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Coming out deserves a yearly celebration

A couple of weeks ago, I came out, again. You see, my parents knew about my status as a member of the LGBTQ community (to be specific, that I’m a gay man) because I told them when I was 16. Somehow, years later, I found that they had put me back in the closet. While they reacted more calmly this time, it wasn’t all tulips and roses like every viral coming out clip you see on TikTok. The first time I came out, one day before school, was a much more traumatic experience, so I don’t remember the exact date. But I won’t forget this one. Now, with a little perspective and a stronger inner identity, I decided that I’m going to celebrate it every year, on March 4. And I think if you remember the date, you should celebrate your own queeriversary too.

Of course, many of you might be wondering how to commemorate something so complex. “Let’s start by not getting confused on the word ‘celebration’— it is pretty difficult to genuinely feel happy and excited about a day where you held the painful memories of coming out to unsupportive parents,” says Clarice Hassan, a New York-based social worker and therapist who works with members of the queer community. “When we say ‘celebration’, you don’t need to force yourself to feel happy on this day. There can be, instead, a ritual where you acknowledge your experiences, and seek support from other resources.”

She’s right. You don’t need to come out every year to those same people that may have caused your pain or throw a giant party. I told my parents twice already. If a third time is necessary, it’ll be in the form of a wedding invitation. For me personally, the “celebration” is an acknowledgment that I affirmed my truth, regardless of how anybody else felt about it.

“When we show support to ourselves and give ourselves positive reinforcements, we start to reframe the whole experience and empower ourselves,” Hassan says. While I’m sad that my parents weren’t exactly thrilled to hear my news (again), the fact that they didn’t react as strongly as they did the first time — with Haitian, Roman Catholic, “what would Jesus think” horror — is actually growth on their part, to be fair. To me, that’s something to celebrate. Maybe, by 2040, they’ll come to Pride with me. Although I’m using optimistic levity in the place of pessimism, through celebration, I can acknowledge the fact that throughout the year I will be standing in my truth. In doing that, I’m celebrating something good about myself that I want to support myself for.

Another reason to endorse a queeriversay celebration is the outlandish existence of the gender reveal party, what I feel is the diametrical opposite and a now accepted and particularly egregious form of heteronormativity. People, the baby has no say in the matter of their own gender identity, and you haven’t met them yet, why are you already buying Barbies or toy cars for a baby in utero, based solely on expectations you’re already placing on them?

That doesn’t even begin to cover how entirely too many people have decided to celebrate the gender reveal party: with explosives. Gender reveal parties now come with a death toll. Four people have died in the last two years alone from gender reveal party disasters, and famously, the El Dorado wildfire in California in 2020 was traced back to one of them. If you remember, a firefighter also died fighting that fire. I feel that the parties are both unnecessary, and dangerous, even if they don’t have explosives. Why not wait until the baby is 10 or the baby expresses to you which sex they are — even if they are what you expected them to be, you can celebrate them when they have a say in the matter.

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Just trust me, my version of revealing something is much better for the world. And so I’ll go big (sans explosives). I plan on inviting friends, family, and hopefully, a boyfriend to next year’s celebration of my coming out. One close friend — and one of the first people I came out to at the tender age of 16 is now a therapist, so I decided to ask what her take is on turning a potentially painful day where we embrace our truths into a celebration.

“Generally speaking, our brains are wired to focus on the negative and need no additional conscious effort from us to do so,” says Elizabeth Parker, my friend and a Maryland-based marriage and family therapist. “On the other hand, acknowledging and recognizing positive thoughts or perspectives requires us to intentionally seek out, notice, and focus on these positives. By deliberately acknowledging the pain as well as also celebrating the victory, we can help our brains to have a more balanced perspective of the event.”

“Again the final task of celebration is not trying to get rid of the painful memories but to reinforce the positive things about yourself and to embrace the sad part,” Hassan says, adding that this doesn’t change the memory, but offers a new way of looking at the experience. This is the psychological practice of reframing. In memory, we highlight the part of us that feels proud about asserting ourselves and the strength it took to manage a difficult experience, and that serves as a protective factor and helps me to see myself as a positive, brave person. Which, yeah, I am, and that’s something to celebrate.