Dream on little dreamers: Complexities of coming out

Rachel Saunders
5 min readFeb 17, 2024
Photo by Sebastian Arie Voortman: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-wearing-backpack-214575/

Coming out has always been a complicated process, in most part due to anxieties over how others will react to your newly affirmed self. Yet, as most who come out know, the process is never complete, there are always new people to come out to, and even new conceptions of self that you come to understand about your self. To come out is both a declaration of intent and fulfilling a personal dream that you have of a better place for yourself in the world. Indeed, the duel nature of coming out reveals more about ourselves to us as people in the world than it does to those around us, as the first person who we come out to are ourselves. For some it is as easy as breathing, others feel like they are Atlas carrying the weight of the world, for everyone who comes out it is a personal odyssey that can be both Scylla and Charybdis and the golden fleece.

I have come out many times in my life, first as trans, then as bi, then queer, and now something much more amorphous and personal. Each time I talk about my gender or sexuality around others I calibrate them, gauging how much I can talk about myself without stepping over an invisible line. As long as the world is cis/heteronormative then I will always be coming out till the day I die, it is the nature of things. This means that the side of myself that is same-sex attracted, is camp, exuberant, queer as fuck, is always kept low key. Coming out is not a one and done, it is a perpetual process, one that is refined and always evolving.

This is why when we talk of coming out it is not merely the initial super nova of self-acceptance, it is a continual journey. Many aspects of it are ritualised within queer discourse, and the internet is awash with coming out tales, fears of coming out, and announcements of new selves we wish the world to see. There is no one way to come out, much like there is no singular person you tell, other than yourself, who that message is tailored for. I used to carrying around two keyrings, one with my old name, one with my current name, and tell people what I was planning a year in advance of when I actually came out. That my parents were the last to know was my way of doing things. Often this is the case if you fear parental displeasure, its all about calibrating expectation and fear, living the dream tinged with nightmares around the edges.