Friday, September 20, 2013

A Post on Privilege and Coming Out

When an acquaintance admitted to being very mainstream, part of the dominant Christian culture, and concerned about making others uncomfortable with her ignorance, a few of us chimed in to thank her and offer perspective and suggestions. Here are mine.

Some of the issues that are integral to who we are but that we feel we have to hide are sexual orientations, gender queerness, alternative romantic and sexual relationships, religious/spiritual beliefs and lack thereof, social and political beliefs and activism, and even our passionate support of everyone else in these categories.

Lead your questions with "May I ask ... ?" in a gentle tone. It's very respectful, and I, for one, respond very positively to iteager to inform and comfortable with declining if I don't want to discuss it in that moment. If someone is brave enough to open up to you, understand that they may or may not feel up to giving you the full alt-lifestyle 101 lecture, and that you are not entitled to be educated by them. There are hundreds of blogs and articles and books about it; ask for reading recommendations if you want to learn more.*

We censor ourselves in front of our family, our coworkers, and new people we meet, ever wary of the climate in any group. Some of us have come out to people who we expected to love us unconditionally and received some traumatic fucking backlash because of their selfishness and close-mindedness. And it's scarier still to imagine how acquaintances and strangers might react.

I'm a very privileged, educated, intelligent, middle-class, cis-presenting, hetero-presenting, conventionally attractive, slim, and able-bodied white woman living in a safe neighborhood. What could I possibly have to complain about?

  • But I am terrified to talk about my relationships at work or family gatherings. My family doesn't know that I've been with my boyfriend for nearly 2 years; they don't know about him at all. My coworkers know but not why we can't move in together or marry.
  • I'm afraid in most spaces to share HAES concepts, because dieting is so firmly entrenched in our cultural narrative and I don't like it when people think me daft for espousing such ideas, no matter how much science backs me up. Or worse, many think me ignorant of reality and my own weight discredits me.
  • I'm warming to the idea of coming out as atheist, at least in friendly spaces where the issue comes up, but I still kept fearfully silent at a Meetup event this week with an enthusiastic believer.

I admire those out there with the bravery to live fully open, and I try to be kind to myself and refrain from berating myself for not doing the same. I've discussed it with my boyfriend, and we're on the same page of not wanting to spark anger, backlash, and disappointment directed at us; we spend enough energy coping with life's difficulties. I choose my battles and closets carefully, and I still spend a large chunk of my time stressed out, anxious, worried, depressed, and sleeping poorly.

I'm not sure I'll ever feel safe enough to come out of all these closets, but I do think someday I will be strong enough.

*She did, and I led off with Skepchick and Queereka because they're very intersectional. Another friend recommended The Friendly Atheist. What resources would you suggest?

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