Op-Ed: Coming out can set you free

By Ravi Gandhi

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The phrase “coming out” has a sense of finality to it — the single announcement that changes everything. Nothing could be further from the truth. In light of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, I’d like to discuss coming out as the lengthy process it is and give tips from some painfully awkward experiences I’ve had.

The process starts with coming out to the most difficult and stubborn person — yourself. There’s a limited range of outcomes when coming out to other people, from broken relationships to celebration, but coming out to yourself requires a change in perception and how you view normalcy.

For several years I knew I liked guys, but I was still under the impression that I would get married to a girl and live a “normal” life. It’s difficult to understand feelings that are often suppressed by a society that shies away from differences it can’t understand. Depending on one’s background, it can be easier or harder, but most people breaking from heteronormativity elaborate extensively on who they are, constantly reassuring themselves that their feelings are perfectly normal. This brings me to my first tip for allies — don’t question someone’s identity when they come out, because believe me, they’ve done enough questioning already.

Once you’ve become more comfortable with your identity, you gradually come out to people who are close to you. Oftentimes it’s a very disappointing, anticlimactic moment, unless you’re really good at acting. I remember spending two months contemplating whether I should come out to one of my friends and when I finally did, it was over text, at night, sweating in my basement in the middle of winter. In retrospect, I find it funny I was so worried considering he was gay and out himself. He even responded, saying, “I knew since the day we met.” This brings me to my second suggestion for allies — if you have a flamboyant friend or one whose identity may seem more obvious, refrain from saying “I know” or “it’s about time” the moment they tell you. It gets a little annoying realizing other people knew who you were before you did.

And then there’s that official, public announcement. Some people choose to do it over social media, reaching all their friends and family with a single post, while others choose to do it at big gatherings and outings. Everyone’s style is different, but the deliberation and planning that goes into it is pretty much the same. It’s stressful, nerve-racking and exciting.

National Coming Out Day provides a time to do it since there will always be a countless stream of reasons of why you should wait and why the time isn’t right. It serves as a great conversation starter — although I remember asking my parents if they knew what day it was last Oct. 11 and all they said was, “Wednesday?”

If you plan on coming out, make sure you’re ready. Don’t rush into it. You get the rest of your life to come out, every single day. That being said, coming out gets easier and way more fun. There’s a reason the LGBTQ+ community identifies so strongly with the word “pride” — you become proud of you are. I love being gay and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now that I’m really comfortable with my identity, I find creative, funny ways of coming out to new people I meet — I have so many cringe-worthy jokes waiting to be triggered by something someone says.

My point is, coming out isn’t always a joyous single moment like people make it seem. It starts with a lot of confusion, contemplation and seriousness, but it can turn into something fun that you look forward to. The public announcement is just a small part in an extensive process.

Ravi Gandhi is a senior, a bioengineering and electrical engineering major and a guest contributor to The Pitt News. You can reach him at rmg88@pitt.edu.

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