Why Natalie Morales Coming Out As “Queer” Matters To The LGBTQ+ Community
When celebrities come out it can really benefit our community.
Photo by Scott Witter
Natalie Morales, of Parks and Recreation fame, came out as queer in an essay on Smart Girls, last Friday.
Natalie, who is now starring with Drew Barrymore in the Santa Clarita Diet, wrote: “I don’t like labeling myself, or anyone else, but if it’s easier for you to understand me, what I’m saying is that I’m queer. What queer means to me is just simply that I’m not straight.”
When celebrities come out as LGBTQ+, it has a whole wealth of benefits for our community in terms of mental health, and public attitude towards LGBTQ+ people and issues.
According to Sarah Gormillion and Dr Traci Giuliano, in a study on The Influence of Media Role Models on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity, positive representation of LGBTQ+ people in the media in general is incredibly important to the mental health of LGBTQ+ people because it lets you know that “you are not alone”, makes you feel happier about being yourself, and may encourage LGBTQ+ people come out.
That all sounds pretty incredible to me.
In her essay, Natalie wrote: “[I think my coming out] it’s important that if there are any scared kids out there, like I was, I can tell you that whole “It Gets Better” campaign is true. It does. And you’re not weird. You’re not bad. You’re not unholy. You’re exactly what God intended you to be. You are exactly what you are supposed to be, because nothing is supposed to be anything except for what it is, even if not everyone understands that. You are an essential part of the world just as you were created, and I want to see you. The real you.”
There are some people who claim not to know any lesbians or transgender people or pansexuals (as if you could tell by looking). Some people use this lack of visibility in order to discriminate against our community by using lies and bigotry to demonize us in the same way that other marginalized identities are targeted or refusing to institute protections under the law because if you can’t see something, you don’t always understand that it needs protection.
Natalie wrote: “The reason I decided to share this with you and with the world is because even though me telling you I’m queer might not be a big deal these days, things are still pretty bad out there for people like me. There are gay concentration camps in Chechnya where people are being tortured right this second. In our very country, 49 people were killed and 58 people were wounded just last year because they were dancing in a gay club. Our safe spaces are not safe. ”
When celebrities come out, it can humanise LGBTQ+ people for straight and cis people. It sucks that some straight and cis people need this in order to support, or even just accept, us but now fans of Natalie’s work can’t claim they’ve never seen an LGBTQ+ person and that appears to be how she sees it too.
She said: “It’s important that I tell you that this familiar face you see on your TV is the Q part of LGBTQ, so that if you didn’t know someone who was queer before, you do now.”
While there’s no doubt that extra representation is a boon for our community, it does always require a huge amount of emotional labor on the part of the person coming out.
If you are planning on coming out, then you’ll likely spend a lot of time psyching yourself up to tell someone (and if you’re anything like me, the conversation in your head goes something like “just say it…tell them you’re queer... just blurt it out..”) and you may not get there the first time.
Over the course of your life, it’s unlikely that you’ll only ever have to come out once (which is definitely not how they sold it to me in the movies). In a heteronormative society, you are straight until proven otherwise, so every time you make a new friend, start a new job, move to a new area, you’ll go through the same process over and over again.
It doesn’t always go well and it’s often hard to do but, I would argue, worth it in order to live as your true self.
Ultimately, it’s a decision that only you can make but please know that, whether you are out or not, you are loved and you are valued and your community is always here for you.