Written by Danielle Fox.
Art by larisa.wade.
“You’re a baby gay,” she declared while in the process of undressing me. “How many women have you slept with?”
It was a disorientating question, but one that I would have felt comfortable answering if the context had been different. “How many women have you slept with since your last STD test?” Or, “how many women are you sleeping with currently amidst this worldwide pandemic?”
What she wanted to know, needed to know as she fumbled with my bra, was “are you gay enough?”
But are you safe to fuck wasn’t what she was asking. What she wanted to know, needed to know as she fumbled with my bra, was “are you gay enough?”
Sorry, hold on, let me check my credentials.
In a world that refuses to make space for messy truths, the long and rocky process of coming out gets often pressure cooked into one seemingly joyous moment: You announced to the world you are queer, and regardless of whether your audience chose to accept you or not, you are living your truth.
Cue the Capital One-sponsored streamers.
Oh, I get it. So, you are trying a bunch of things out right now to see what sticks.”
But the reality of the situation—one that queer and heterosexual communities both are guilty of brushing aside—is that coming out is never purely a celebration. “No one talks about the fact that the coming out process is not this singular, glorious moment, but in fact a continual, re-traumatizing experience,” writes Salty contributor Charmee Taylor. “No one talks about the rejection from within the queer community either…[like] the time a queer friend said, ‘Oh, I get it. So, you are trying a bunch of things out right now to see what sticks.’”
Coming out is something we must do repeatedly in a world that forces assumptions on us, and still to this day, sleeping with your preferred gender and being open about it means risking your life.
Of the roughly 1.6 million young people who experience homelessness in the United States, 40 percent of them identify as LGTBQ+, and our queer and trans youth are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness. On and off the street, queer and trans people experience sexual violence at higher rates, with studies suggesting that roughly half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence at some point.
The further marginalized you are, the greater the risk, and according to the NCTE’s survey of more than 28,000 trans people in the U.S., 47 percent of all Black respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender.
Up until this summer, it was even still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender.
Not only is it not always safe to come out, but the idea that we all know and accept we are queer well before puberty fails to take into account how powerful compulsive heterosexuality really is.
Before I could come out as gay, I had to make sure I had several months rent at ready to prep for any worst case scenarios.
There is a part of me that always knew I was gay, and I spent many years either not understanding what my body was telling me or actively trying to silence it. I was so terrified of disappointing those in my life who remained attached to my heterosexuality—the ones vocally obsessed with the idea they’d dance at my Barbie and Ken wedding, bounce my biological babies on their knees, and never have to challenge their idea of who I am with the murkier actuality of who I wasn’t.
Before I could come out as gay, I had to work through the anticipatory grief of possibly losing those loved ones. Before I could come out as gay, I had to make sure I had several months rent at ready to prep for any worst case scenarios. Before I could come out as gay, I had to escape the people who knew already and still tried to tell me I wasn’t for their own gain.
“If you are in the closet and fall in love with someone of the same gender, it doesn’t automatically remove the shame and fear that’s kept you locked away,” wrote Anthony Venn-Brown, who endured conversion therapy before coming out. “The richness, beauty and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty and vulnerability.”
This is what I think of when asked why I took so long to come out. And I’m a privileged cis white girl who ultimately did not lose her family’s support. Consider how hard it is for everyone else.
You will not be late. You will not have to make up for “lost time.
National Coming Out Day is an isolating experience when you are still in the closet. I know your pain. I once felt it myself. But from here on the other side what I want to tell you is this: don’t rush.
Come out when you feel ready and safe.
You will not be late. You will not have to make up for “lost time.” And you will not have to prove your sexuality or earn your badges, stripes, or alternative lifestyle haircut.
If you do choose to use the term “baby” queer for yourself, never let anyone make you feel bad about it. You will be and already are perfectly queer on your own terms and timeline, and our community is so lucky to have you.
So thank you so much for coming—whenever that may be. We promise you didn’t make us wait.
About the Author
Danielle Fox (she/her) is a writer in Brooklyn and the former social media editor of Salty. She was born and raised in coal region Pennsylvania and hasn’t been able to give up the horse gay aesthetic yet.