Sexual minorities have fought long and hard to win the positive use of words about them, including ‘coming out’.
But now ‘coming out’ is under a surprising attack.
Last week, British TV broadcaster Channel 4 aired an investigative documentary, The Paedophile Next Door.
Narrated by historian and filmmaker, Steve Humphries it claimed the UK must radically change the way we treat pedophiles and potential sex offenders.
Instead of waiting for would-be sex offenders to commit a crime, Britain should offer therapy and treatment programs for them before they fall into the criminal justice system.
At present treatment is only available following a conviction.
Humphries put forward the German initiative of encouraging pedophiles to ‘come out’ so that they can seek help.
He spoke with a variety of individuals, including specialists in the field, victims of child abuse and Eddie – a man who is sexually attracted to girls as young as five but has never acted on his desires.
The message was clear from them all: if preventative treatment programs were available to pedophiles, potential sex offenders would be encouraged to ‘come out’ and seek the help they need. Children would be safer.
Yes, ensuring the safety of children by whatever means necessary is of course the priority.
But if preventative therapy and treatment programs are the right path, let’s use different language. Let’s not encourage pedophiles to ‘come out’, but rather to ‘reveal themselves’.
Coming out has become highly, almost exclusively, associated with sexual and gender minorities – LGBTI people.
It’s a term with positive connotations – sexual minorities are encouraged to come out so that they can live their lives opening, honestly and happily. It must not become associated with sex abusers.
Even in relatively progressive countries like Britain, too many completely wrongly equate homosexuality with pedophilia.
Hijacking coming out and altering the meaning of the term will do nothing for the gay rights movement – it will only set it back, both nationally and internationally.