October 11 marks National Coming Out Day in order to recognize the intimidating, sometimes scary, often stressful, and for many, very self-affirming process of “coming out of the closet” — the process of acknowledging both publicly and privately one’s own sexual and/or gender identity.
It’s important to acknowledge that coming out isn’t an option for everyone and also that it is not a required process for every member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. It is a personal decision made when considering a variety of factors, most importantly personal safety.
This day is complex and can look and feel different depending on personal circumstance. This may be a day for activism and self-expression for one person, for others it may open a door to come out to friends, family or coworkers, and for some it could bring up uncomfortable feelings of obligation to do something they are not yet ready or able to do.
Your identity is valid regardless of whether others know about it or not.
When you’re in the process of coming out (which tends to be a lifelong one) doing so at work can add a layer of complexity to something that already feels pretty stressful.
We asked some of our PHC communications partners who are ‘out’ at work to share wisdom they’ve gained through their process and what they wish they’d known before starting it. Here’s what they had to say:
To what they wish they could tell their pre ‘out’ self:
“It’ll all work out, so try not to stress. You won’t regret it. Live your life and worry about the backlash later if /when it becomes relevant. Coming out will allow you to find friends and communities who love you as you are, and with whom you can share a unique connection with. It’s a big gay world out there, and trust me, you want to be in it.”
“You need to chill! Stop thinking about what everybody else could think, say or do. Focus on what really matters, yourself!”
“You are lovable, you are not a mistake, your opinion matters, and you do not have to compromise every time to feel accepted”
“It will take time. You will do it in your own way.”
To those who maybe don’t feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work?
“You don’t have to come out if you don’t want to. National Coming Out Day can feel really daunting and lonely, but you are valid even if others don’t know your truth.
Take your time, progress at your own pace, and come out when you are ready and it feels safe to do so. Coming out is a gradual process, and you will continue to come out throughout your lifetime.
Not everyone will be privileged to have positive coming out experiences, but if others won’t accept you, then you can at least accept yourself, as a form of resistance.”
“You must share at your own pace and with who you feel most comfortable. Being out to yourself and honest with yourself is the most important thing.”
“It’s ok! Everyone experiences this journey differently at their own time and pace. Eventually you might feel comfortable with that, it can take days, weeks or months but that’s fine.
Just know that whenever you decide to be out, the people around you will make you feel comfortable and at ease.”
And what they’d like the PHC 2SLGBTQIA+ community to know.
“You are part of a strong and colourful community. Whether you are Ace, Aro, Demi, Intersex, Two-spirit, non-transitioning, older, BIPOC, disabled, neurodivergent, poor, or any other identity that is often erased from mainstream discourse – I see you, I recognise you, you matter.”
“Support, respect and be kind to staff of all sexual and gender identities. Our coming out experiences are as diverse as our identities, we have all chosen different paths to sharing who we are and that needs to be respected.”
“You are not alone. Our paths may have differences, but emotions are universal. Exchanging stories and coping strategies will take us even further in life.”
Is there something you’d like to tell your pre ‘out’ self? A piece of wisdom to share with colleagues who may be considering ‘coming out’ at work? Or just some general advice about the process that you’d like to share? Fill out this anonymous form and we’ll include the responses in a future story.
On this National Coming Out Day we celebrate YOU, the PHC 2SLGBTQIA+ community, wherever you are on your personal journey of self-expression.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources compiled by the PHC EDI team.