In history, the first use of the term “coming out” didn’t refer to gay people coming out to their families, but rather, gay people coming out to each other before World War II. There’s this iconic story of an elite group of gay men who “came out” at drag balls modeled after debutante balls in the nation’s biggest cities, according to historian George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World.
I want to see that movie.
What’s not as well-documented is when coming out lost its glamour. Today, the idea of coming out carries weight. Somewhere in the last 100 years, coming out transformed from a celebration into a dreaded delivery, a scary situation, or worse.
I know the feeling of coming out to people who are not supportive and don’t have our back. It’s a million self-doubts and uncontrollable outcomes. Chaos is the only way I know how to describe this fire of fear inside.
Even if it goes right, we spend weeks trying to prepare for the fall. The pressure we put on ourselves to know everything about whatever happens next is wild. I mean, the idea that we could know everything about ourselves and what we like all at once, especially in the context of sexuality and being 16, is insane to me.
From those fires and ashes rise beautiful moments, too. Moments where people come out in the safe, warm light of love and they learn that knowing who you are is a superpower.
Fourteen people have come out to me this month. People I’ve known from conferences. A human I met for the first time and friends from 20+ years ago.
Every time, I just thank God they chose me because when I was in their shoes, I needed someone like me. A person to listen to me talk about nothing until it made sense—someone who just knew how it felt, or at least pretended to.
The conversations are healing and heavy at the same time. Watching someone have that click of understanding who they are is the most healing thing in the world. There’s no joy like it. I get to watch them feel that love for the first time. It’s also heavy because I carry their secrets, too. Their fears. All the panic and vulnerability that comes with sharing a secret.
Queer or not, you can be that safe place for this beautiful moment. We can empower and be with people. You can be the person that reminds someone knowing who you are isn’t wrong. Knowing who you are is a superpower. If you’re not sure what to say? Watch the video. Say this – whether they’re non-binary or not.
This month, when I’ve felt like I can’t possibly keep going – I think of those faces. The joy. The fear. I want them to imagine a world where they could be loved just for being. That’s all. Nothing special.
I want that for all of us so badly, and we are not even close to there. So I keep showing up this month and every single one after that. Pride is not a month. It’s not a party. For me, it’s a riot to recreate a world where people can be loved for who they are and where coming out is a party again.
I hope you’ll consider that as you plan education and training for the rest of the year: where can we make our people better humans and send them into the world to impart that influence on others?
It starts with education, and that’s what my blog is about this week. It’s a preview of a new presentation I’m bringing to conferences and companies this fall on how to be a better ally in the context of gendered language and pronouns. You can book a conversation with me to schedule a session here.
I also have a new post on WorkHuman you might like – Active Allyship: Pronouns for Building Belonging
Until next week. Happy Pride –
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.