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  • Writer's pictureElise Braunschweiger

Inviting In vs. Coming Out

The concept of “coming out” is complicated. The idea is that members of the LGBTQIA+ community will, at some point in their lives and having been assumed heterosexual, need to inform those around them of their queerness in the form of a confessional. In 2016, the US even created National Coming Out Day to celebrate queer visibility. 

In today’s social and cultural landscape, we’ve begun to criticize the language and ideology surrounding the “coming out” process. Why are we, as queer people, responsible for relaying our sexual preferences to others? Why are we assumed straight to begin with anyway, and why is the onus of correcting that information placed on us

The idea of “coming out” is supposed to be empowering, but instead is often stressful and laborious. So in response to this, our community has begun to shift the narrative from “coming out” to “letting in.”

“Letting in” differs from coming out in that it gives agency and autonomy to the queer person in question. Instead of the insinuation that they’ve been “hiding” and therefore need to “emerge from the closet,” the language of “letting in” centers instead on community cultivating and trust building. Rather than a confession of a secret, this is a communion of chosen friends and family. 

Where “coming out” falls short, “letting in” may be a better fit. Outside of the negative insinuations that “coming out” often begets, it also might not be relevant for a huge portion of the population. Not every gay person lives a life mired in secrecy. Not every queer person who comes out later in life was secretly queer all along. For many, questioning their sexual identity is a lifelong exploration without a definitive end point to exclaim to those around you. In “letting in,” we can view this process as a conversation that will continue to take place over time and in various forms, all with the intention of bonding with those close to us. 

Fundamentally, “letting in'' gives the LGBTQIA+ community more flexibility and frames the process of communicating our identity as a positive, exploratory one rather than one which comes from shame, secrecy, and compulsory heterosexuality.

Instead, it’s an invitation into the unique parts of who we are, whenever we’re ready, and with permission for those things to change. 

Lastly, “letting in” allows people who cannot or do not want to have these conversations with the traditional parties associated with “coming out” (i.e. immediate and extended family, close friends, colleagues, etc.) to opt out of this, without it defining their queerness. In “coming out,” it’s assumed if we haven’t undergone this confessional process then we are hiding. In “letting in,” we simply are who we are and some people will be trusted enough to explore that with us. Where one is an honor to bestow on loved ones and an opportunity for connection, the other might be a laborious and stressful process of undoing a lifetime of projections as to what you “ought to be.” 

There are few resources out there available for those who are questioning their sexuality or who want to explore what “letting in” their friends/family might look like. Because of this, we created a coaching package specifically for you, called Newly Out, which you can view here. This is one of many resources we provide to the queer community in an effort to support them on their own unique journeys, so if you feel like you could use some help, please don’t hesitate to contact our team today.

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