05 Jan

Over Christmas I was asked by my mother-in-law about my “coming-out experience,” and I had to stop for a minute and think about how to answer the question.

Coming out to my friends was messy. Some embraced me, and some disappeared. Some even told me I was going to hell.

Coming out to my family was uncomfortable and complicated. I didn’t handle it well, and alienated myself from them in ways that I now regret. They’ve warmed to it somewhat and our relationships have evolved in ways that surprise me sometimes. When my sister talks about Ryan as her brother it warms my heart, but at the same time my folks will still introduce him as my “friend” to other people. (The “friend” that got invited to my father’s retirement from the Air Force, so there is that.)

But when I think about “coming out,” I don’t think about it as something that is somewhere in my past. I think of it as something I do every day.

-When a customer at work asks me if I’m married when they see the ring on my finger, do I go along with them and smile, or do I point out that I’m not allowed to be married?

-When I start working in a new place, how do I bring up the person I go home too? Do I talk about what “I” or “we” watched on television last night?

The gay rights movement is often compared to the civil rights movement in the middle part of the last century, and there is pushback by some that our struggles aren’t the same. And to a degree that’s true, although maybe not as some would think.

You can’t usually tell someone is gay at a glance. (sometimes, you can) That person usually has to do something to “come out” to you for you to know. And that “something” is every day a little bit terrifying, because I never know how the other person will react. So far I’ve been pretty lucky. Not everyone is.

I don’t know that this post had a point, just thoughts rolling around in my head. What does “out” mean to you?


Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Out

  1. Thomas

    January 7, 2011 at 12:22 AM

    I face this a lot professionally. I’m not what you would
    call “passable”, and I’m totally okay with that, mostly because it
    saves me the trouble of having to tell every new person in my life
    that I’m gay. I’m very proud of who I am, and I have no qualms with
    standing tall in the midst of homophobia. However, in a work
    environment, it can be scary to actually put these thoughts into
    words when the opportunity arises. When I worked in banking, I saw
    how conservative clients are weary of giving money to those from
    walks of life not like their own. And while I would rather starve
    to death than to compromise who I am as a person in order to make a
    sale, I had to realize that in a professional environment I was
    representing the views and beliefs of my employer instead of
    myself. Since I have been temping at a library, I have found this
    scenario to be of less importance. I’m married now, and when
    someone asks me “Aren’t you too young to be married?” when they see
    my ring, I am happy to say “Actually, my husband and I just got
    married in May!” I feel like people who enjoy reading, and helping
    others to enjoy reading, might (in general) be a little more
    open-minded than some of my clients at the bank. (In eastern North
    Carolina, no less). What’s important, for me, is to continue to
    throw in the identifying words whenever I can, even when it’s less
    than comfortable to do so. “My husband and I” instead of “we”, for
    example. I feel like what we need is a social desensitizing of the
    idea of homosexuality, and the more people see and hear it in their
    everyday lives, hopefully the better chance we’ll have of one day
    being treated as equals.

    • Ben

      January 7, 2011 at 4:02 AM

      I’m a firm believer (and surveys back me up) that when you know a gay person you’re more likely to be supportive of gay rights.

      The best evidence I have is my own family. We’re not 100% there yet, but there’s little things all the time that show the changes. I’m hopeful that one day when I have my own wedding, they’ll be there to celebrate in the same way they were there for my brother this last year. And this is something that I would have never thought possible when I first came out in six years ago.

      • Thomas

        January 7, 2011 at 8:44 PM

        That is awesome that they are heading in the right direction! I grew up in a very rural farming community with lots of close-minded people. I can’t say that I come from a very supportive family, at least not initially, and I could never have imagined the type of relationship that some of my friends have with their more-accepting parents. I am ecstatic to say, though, that since Chris and I got married (and became less private about each other in our conversations to family, etc.) many of my family members have grown exponentially more welcoming. We had the opportunity to share our Christmas together this year, with both his family and mine, and that is something that I never dreamed of happening. Keep on doing what you are doing, because it sounds like your family is making the small steps necessary to make big changes. I’m proud of you for using “we” when it’s sometimes so much easier to say “I”! We’re going to get there one day!


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