SF Unconference 2017 — Session #2: Out in the __________

This is a summary of some of the topics discussed in the “Out in the ________” session at the 2017 SF Asexuality Unconference.

This session was about coming out or being out as asexual.  How to do it, where to do it, why to do it, and so on.

First, there’s a difference between “coming out” and “staying out”.  A lot of people tend to think that you come out once, and that’s it, you’re out forever.  Not the case.  Get a new roommate?  Time to come out again.  Get a new job?  Time to come out again.  Move to a new city?  Then you’re coming out all over the place.  It can get easier the more you do it.

There’s also a difference between being “out” and being “out loud”.  You can be “out”, where it’s a nonchalant part of who you are and you don’t really go around broadcasting, or you can be “out loud”, where you make an effort to make sure everyone around you knows.

Coming out tends to come with questions.  Be prepared for them, but understand that you’re not obligated to answer them if you don’t want to.  You’re not responsible for someone else’s education.  Some people direct those with questions to other resources (like this site).  When answering questions, you might have to decide whether to take a broad view and launch into an Asexuality 101 lecture, or whether to be specific and stick to how you feel.  Which you choose can depend on the context.  Your best friend might get the pour-your-heart-out unabridged version, while a coworker might just get a simple “I’m asexual.”

Speaking of coworkers, many of the people in the group talked about how they weren’t really out at work, for one reason or another.  Some discussed working in a sexualized atmosphere where asexuality would be ostracized, while others mentioned that sexuality isn’t really discussed in their workplace, so bringing up asexuality would be out of place.

Some people talked about coming out on social media.  For some, it was a helpful way to get the information out to everyone at the same time, while avoiding in-person drama.  However, it was brought up that it’s easy to miss posts on many social media platforms, so if you’ve posted something, maybe some algorithm down in Mountain View decided that your mother shouldn’t see it.  Additionally, some people rely on customized security settings to keep some posts from certain people or groups, but those security settings are easy to get mixed up.

Compartmentalizing was important to some people.  They may be out loud around their friends, out to their coworkers, and deep in the closet to family members.

One suggestion for coming out was to just assume everyone knows, then act surprised when someone doesn’t know.  It turns the tables on the common, “I have something to tell you script”, by making it into “How did you miss that?”, which can lessen the stress around it.

It was brought up that we lack a prominent person to point to and say “They’re like me”.  We don’t have an Ellen.  We don’t have an Alan Cumming.  We don’t have a Laverne Cox.  Having someone like that would go a long way to help people be comfortable in their asexuality and give them a common point of reference when they come out.  There’s some people like Janeane Garafalo or Tim Gunn, but no one prominent who’s vocally ace.  We need someone better than Sheldon and Sherlock to point to.

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