“Okay… I’m doing this,” a woman says with a small tremor in her voice. “There is something that I want you to know, and that something is…” She pauses–eyebrows lifted as she takes a large gulp of air.
On June 9th, internet celebrity Ingrid Nilsen disclosed her sexual orientation to millions of subscribers on YouTube. However, Nilsen is not the only person to have released a “coming out” video in the recent months; popular content creators such as Joey Graceffa, Connor Franta, and the Rhodes Brothers are among many who have done the same.
In our increasingly connected world, all forms of coming out statements have been brought into the forefront of our social media. Take fourth-year Life Science student Kevan McDougall’s story, for instance.
In a “Humans of McMaster” post back in March (which has been viewed over 10,000 times) McDougall shared that he owed himself the courage to be more vulnerable, before discussing personal experiences with his mental health and identifying as gay.
While some may liken coming out online to a social media fad–a contest for internet virality–it is in reality anything but a simple fad. Coming out is a highly personal process that is not reduced to a single event in time.
“It was definitely a process,” McDougall shares, “one that included coming to terms with myself, speaking with family, coming to university, and being in the right, supportive environment.” The reality of all coming out experiences is that most of it happens away from cameras and cellphones. It is a natural and ongoing process of personal discovery that can span from weeks to years, and even decades.
Although coming out statements today are increasingly met with acceptance, there has also been space for fair criticism. Specifically, in an age where the discourse of LGBTQ+ related issues is moving towards normalization, we find ourselves living with a strange dissonance in which this discourse is simultaneously normalized and sometimes interpreted as being over-dramatized, especially when shared online or in public forums.
“Moving forward, I think we need to stop treating LGBTQ+ discussions as an abnormal topic we always dance around,” explains Jennifer Chan, a third-year Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour student, “we are just people who want to love and be loved–like everyone else.”
Similarly, Marina Monahar, a third-year Communication Sudies and Multimedia student, also encourages readers to think about coming out differently.
“Sexuality is very fluid, and people should do as they please without labels.”
While it may not be possible to completely wipe out the idea of publicly coming out, what we can do is redefine the phrase for ourselves. Choose to see coming out as an enlightening process of self-discovery, instead of a single moment when one dramatically comes out of hiding. Choose to learn about the fluidity and plurality of our sexualities, and choose to understand everyone’s story. The only thing we should come out of is a closed mind.