Being “out” isn’t a black and white situation. Isn’t life funny that way? Nothing is black and white. Even “black” and “white” have different shades within them (according to paint swatch cards and digital colour presentation).
Throughout my life, I’ve noticed I was “out” in many different ways. Maybe different “levels,” but I prefer to think of them as types. I don’t need to get to the next level to be any more LGBT than I am and have been while I was “out.”
Type A: Closet? What closet?
You might not even know about what closet(s) you’re sitting in. If you do, you might be in denial. You aren’t at the questioning part yet. There’s a chance you don’t even know the name of your identity.
I was this type from age 7 – 12. Yes, seven. One of my earliest memories of school is a group of bullies calling me a lesbo when I was in first grade. I didn’t know what a “lesbo” or lesbian was, since I grew up in a religious, heteronormative family. Whether they used it as a homophobic slur to label me as something wrong, or whether they saw behaviour in me that was on par with being a lesbian, they used the word. And introduced me to what it meant.
Type B: I’m only touching the closet doorknob
Are you questioning? Is this a phase? Your friends and family might wonder as well, and hell, there may be bullies or harassers who see it too. But you’re still unsure if you can own up to this new information about your ever-changing identity.
I was this type from age 12 – 13. During puberty, I came to terms with the fact that I was not straight. I wasn’t sure what I was, but I knew for a fact that I didn’t like just boys.
Type C: Okay, I’m in the closet
You’ve realised that you are such-and-such. You don’t know who to tell, or if you should tell. Who would be surprised? Who wouldn’t be surprised? If you have LGBT+ friends, you might not be out to them either.
I was this type while I was 13. I luckily had a small group of great friends after I evolved from this type, so it was easier to trust them.
Type D: Members-Only access to the closet
You’re out to only a selection of people. These could be your friends, family, or strangers online. But it’s still an exclusive group—you don’t tell everyone about your gender or sexuality. You still guard it, since there may be dangers, discomforts, or disaster if you were out to more people.
I’ve been this type since I was 14. A few things have changed since I started coming out (bisexual to pansexual, for instance; the discovery of a gender identity). But I’m still here, over 8 years later.
Type E: Welcome to my closet—I mean crib!
Your gender or sexuality is one of the first things someone new learns about you. Your friends and family know about it—some may be supportive, some may be uncomfortable, and others may even be malicious. But you’re comfortable enough about your identity to present it as part of you, regardless of who they are. Of course, there may be exceptions, but nearly everyone close to you knows about it.
I don’t think every LGBT+ member can be Type E.
We live in a world where different societies have different degrees of acceptance for gender and sexuality. But the majority of the world is still narrow-minded and bigoted, and anything different from Type A or B can present numerous risks.
Whatever type you are, your identity is still valid. You don’t have to prove your sexuality or your gender by waving a pride flag, just like religious people don’t have to prove their faith by telling everyone they know about it.
Stay where you’re comfortable. The world is still changing—even if it is hella slow.