supportive, they can’t know what it is to come out. They’ll never have to do it. They don’t know what it means. What a big step it is. What a difficult confession it can be to even just to ourselves. That’s not really their fault, but it’s also not their place to judge. So when Finn tells Santana in a crowded school hallway that she should come out of the closet, that’s not just getting revenge – that’s imploding a life. And when he calls her a “coward” for not being out, well, that is almost as bad as outing her. Also the stuff about Brittany maybe not loving her back, that was just fucking mean.
Being in the closet can be a terrible burden. Carrying a secret can crush you slowly. But being ripped out of the closet before you’re ready is even worse. There could be very real consequences from being outed. Being kicked out to losing your job to being bullied to being beaten to even worse. So, then being ready to face that, being prepared – well, that’s everything.
But then, here’s the thing about being out. It’s better when you’re out. Maybe not right away. Maybe not for a long time. But it’s better to be open. It’s better to accept and embrace and love who you are for all the world to see. And once the world sees you, it’ll see you’re not so scary – we’re not so scary. Coming out matters because knowing a gay person makes it hard to hate us unconditionally. It’s easier to hate blindly what you think you don’t know or think you haven’t met. Because, make no mistake, we are everywhere.
That’s why there is one important exception to the outing rule. Those who hide their truth while actively using their power and position against us, they shall be afforded no quarter. Those conservative politicians who vote against our right to equality under the law, but shtup strangers in airplane restrooms. Those powerful players who call us an abomination, yet hire rentboys to tend to them on the weekends. That’s not coming to terms with oneself, that’s just pure hypocrisy. And that will not stand.
So, yes, it is better when you’re out. But that doesn’t mean it’s better before you’re ready, before you’re safe, before you decide. For some of us it’s a lifelong journey. And that’s OK, too. The goal is always to be honest and happy with yourself. So we get up each day, look ourselves in the mirror, and hope we like the person staring back at us – however long it takes. And when you do, we’ll be here. Because while you may feel alone, you’re not alone. That’s the other thing about being gay, you get a whole new family. And we love you, unconditionally.