Communicating the queer experience
By: Sabrina Girard-Lamas, Design Editor
Coming out seems an almost contradictory concept. Although the subject is deeply personal, it is an exercise in communication, and therefore its essence is interpersonal.
Coming out in entertainment media is often depicted through a tragic narrative; I believe that this wastes the potential of exploring the fundamentals of human communication. Among others, there is the impact of the perception of oneself, the need to convey the right information, the desire to be understood, and the obstacles caused by fear and apprehension.
« Il m’a fallu du temps pour digérer la nouvelle, mais au final, ça a du sens. Tu gravites naturellement vers les femmes.»
"It took me some time to digest the news. In the end, it makes sense. You’ve always naturally gravitated toward women.”
I classified McGill as a work environment. Although McGill’s setting is academic, those with whom I shared my classes today would become my coworkers tomorrow. To me, it seemed more appropriate to refrain from discussing my private life, causing the details of my love life to be irrelevant. However, over the years, as I got closer to some people, the relationship [with my classmates] slowly evolved from colleagues to friends, and it fostered my desire to come out to them. Since then, communication has been much simpler.
«Je n’ai aucun problème avec qui tu es. J’ai peur du traitement que la société t'infligera.»
“I don’t have a problem accepting who you are. I am afraid of the treatment society will inflict upon you.”
Once I came out to my friends, I didn't want them to keep it a secret, but I also didn't want them to go out of their way to publicize it to everyone. I think they were mostly scared of outing me against my will. I would [have preferred] them telling our mutual friends, so I don't have to go through the process of coming out repetitively. It’s less awkward [....] I am naturally shy when meeting new people. Communicating naturally and confidently is hard enough without trying to hide who I am.
«Je suis honorée que tu te sentes assez en confiance pour me le dire.»
“I am honoured you felt safe enough to tell me.”
It’s really difficult for me to transfer my thoughts and feelings into fully articulated sentences. So, when I have to tell big news or try to express how I feel, it can be very frustrating to put the right words together and be very clear with the person I’m communicating with. When you say something out loud, it feels like it’s very final, [like] you can’t go back from what you said or how you said it.
So, when I first came out to my brother, I asked my best friend to bring it up to him when I was in the shower and out of the room. This was so I didn’t slip up or become too anxious that I couldn’t transfer my thoughts into sentences—I wanted to make sure that I could express myself in a way that was very articulate and well thought out so he didn’t think what I was saying was a new idea I had or just something I wanted to ‘try out’. Coming out is really difficult because you have to put months, maybe years, of conflicting thoughts, emotional experiences, and heavy feelings into one sentence or conversation.
“Who’s the lucky one?”
“I've known for a long time.”
“Thank you for telling me. I never thought I would meet someone like me.”
“Did I do this to you? Where did I go wrong?”
Regarding coming out, communication becomes especially hard for immigrants and people of colour, because there isn’t always the correct vocabulary in your native language. Words like “gay” or “bisexual” don’t always have a proper equivalent. [So] if there’s a language barrier between my family and I, and if I don’t even know how to talk to them about my life, how can I talk to them about love?