Ilana Masad is Book Riot’s Guest Editor for National Coming Out Day.
Coming out is not something you do once. I’ve heard this before, but it took a long time for the truth of those words to sink in. Coming out is a process you repeat over, and over, and over again. It’s not just telling people you’re close to, or putting your LGBTQIA2S+ identity on your social media profile. It’s not even just the actual act of telling someone, or the whole world, but rather the day to day moments that can make it tough. Holding hands with your partner and seeing people shooting you looks. Trying to find a restroom where you can be safe, or giving up on peeing for hours at a time because safety doesn’t exist. Reading a room when you walk in to see whether you can be yourself or not. Overhearing someone say “what is that?” as you walk past.
Our society privileges romantic straightness, hetero sexuality (and sex in general), and genders assigned at birth to the point where there are few places anywhere that allow for people like us to comfortably exist without needing to come out.
Sometimes the most painful of all can be realizing that you need to come out to your fellow queers too. Worse is needing to defend your identity in a room full of people you thought would get it. This happens too. The queer community is not immune to racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, biphobia, homophobia, or transphobia. I wish we were all, always, safe spaces for our fellows, but we’re not. Let’s take a moment today, National Coming Out Day, and vow to do better. Each of us. In our own way. Find what’s lacking, and fill that void with knowledge.
Knowledge is power, after all. Having said that, this may be a good time to say that I had no idea what this National Coming Out Day thing was for a long time. When I finally found out that there was a day for us to celebrate, or at least acknowledge, coming out, I was conflicted. Why do we need to keep talking about coming out? Isn’t the queer experience about more than that? Can’t we just live our lives in peace without continuing to discuss metaphorical closets we never chose to get inside in the first place? Well, no. We can’t. That’s the thing. We’re not there yet. Individuals can stop worrying about coming out; the community we’re a part of cannot.
Today is the 29th anniversary of this national acknowledgement, and the 30th anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The people who came before us matter, as one of our guest posters, author Rita Mae Brown, will tell you. There’s still a lot of progress to make, such as ceasing the biphobia that prevails even within the queer community (the term “bi” doesn’t refer to, or enforce, the gender binary, FYI—it refers to two ways of being sexual, hetero and homo, that are defined by somewhat essentialist terms, yes, but are still apt for any pairing of any genders). We have some fabulous posts today about bi characters and novels you’ll fall in love with.
There’s so much more. We’ve got an incredible introduction to the queer bookternet, i.e. the place you can go to fulfill all your queer reader fantasies. There’s the amazing comic book queers and a reader whose favorite ship actually came true. We’ve got some genre recommendations to blow your mind, and a serious discussion of why queer lit is important.
This isn’t a one-day thing. Book Riot continues to be one of the amazing places where writers get to interact with queer lit as often as we want. We’ll continue to post lots of queer stuff as long as you keep reading it.
For today—if you’re out, I hope you enjoy it. If you’re not, I hope you’re safe. People say it gets better, and while that’s never a promise anyone can make, it’s an aspiration. We want it to be better. So let’s work to make it better.