woman and man coming out through a wallAs I’ve talked to and read about people coming to terms with their decisions not to have kids, the comparison has come up over and over.

“I felt like a gay person must feel, coming out of the closet and having these people validating me.”
— Jason Gill, quoted in a New York Times Magazine article on the childfree

“My friends and I have occasionally likened coming out as childfree to coming out as a gay person 40 or 50 years ago. There’s the same sense of shock — perhaps that’s too strong a word. But it’s a lifestyle people don’t expect and it may challenge their world view.”
— Rhona Sweeting, quoted in a BBC News article on the childfree

“I’m coming out of the closet. I’m sick of apologizing for my lifestyle which feels totally organic and right to me.”
— Jane, commenter on Childfree Life forum

At first the comparison struck me as ridiculous. Prejudice against the childfree is wholly different in kind and degree from prejudice against the LGBT population. Childfree people aren’t ejected from the military or denied housing or barred from marriage. The biggest threat of violence we might face is a peeved parent tempted to bonk us on the head with a diaper bag when we ramble on too long about a relaxing weekend getaway.

But acknowledging all that, still there is something to the idea of “coming out” as childfree. While some childfree people have no problem just putting it out there, many of us aren’t sure how to talk to some of the people in our lives about our choice not to have kids — whether it’s parents eager for grandchildren, siblings engrossed in parenthood, friends struggling with fertility issues, curious colleagues, or complete strangers. Saying “I’ve decided not to have kids” can feel like walking into a minefield. And not saying it can feel like concealing an important part of who we are.

I consulted a few coming-out guides to see if any struck a chord, and they certainly did. “Mom, Dad — believe me, it’s not a phase. I’ve known it for a long time.”