Thursday, October 12, 2017

National Coming Out Day



I came out as a gay man 13 years ago. I trace the moment back to my first attending a meeting of GAPIMNY, the Gay Asian Pacific-Islander Men of New York. Since then I've been coming out, again and again, to family, friends, and strangers. Yes, there is such a thing as coming out to oneself, an internal understanding and acceptance of one's own sexual identity, but coming out of the closet is essentially a public act, of saying to others "Hi, I'm here and I'm queer."

Some in the LGBT community have argued that talk of coming-out reinforces the heterosexual norm and marginalizes ourselves. Straight people do not have to come out as straight. This argument has no force in Singapore, where heterosexuality is overpoweringly taken for grant, and so the act of coming out constitutes a challenge to that norm. Our bodies must be seen. Our demands must be heard. Our persons must be respected and treated equally as those of straight people.

It is true that gay liberation began in the US as a liberation movement, in solidarity with other political liberationist movements in the country and around the world, and not as a form of identity politics, which the rhetoric of coming-out seems to underpin. I think of that argument as an important caution that gay equality is not achieved until all other forms of inequality have been eradicated. Gay equality is only, but also, one part of equality for all. So coming out to others is important but is only the beginning of one's political education and action. Drawing strength and wisdom from our own experience, we must join the fight for women's rights, labor protections, and democratic freedoms, to name but a few issues, even as we insist that true equality must include equality for the LGBT community.

Photo by Yoshi Matsuzaki. Art Direction by Jaire Remy W.

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