For National Coming Out Day: 15 Quotes Defending Outspoken Queerness

Editor's Note:

If you’re stirred by these author quotes, amble down our archive for more.

To those looking on from the outside, coming out as queer may no longer seem like a terribly momentous occasion. This act, however, remains a singular event in the life of anyone who’s been keeping a pivotal part of themselves concealed — whether deliberately, or because their natural comportment causes them to pass among others undetected.

Last month’s bisexual visibility event was a terrific reminder of how many people remain stuck at the threshold of this experience — too queer to ever feel “normal,” but still all-too-often overlooked and deprived of queer fellowship. Now, on National Coming Out Day, we recognize the courage it takes to become visible as anything other, and the liberation that takes place as we welcome our friends and family to know us better, to see us the way we see ourselves.

This step, be it tiny or great, is not one we must take unaided. Below are quotes from authors who, consciously or otherwise, left stepping stones behind for outspoken queer people of all stripes to tread on. Revel in your newfound freedom, or that of your loved ones, and remember: behind every grimace or savage word may be someone who hasn’t been able to summon the courage to do what you’ve already done.

As James Baldwin (also quoted below) wrote in The Fire Next Time, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Tennessee Williams, The Mutilated, 1941
“I think the strange, the crazed, the queer
will have their holiday this year,
I think for just a little while
there will be pity for the wild.”

Jennifer Diemer, “I am Not a Secondary Character: Queer Kids in YA, and Why We Need to Do Better,” 2011
“Gay kids aren’t a ‘plot point’ that you can play with. Gay kids are real, actual kids, teenagers, growing up into awesome adults, and they don’t have the books they need to reflect that.”

L. Frank Baum, The Road to Oz, 1909
“‘You have some queer friends, Dorothy,’ she said.

‘The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends,’ was the answer.”

Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms, 1948
“The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell.”

Natalie Clifford Barney, Letters to a Woman I Have Known (unpublished)
“My queerness is not a vice, is not deliberate, and harms no one.”

Diane DiMassa, The Complete Hothead Paisan: Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist, 1991
“dykes were put here to tip the scales! we have a very important job and i wouldn’t trade it for the world. give me a choice between breeding, accelerated aging, living with an orangutan, and maid duty for life…or, autonomy, black boots, multiple orgasms, cats instead of kids, people who say what they mean, and nothing stopping me from doing whatever i wanna do…and guess which one i pick?”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass preface, 1855
“Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul…”

Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems, 1956
“The closet door is open for me, where I left it, since I left it open, it has graciously stayed open.”

Alison Bechdel, Are You My Mother?, 2012
“If it weren’t for the unconventionality of my desires, my mind might never have been forced to reckon with my body.”

Oscar WildePhrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, 1894
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”

Calista Lynne, We Awaken, 2016
“Maybe we weren’t broken after all.”

S. Bear Bergman, Blood, Marriage, Wine, & Glitter, 2013
“Glitter family is my long-time favourite term for this: the people who those of us pushed to society’s margins (and beyond) make our cohort. Glitter is known to be shiny and unruly, easy to get and hard to be rid of. I love the drag connotations and the femme visibility of it, as well as its unmistakably queer sensibility—look only as far as glitter-bombing for proof that nothing is as thoroughly and satisfyingly queer as glitter.”

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room, 1956
“People can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes them away and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.”

Gertrude Stein, “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” 1922
“They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.”

Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt, 1952
“What was it to love someone, what was love exactly, and why did it end or not end? Those were the real questions, and who could answer them?”