Today is National Coming Out Day. I’m reminded of the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. In their email exchanges, Simon and Blue talk about why straight people don’t have to come out. The answer, of course, is heteronormativity. When straight is the “default,” you only have to come “out” if you’re not straight. Simon and Blue go on to coin the term The Homo Sapiens Agenda. This involves everyone having to come out, making coming out a universal human experience. As much as I’d love to see that, it’s still always gonna be easier to come out as straight.
Whether you’ve been in the closet a short or long time, you know it can be at least a little dark and a little scary. If you’re still in the closet, just know that I’m sending you light. Coming out, letting your queerness be seen and celebrated can be wonderful. But the closet can feel safe and familiar as well. You get to do that for as long as you want to and need to. It doesn’t make you any less queer. When you come out, and who you come out to, is a deeply personal choice. If you do choose to, there’s a whole community of people waiting for you, in solidarity and in joy.
Everyone’s experience stepping or peeking out of the closet is different. So here’s a list of poems that capture the fear, joy, backlash, and relief that comes with coming out.
“When I Was Straight” by Julie Marie Wade
“I did not love women as I do now.
I loved them with my eyes closed, my back turned.
I loved them silent, & startled, & shy.
The world was a dreamless slumber party,
sleeping bags like straitjackets spread out on
the living room floor, my face pressed into a
“On Coming Out” by Lee Mokobe
“Naturally I did not come out of the closet.
The kids at my school opened it without my permission.
They called me by a name I did not recognize.
But I was more boy than girl,
more Ken than Barbie.
It had nothing to do with hating my body.
I just love it enough to let it go.
I treat it like a house.
And when your house is falling apart,
you do not evacuate.
You make it comfortable enough to house all your insides.
You make it pretty enough to invite guests over.
You make the floorboards strong enough for you to stand on.”
“Your Life” by Andrea Gibson
“Your life every time airport security screams,
Pink or blue? Pink or blue? trying to figure out
what machine setting to run you through.
Choosing your life
and how that made you into someone
who now often finds it easy
to explain your gender by saying you are happiest
on the road, when you’re not here or there, but in-between,
that yellow line running down the center of it all
like a goddamn sunbeam.
Your name is not a song you will sing under your breath.
Your pronouns haven’t even been invented yet.”
“The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar” by Danez Smith
“this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.
bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew
this need to be needed, to belong, to know how
a man taste full on vodka & free of sin.”
“Hey I’m Gay” by Mila Cuda
“I’m gay like
like the closet is cracked open
but some days I have to walk myself in
put my best femme forward
at the job interview, the mega-bus station, my grandpa’s funeral
I’m gay like
every time I call myself gay
the men in my life take it upon themselves to say
well what about ben, what was that then?
I’m gay like my only straight friend just came out
She said she would’ve known sooner if not for the folks always photoshopping her wedding pictures
And I’m gay like my girlfriend can build heaven with her left hand
I’m the closest she comes to touching religion.”
“I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party” by Chen Chen
“In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.”
“Queer” by Frank Bidart
“Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative
designed to confer existence.
If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not
me, but herself.
The door through which you were shoved out
into the light
was self-loathing and terror.”
“Homosexuality” by Frank O’Hara
love a park and the inept a railway station,
and there are the divine ones who drag themselves up
and down the lengthening shadow of an Abyssinian head
in the dust, trailing their long elegant heels of hot air
crying to confuse the brave “It’s a summer day,
and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world.”
For more, also check out 20 Must Read Coming Out Stories For National Coming Out Day and 11 Glorious Spoken Word Poems By Queer Poets.