How Queer People “Come In”

Shoshana Rosenberg

shoshana.rosenberg@curtin.edu.au I Curtin University

 

Key Learnings:

  • “Coming In”, the process of self-acceptance and self-understanding, is a vital aspect of queer people’s experiences
  • “Coming Out” is not a linear process, and disclosure does not determine satisfaction
  • Sexual self-discovery is a life-long process

Contemporary perspectives on the development and concretisation of queer sexuality continue to focus on the external factors involved with negotiating one’s sexuality, such as community engagement and self-disclosure (a.k.a Coming Out). Coming Out in particular is posited in most literature as the core determinant for achieving satisfaction and self-acceptance as a queer person. This logic dictates that ‘closeted’ individuals cannot attain these experiences of growth, and those who have ‘come out of the closet’ are assured them. However, this narrative does not comprehensively reflect the experiences of queer people. For many, these negotiations are far more complex, and the process of self-disclosure is neither monolithic nor finite. Coming Out is not linear, and cannot be easily identified by a model or graph. It is also not the most prominent key to self-acceptance and understanding for many queer people. 

Through interviews with 12 queer Western Australian people, the author explored queer emotional and psychological experiences of sexual self-discovery. Interviewees reflected significant variations in experiences, priorities and understandings of their ‘journey’ to sexuality and where they sat with it at the time of the interview. Ultimately, self-disclosure’s role was deprioritised for most interviewees, with self-acceptance, self-comprehension and the acceptance of queer sexuality as an ongoing process being much more salient aspects of their journey. 

The author has labelled this refocusing of queer sexual narratives, from self-disclosure to internal processes and cognitions, as Coming In. This is in response to the intensive societal focus on Coming Out, which often erases the perpetual nature of self-disclosure, as well as the vital internal processes involved in realising and materialising queer sexuality. Ultimately, both self-disclosure and Coming In form parts of a queer person’s narrative; but it is important to privilege those hidden parts of sexuality formation which are often missing from the story.