Today is National Coming Out Day! As you may have known, I am already quite out, not just online but offline too. I came out last year, first by blog, then to a few friends, then on Facebook, and then at loud parties, then in public restaurants, then in... well, you get the point.
I'm also in the strange circumstance of having to come out to many people twice, as gay and asexual. Sometimes this is just because it's assumed (for example, if I refer to my boyfriend), and other times it's just because I don't tell the whole story. And I probably contradict myself sometimes too. I guess as a man of reason, that's something I'm not supposed to do? But it's okay, because where I draw the line between gay and asexual is pretty arbitrary anyway.
Since I'm already "out of the closet", what's the point of Coming Out Day? Isn't that over and done with? Not really. Contrary to what the closet analogy might suggest, you never really stop coming out. We've all known hundreds to thousands of people in our lives, and there's a constant flux of new people. You'd think you can come out to all of them on Facebook, but a lot of people don't pay attention. How it ends up is that you just can't keep track of who knows and who doesn't.
At the same time, there is a sense in which we come out of the closet just once. Because the first few times, it's really nerve-wrecking. After a while, you build some self-confidence, and it becomes commonplace. An activity can only inspire so much anxiety after you've done it dozens of times in dozens of situations. (The exception is parents, who will always be nerve-wrecking to come out to.)
There are political reasons to come out (knowing a someone you know is gay is the best indicator of social acceptance), but I also advocate it for personal reasons. I feel that when you come out, you don't just become more confident about the coming out process, you also become more confident in general.
Note that, just because I'm really out, that doesn't make me some kind of coming out expert. I think mostly I just have it ridiculously lucky. My parents are accepting. Most of my friends were either physics or skeptical enthusiasts, and they were all college-age. What's more, because I already had the experience of coming out as atheist, I had already built a lot of the necessary confidence, and I already knew my parents would be accepting.
I am probably not very sensitive to people who have much bigger obstacles to coming out. I just naively recommend it to everyone. I do have one tip though, and it's a bit counter-intuitive. Since the first coming out experience is more about building confidence rather than actually educating people, I recommend first coming out to someone you don't know very well. It's lower risk. Small steps...