It's OK To Not Come Out

BY Asiel Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Sometimes it's not an option because of culture, faith or safety - and that's OK!

I haven’t come out to my dad. It’s been 8 years since I first kissed a boy and I’ve had an amazing partner for 4 of them. I’ve made my peace with never coming out to him, or the rest of my extended family for that matter, and I’ve finally realised that not coming out is actually OK.

That doesn’t mean that I’m closeted and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of who I am. Being queer has been a source of self-love for me. What it means though is that I’m discovering how to come out on my own terms, how to celebrate my queerness in my own culture. My own culture is the buzzword here, and everyone’s family life is different, so their experience of coming out should be too.

Coming out isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re from a multicultural or multifaith background. Our stories are shaped differently. Coming to terms with our gender, sexuality, or body is only half of the process. For many of us we still have to reconcile all of that with our faith or cultural background.

And this can be really difficult. I’m a Mexican non-binary person and questioning Mexican ideas of masculinity was part my coming out process. Our entire language is structured around the gender binary.

Every single noun in Spanish has to be gendered. So on top of working out my gender identity, I also had to reconcile my cultural identity too. It’s an added layer that not everyone has to go through. 

Non-binary Latin American people like me, use the neutral term Latinx to describe our background (as opposed to the gendered Latino or Latina). As a Latinx person, reconciling my cultural identity with my gender and sexual identity has taken significantly more work than just coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity alone.

Queer people from multicultural or multifaith backgrounds have to navigate identity in terms of a very different cultural profile compared to others. Being gay, ace, trans or non-binary often means something completely different to us, and we don’t have as many role models to look to for guidance.

For many Latinx people, coming out is a gradual and continuous process. For me there isn’t that single moment where I said it out loud to everyone else (and there might never be). Many of us come out in silence; in actions rather than words. For example, the cover for my phone has a rainbow at the back. Of course, I know my father is well aware of its meaning, but he's never commented on it. 

My family also  know I volunteer on a Diversity Committee, although the exact meaing of that diversity has never been spoken about. They know I travel to Sydney every few weeks to visit my partner, but it's never really my "partner" in their mind. It's this in-between state of “friend” and “life companion”. To my family, “gay” means a purely sexual relationship and misses all the other far more fulfilling aspects of the relationship I have with my partner. This is why the closet is a safe space for me: it lets me happily maintain the relationship I have with my partner, my gender and my family. 

I can only speak for my own experiences working through it all, but it’s a conversation that can happen within other cultures too. This idea that coming out to everyone is the last or ultimate stage of coming out isn’t the case for everyone - and that should be celebrated too. 

Mainstream narratives don’t normally include this, and doesn’t usually include those of us from different cultural backgrounds. Finding others from your community who you relate to can solidify this and be amazing. You can learn a lot from others who have successfully combined their culture with their gender or sexuality. I know I did.