“For many of the least structurally-privileged people, coming out is perhaps the first time and only opportunity we have to be seen”
BY DR. KATE TOMAS, IMAGE VIA ISTOCK
Coming out is heralded as a joyful, exciting, celebratory moment when an event happens and everything changes for someone. While it may be like that for some, it is important to acknowledge that coming out is a way for the dominant culture of white settler colonialism to cement what it considers the norm. For as long as heterosexual people don’t have to come out as straight, what the hell are we doing as queers, endorsing and buying into a concept that further identifies us as the exception, and continues to marginalise and oppress us?
For many of the least structurally-privileged people, coming out is perhaps the first time and only opportunity we have to be seen. But it must be possible, and I believe it is possible, to claim one’s voice as a dissident from dominant culture without unconsciously buying into the assimilatory oppression of coming out culture.
One of the most oppressive concepts within the systems of structural oppression at play today, is this idea of the binary. This suggests that there are two binaries or polar opposites, and that congregated around one of these sides are one type of energy, and congregated around the other are the opposite. This polar opposite binary way of thinking is not modern, but neither is it universal and without its own history.
It was Aristotle, in around 350BCE, who spoke about some philosophers working with Pythagoras having created a table of ten principles and their opposites (since then known as the Pythagorean Table of Opposites). It was an attempt to understand and categorise the world; on one side of this table he put Men, Straight, Light, Good, and on the opposite he put Women, Bent, Dark, Evil. It reads to us today like a five-year-old’s attempt to paraphrase a Donald Trump campaign. But it reads like that for a reason.
Western Colonialism, still the dominant power and influence on our world and it’s oppressions, has its roots in this concept of division and binary. The idea that the multiplicity of human experience, feeling, preference, ability to love and sexuality could be cut in two in this way is beyond simplistic. It is ridiculous, it is reductive, it is violent. We must resist it at every turn. Celebrating coming out is an obvious but mistaken support of this idea that there is A and there is B. Even the concept of being bisexual is an explicit endorsement of this same binary. Bi- from the Latin for two, the same Bi- that gives binary it’s meaning. Queerness, by its definition, is non-binary.
The concept of queerness was and is so powerful because it rejects the idea of the binary. It rejects the idea that if one is not heterosexual then one must be homosexual. Instead, queerness is about being The Other, and refusing to be categorised. To “queer” something is to make it weird, bent, without limitation or definition. As queer individuals, we must refuse being subsumed by this dominant narrative of Coming Out; as something other than what Western Colonial Capitalist oppression wants us to think is the norm. We should ignore, reject, and refuse.
Coming Out also reeks of shame and fear. Of having to admit or disclose private details of one’s personal life and feelings. Queer people are made to feel a pressure to let other people know that they are queer as if somehow flying under the radar is unethical. As if somehow being queer is something everyone in society has a right to know about you.
I propose we leave the coming out pressure to people who have actively and intentionally harmed and oppressed others. As queers we need to recognise that buying into (literally – how many large capitalist corporations fund National Coming Out Day?) this idea of coming out as an event as harming ourselves, our siblings, our community. See it for what it is, and laugh in the face of this drive for assimilation.
Dr. Kate Tomas is a queer anti-Capitalist. She is the Women’s Spiritual Empowerment Mentor and works with women* through a year-long mentorship as well as one to one sessions. She holds a doctoral degree in philosophical theology from the University of Oxford and is a best selling author.
*trans women are women.