Wait. What?! You can't mix the debutante ball traditions of coming out as heterosexual and ready for marriage with the traditions of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, celebrating those who have come out as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) and allied people. Heavens! That's far too postmodern, twisted and subversive. Give us a coming out less elitist, less sexist and, gosh darn it, less clever!
Okay, okay, the reluctant columnist agrees, settling for a tidy moral maxim. You can simply be open and honest about yourselves, friends, families and relationships. Be ready and willing to discuss your gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression. No ceremony, no white dress. No big deal. Just be real with people, and respect other people who are real with you. That's the point of National Coming Out Week.
Unfortunately, that environment doesn't exist yet. We're not all honest and open about ourselves. If this culture doesn't need rituals for coming out as queer, then why does Lance Bass still make the cover of People for announcing that he's gay? Obviously, the ritual of coming out remains important in a dominant culture that assumes heterosexuality and conformity to a strict gender binary.
However, if people who are GLBT need these rituals to be honest with their communities, why shouldn't people who are straight and heteronormative have to come out, too? GLBT people can't have all the fun. After all, nobody really knows what their sexuality or gender identity and expression will be until around puberty or after. So why doesn't President Bush make headlines for flaunting his heterosexual lifestyle by holding hands with his straight heterosexual lover, Laura? I think that he should.
So, if you are straight, or if you identify with the whole neatly packaged gender identity your parents gave you, you may have never had to announce it to anyone. And if you haven't, why don't you give it a try? You may want to practice beforehand. It can be a little stressful. Make some prompt cards, and rehearse the series of questions Grandma might ask you when she finds out you like people of the opposite sex: Why did you decide to be straight? Do you think it's just a phase? Does this mean that you're going to give me too many grandchildren and continue overpopulating the earth? Do you know that about half of all straight marriages end in divorce? Why do you people always flaunt your heterosexuality in front of us? By the way, I think I saw one of you on Bravo last week.
Really. Call home and tell your folks that college has helped you come out as heterosexual. Not only are you straight, but after a long and painful journey, you've decided to accept the gender identity that your parents conditioned you to have. You're gonna mark one of two (and only two) gender boxes on all the forms you fill out, and it's gonna be the same box your parents marked when you were born.
Practice what you'll say to your friends, too. Be prepared for them to be a little uncomfortable, surprised or maybe even a little overeager to be your friend. Also, be ready to be somebody's straight best friend. I mean, straight best friends are so perfect: they have a great chance of winning public office, and since they never hit on you, you can dump all your emotional baggage on them and still leave them for a better date on Friday night.
For as long as such rituals are needed, and as long as predominant social expectations assume heteronormativity in Lance Bass, Coming Out Day is important and needed. So, make up some rituals. Walk down a staircase in a dress. Make a phone call. Throw a party. Invite a friend to coffee. Come out as straight, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, two spirit, intersex, genderqueer, heteroflexible, homoflexible, transsexual, questioning, curious, allied, androgyne and/or queer. After all, closets are for clothes.