Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Still Coming Out

I planned to write this post last Thursday, which was National Coming Out Day, but I ended up taking an unplanned trip to Las Vegas. So as you read this, pretend it's still last Thursday and you're still wearing your Coming Out Day party hat and maybe there's still a present or two sitting under the Coming Out Day tree. Maybe put some Coming Out Day music on to set the mood. (Lady Gaga's "Born That Way" is the one all the kids are listening to nowadays, but of course there's always the more traditional "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross.)

Most gay people--at least those of us who can pass as straight whether we want to or not--will tell you that coming out is not a one-time event; it's a regular occurrence. The first time is the hardest and typically it gets easier each time thereafter, but the thing is, the act of coming out does not permanently put a big "G" on your forehead so that good conservative parents know to hide their children from you. Maybe I came out to Matthew, Mark, and Luke last week, but if John wasn't there, then I'm going to have to come out to him this week. With each new person I meet, I need to come out all over again. And honestly, I kind of hate it. I love being out--I don't feel I can have genuine relationships with people when they don't know this major part of who I am--but I hate the process of coming out. I don't like to shock people, I don't like to make them uncomfortable, and really, this is all old news to me. It's kind of boring to have to explain stuff I've already explained a thousand times before.

Ideally, I'd do it casually with an offhand mention of my boyfriend. No explanation needed, no rehashing of old territory, just a single word that communicates this part of who I am without making a big deal of it. I did this last week when I was getting to know my sisters' cousin because I sensed it wouldn't faze her, and as far as I can tell I was right. I'd do it this way more often if I lived someplace like Seattle or San Francisco where I could be pretty sure no one would be shocked by the fact that I have a boyfriend. But I live in Smallville, Utah, where a good number of people are shocked by that kind of thing. Or they just don't want to hear about it. There are people here who would interpret a casual mention of my boyfriend as me flaunting my sexuality or shoving it in their faces. And you know how I feel about making people uncomfortable.

So I get around it in my passive-aggressive way by talking about my sexual identity on Facebook and on my blog, and very rarely in person unless I'm with someone who I know is aware of it and at least somewhat okay with it. Which puts me in the awkward situation of having some friends who may or may not know I'm gay, and I don't know unless they say something, so I avoid saying anything until they do. Which is sort of like being in the closet, in a weird way. And I think this is precisely why some gay people do "flaunt their sexuality." Don't get me wrong, I think some people are just flamboyant because that's their personality, but I believe for some it's a conscious or perhaps unconscious decision to wear their identity on their sleeve. If I'm a man in daisy dukes, snapping my fingers and talking in my best RuPaul voice, there's no doubt that everyone knows I'm gay, and I know exactly where I stand with everyone I know. I don't have to live in fear that people who are close to me will back off when they find out what I really am. I can definitely see the appeal.

This guy, for example, doesn't have to explain anything to anyone. 

At the same time, I recognize the advantages of wearing my sexuality a little more subtly. People who would otherwise avoid making a gay friend might be more likely to open their hearts if they already know me and know that I'm a good person before they realize I'm gay. Essentially, I can go undercover in the straight world and do some gay PR--win people over one at a time. More visible minorities don't have this option. A black man will have to get past a racist's prejudice before they can even become friends. I'm not saying it's ideal--ideal would be not living in a world where we have to worry about these things--but I am saying that it's probably good that among gays there are those who are too fabulous to fit in any closet, and those of us who fit so well in the closet that we need to come out over and over again. I'm at peace with my place in the big picture.

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