Coming Out of Fear
By: Burgundy MacLeod, MA Student
Every June, the LGBTQIA2S+ community gets to come together to celebrate their pride in being who they are and who they love freely, unapologetically and wholly. However, each year as a community we have to remember those who came before us – those who helped pave our way to the rights that we now have. It is incredibly important to remember and appreciate the trans women, and the people of colour who fought for our rights during Stonewall, to honour and remember the ones lost and loved during the AIDS crisis and to appreciate what we have because of them but acknowledge that we still have a long way to go in regards to our rights and freedoms. Thanks to all of these wonderful and beautiful souls, we have come a long way in accessing rights and freedoms that our community truly deserves. Unfortunately, in this day and age we still have a far way to go in terms of full acceptance from the heteronormative world.
Two years ago, the entire LGBTQIA2S+ community around the world came to an absolute standstill on June 12th during the Pulse Nightclub shooting. For myself, this was the first real attack on the community, my community, that left me feeling so numb and scared. Hearing about all of the beautiful lives lost – most of them around my age; hearing the stories of what they were doing with their lives. But then I remember hearing the hardest part of some of the stories; some of the folks who lost their lives had family members that did not know they identified as LGBTQIA2S+.
Prior to this evening I had only come out to a few people; not because I was afraid but because I did not consider it to be a big deal. After this tragic night, I spent many nights tossing and turning – feeling restless, angry and upset not knowing what I could do to help the community. I kept having vivid dreams and kept thinking ‘what if this was me?’. What if I was hurt and my family and friends were left wondering why I was at a queer night event. It was during this time that I realized that in order to properly grieve I needed to come out to my family and everyone else. Now do not get me wrong, I never want to diminish or belittle this tragic event. I think about these beautiful people on the regular. I felt that by coming out because of this I was able to fully grieve with the community, I was able to honour those lives lost and this also allowed me to completely stand up with and support the community.
Earlier I stated that I had never came out prior to this because I did not consider to it to be a big deal. Back then, my sexuality was always an afterthought. Prior to officially coming out I had known for many years that I had identified as a pansexual queer cisgendered woman, but I felt that I did not need to be out. After the Pulse shooting, I realized that this was a huge disservice to myself. By coming out I was able to represent myself, a member of the community that I had never seen represented before. It took me several weeks afterwards to completely decide that coming out at this time was the right thing to do. While I was deciding whether or not to wait to come out, I was considering whether or not it would be an appropriate time to do so. I did not want to be using this tragedy, as well as other people’s pain as a means to my gain.
My decision to come out during this time not only stemmed from fear but also because I have never really felt like I belonged within the community. The community often struggles to represent pansexual and bisexual people as being valid and at this time, I felt that then more than ever was the right time to claim my identity. During difficult times like these a lot of people have the tendency to want to hide, I felt that I needed to be visible; that the community needed to be visible. That for those of us who have the privilege to be out safely needed to come together and show everyone that we are here, we are queer and we are not going anywhere. After all, there is power in visibility.