Not all straight people understand the importance of coming out. Photo: Getty
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Why coming out matters

Your sexuality is an important part of you, and no one should be allowed to diminish that.

This week, Slate’s advice columnist Emily Yoffe (Dear Prudence) advised a bisexual woman not to come out. According to Yoffe, within the context of this woman’s happy marriage to a man, her sexuality is irrelevant, and even slightly icky. She compares coming out as bi in this situation to announcing to your family, over Thanksgiving dinner, that you’re into plushophilia (sexual attraction to cuddly toys). Suggesting that bisexuality is on a par with wanting to hump a Beanie Baby is, in itself, hugely offensive. But this is just one element of a damagingly shoddy piece of advice. Here’s my own advice to Yoffe’s “irrelevant” closet case:

Dear Irrelevant,

I’d like to start by saying that you’re not. Your sexuality is an important part of you. I’m not making an assumption here. It clearly matters to you enough to seek answers about it from an advice columnist. You mentioned in your letter to Dear Prudence that you had only recently admitted to yourself that you’re bi. It’s such a shame that, for so many of us, sexuality is still something with which we have to “come to terms”. Perhaps it wasn’t easy for you to accept that you’re attracted to women, and for that you have not only my sympathy, but, I’m certain, that of LGBT people all over the world.

And unfortunately, “coming out” still exists. So far, you’ve come out to your husband, which is admirable. I’m glad to hear that your sexuality doesn’t matter to him, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t matter to you. In fact, it matters to him so little that he’s asked you not to come out to anyone else, because he sees it as immaterial. I’m so sorry to say this, and I’m sure you’re perfectly aware of it, but it seems to me that he isn’t (yet) entirely accepting of you.

This probably isn’t deliberate. Not all straight people understand the importance of coming out – why would they? When you’ve gone your entire life without having to think about the social and political ramifications of who you prefer to sleep with, you may not realise that sexual self-acceptance is even a thing.

I know from personal experience that keeping your sexuality to yourself is hard. It’s not tricky or a mild annoyance – it’s full-on difficult. A bit like trying to hide a fridge. How would you go about hiding a fridge? I don’t even know. However you did it, it would probably be a lot of effort for the negligible reward of having successfully hidden a fridge.

So, I’d say this: having to hide fridges is oppressive. If your bisexuality feels like a big part of who you are, then talk about it with whoever the hell you like. Tell them you belt out Tegan & Sara songs in the shower; that Charlize Theron in lycra was the only good thing about Prometheus – whatever you want. Celebrate yourself.

Coming out as bisexual is important, even for people in hetero relationships. And I’d urge you to show your two kids that no one should have to conceal their sexuality. You’ve said that you’re committed to your marriage, and everyone should know that you’re no more likely to leave your husband for a woman than you are for another man. It just so happens that you’re bisexual, and that isn’t, as Dear Prudence would have you believe, a fetish. It may not be something you’ll ever act on, but it’s still something to be cherished.

Wishing you the best of luck, whatever you choose to do,

Eleanor, lesbian

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

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Want to send a positive Brexit message to Europe? Back Arsene Wenger for England manager

Boris Johnson could make a gesture of goodwill. 

It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Sam Allardyce, who coveted the England job for so many years, before losing it after playing just a single match. Yet Allardyce has only himself to blame and the Football Association were right to move quickly to end his tenure.

There are many candidates for the job. The experience of Alan Pardew and the potential of Eddie Howe make them strong contenders. The FA's reported interest in Ralf Rangner sent most of us scurrying to Google to find out who the little known Leipzig manager is. But the standout contender is Arsenal's French boss Arsene Wenger, 

Would England fans accept a foreign manager? The experience of Sven Goran-Eriksson suggests so, especially when the results are good. Nobody complained about having a Swede in charge the night that England won 5-1 in Munich, though Sven's sides never won the glittering prizes, the Swede proving perhaps too rigidly English in his commitment to the 4-4-2 formation.

Fabio Capello's brief stint was less successful. He never seemed happy in the English game, preferring to give interviews in Italian. That perhaps contributed to his abrupt departure, falling out with his FA bosses after he seemed unable to understand why allegations of racial abuse by the England captain had to be taken seriously by the governing body.

Arsene Wenger could not be more different. Almost unknown when he arrived to "Arsene Who?" headlines two decades ago, he became as much part of North London folklore as all-time great Arsenal and Spurs bosses, Herbert Chapman or Bill Nicholson, his own Invicibles once dominating the premier league without losing a game all season. There has been more frustration since the move from Highbury to the Emirates, but Wenger's track record means he ranks among the greatest managers of the last hundred years - and he could surely do a job for England.

Arsene is a European Anglophile. While the media debate whether or not the FA Cup has lost its place in our hearts, Wenger has no doubt that its magic still matters, which may be why his Arsenal sides have kept on winning it so often. Wenger manages a multinational team but England's football traditions have certainly got under his skin. The Arsenal boss has changed his mind about emulating the continental innovation of a winter break. "I would cry if you changed that", he has said, citing his love of Boxing Day football as part of the popular tradition of English football.

Obviously, the FA must make this decision on football grounds. It is an important one to get right. Fifty years of hurt still haven't stopped us dreaming, but losing to Iceland this summer while watching Wales march to the semi-finals certainly tested any lingering optimism. Wenger was as gutted as anybody. "This is my second country. I was absolutely on my knees when we lost to Iceland. I couldn't believe it" he said.

The man to turn things around must clearly be chosen on merit. But I wonder if our new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - albeit more of a rugger man himself - might be tempted to quietly  suggest in the corridors of footballing power that the appointment could play an unlikely role in helping to get the mood music in place which would help to secure the best Brexit deal for Britain, and for Europe too.

Johnson does have one serious bit of unfinished business from the referendum campaign: to persuade his new boss Theresa May that the commitments made to European nationals in Britain must be honoured in full.  The government should speed up its response and put that guarantee in place. 

Nor should that commitment to 3m of our neighbours and friends be made grudgingly.

So Boris should also come out and back Arsene for the England job, as a very good symbolic way to show that we will continue to celebrate the Europeans here who contribute so much to our society.

British negotiators will be watching the twists and turns of the battle for the Elysee Palace, to see whether Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy end up as President. It is a reminder that other countries face domestic pressures over the negotiations to come too. So the political negotiations will be tough - but we should make sure our social and cultural relations with Europe remain warm.

More than half of Britons voted to leave the political structures of the European Union in June. Most voters on both sides of the referendum had little love of the Brussels institutions, or indeed any understanding of what they do.

But how can we ensure that our European neighbours and friends understand and hear that this was no rejection of them - and that so many of the ways that we engage with our fellow Europeans rom family ties to foreign holidays, the European contributions to making our society that bit better - the baguettes and cappuccinos, cultural links and sporting heroes remain as much loved as ever.

We will see that this weekend when nobody in the golf clubs will be asking who voted Remain and who voted Leave as we cheer on our European team - seven Brits playing in the twelve-strong side, alongside their Spanish, Belgian, German, Irish and Swedish team-mates.

And now another important opportunity to get that message across suddenly presents itself.

Wenger for England. What better post-Brexit commitment to a new Entente Cordiale could we possibly make?

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.