Coming out is perhaps one of the most common phrases for a queer individual. Is it a ritual that every queer person necessarily has to take part in, at some point in their life? Why is it so important to come out to your family and friends or to the larger society? These questions have often popped up in my mind.

Very soon after a baby is born, the society begins to view it through a lens that has already set certain terms to which the infant has no option but conform. And needless to say that this lens is largely heteronormative. This means that as the child grows up and reaches adolescence and an entire gamut of changes take place in the mind and body, it would be deemed ‘normal’ if a boy feels attracted towards a girl and vice versa. Such romantic attractions towards the same gender would be taken as a deviation and ridiculed by the society. This is the phase that a queer individual finds really hard to cope with and is left utterly confused. They are forced to believe that something is seriously wrong with them when they discover that they are ‘different’ from their peers. Thus more often than not, they never really open up to anyone and this is how they are forced into a closet by the society.

Many people argue that coming out need not be given too much importance and it is after all a rational individual’s discretion to decide for himself. However, I feel it is extremely important to come out of the closet mainly because you were forced into it by the societal norms and expectations. So coming out of it and expressing your personality is a call that should be taken. After all how can someone stop you from being yourself? Coming out would also free you of the burden of leading a dual existence. When I was still in the closet and my friends used to pull my leg about my supposedly girl crush, I wanted to tell them that I would never be attracted to a girl in that way but never gathered the courage in fear of the vehement reactions from the other side. Coming to college, when I finally managed to do the unthinkable it was a liberating experience and luckily most of my friends turned out not to be homophobic .

Your coming out might also prove to be an encouragement for someone who is still struggling in the closet and somehow being unable to muster the courage. And as more people manage to do it, the visibility of queer people would increase and the society will understand that we are not a miniscule minority. Moreover it will definitely normalise the ‘different’ sexual orientations. The first friend whom I came out to in college was surprised to find that gay men are indeed ‘normal’ like me and she had always expected them to be radically different and alien. I don’t blame her because it is quite natural that people would fear the unknown and construct unrealistic images about it. The more people get to know about something, fear gradually gives way to acceptance.

In the present context, specially after the striking down of 377, coming out has apparently become a bit easier than before. However the social stigma continues to be prevalent. So confessing about your sexual orientation to your family all of a sudden might not lead to pleasant consequences. Thus being prepared for the consequences before hand is a necessity.

After all we must realise that a closet is meant for clothes. We cannot just construct one for a human and suffocate him so that he dies a painful death every day. There is already a lot of hatred all around. So an opportunity to spread love must never be missed.

Sahil Ray
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