I hate the term "coming out", and I’m sure many in the LGBTQIA+ community feel the same. We all know that sexuality is fluid and identity is ever-evolving, so why must we feel the need to publicly label ourselves for the sake of establishing our differences in a hetero-dominated world?
It sounds like I’ve already argued myself out of the point I am trying to make, but I do believe that coming out is so undoubtedly important. And as much as I see it as an outdated custom of the gay experience, it is still necessary, and now more than ever.
When celebrities come out, it makes headlines. Just in this past year we’ve had Aubrey Plaza, Colton Haynes, Miley Cyrus, Stephanie Beatriz and Mara Wilson (among many others) publicly announcing their differing sexual orientations – queer, gay, pansexual and bisexual, respectively. Thankfully, there’s a lot of love and support in the comment sections, but there’s also a high number of statements like “who cares?”, “does this mean I have to come out as straight?” and “there’s so many people out there who do more for the community, why do celebrities get all the attention?” And you know what? I completely agree. I don’t think we should care, I don’t think it should be newsworthy and I don’t think anyone should have to "come out" at all. Personally, my sexuality is such a small part of who I am - there are a heap of other things that define me more as an individual.
But to those commenters and tweeters – this isn’t about you. There’s no history of oppression and inequality for heterosexuals, so no, you definitely don’t need to ~come out~ as straight. Coming out is a truly personal, self-satisfying experience for any queer person. Coming out is a weight-off-the-shoulders, a tick-off-the-checklist (or whichever analogy you wish to choose). Saying “who cares?” or “let’s get some real news” is demeaning. If somebody wants to openly celebrate their sexuality, regardless of their fame, then they are doing it for themselves and for their own benefit. We should all be supportive of that.
Ideally, one day we will live in a world where coming out is unnecessary. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Just looking at the tragedy in Orlando or Australia’s neverending quest for equal marriage rights show that despite many of our individual views, LGBT+ people are still, as a whole, not considered equal. Coming out and being proud of our sexualities is our step forward.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with celebrities hogging the spotlight for their announcements. More personalities publicly stating that gay is OK will only benefit youths still coming to terms with their sexualities, especially if the only people they know to be gay are those they see in pop culture. Having role models in the public eye who are happy and open with their sexuality can only be a good thing for the future.
Regardless of your (and my) views on coming out, the process is still relevant and significant – not just to the individual, but to the entire community. We all want respect, we’re all fighting for equality and we all just want to live our best and most honest selves. So next time you want to comment on why anyone should care that some actor on a TV show is same-sex attracted - think of who they are really stepping out of the closet for.