As things go, I guess I've got it good. I'm an atheist, and was raised that way. I had a gay uncle. It's a better start than most get to lay claim to. So why can't I tell everyone I'm gay? (Well, besides the infinite anonymous population of the internet.)...Not that I have too many people to tell. Most of my high school friends (all one or two years older than me) have migrated north for college. The formats of my current college courses aren't really conducive to friendly chat, and even if they were, "Hi, I'm Mark and I'm gay as pink ink!" ::hearty handshake:: isn't the best way to start a conversation. As far as my parents go, they're nice and all, but the less they know of my sexual side, and vice versa, the better. They're fun to talk with, generally, but I don't like discussing even innocuous sexually-related things with them, unless they have a strong political side to them, like abortion or gay marriage. The only person I have told is my best friend, who we'll call Marble 'cause I don't feel like writing for her consent to use her real name, though I'm sure she'd give it. Besides, giving pseudonyms to people gives a fun metaphorical cast to this whole thing.
Coming Out to Marble
I came out to Marble around the end of May. (Soon after that, I began to seriously consider writing this column, but that's for another section.) Here's how it happened. I had been over at her house the previous day, and several times I had been strongly tempted to come out to her in various ways. While some people would prefer to just blurt it out to the world, I had intended to, ahem, expose myself with a long, detailed letter detailing my thoughts on the subject. It's also a much more permanent artifact, a tangible symbol of the day you a. stepped up to assert an integral part of yourself and b. really and truly opened up to someone for the first time. But that wasn't to be, sadly. I'd still like a physical document to show the hypothetical grandkids.
Anyway, while I was over at her house, a few things really tempted me to come out. The first thing was that a mutual friend, Latex*, had recently come out to his parents. He'd been out to Marble for about a year, and I knew about him from Marble, but we were really surprised he had gotten up the courage to tell his parents so soon. This made me realize that I was (and am) really getting left behind. Here Latex was, former altar-boy coming out to his rather conservative parents while I couldn't even muster the intestinal fortitude to tell my thoroughly gay positive best friend! The next clincher was when we were talking about my introvert tendencies. I'm really not the type to go out and make friends, but once I do, we're usually extremely close and I can talk to them with pretty much total frankness. Marble had said that while I had been pretty quiet in the past, now I just said whatever needed to be said. If that isn't an invitation to blurt a certain something out, what is? I still didn't rise to the bait. I probably should've, but again, I didn't have the will to really open up to someone else, and I was a bit afraid of being overheard. (Ultra-Catholic Grannie was lurking somewhere in the back rooms of the house.)
For the rest of the time I was over there, those two things nagged at me incessantly. Marble had recently gotten several packs of special pens intended for use on dark or black paper, and a couple of notepads on which to use them. As we sat watching T.V. and doodling on those pads, I repeatedly considered dashing out a quick note. But I never did.
*My choice of "Latex" as a pseudonym isn't meant to imply anything between us. It's just an in-joke that'll go unexplained for now.
The next day, Marble called, describing her sadomasochistic flirtings with her beau Incense. Somehow or another, the topic shifted. Marble slyly asked, "So, have you ever thought about having sex with another man?" The moment of truth. Would I finally, at last, rise to the occasion? The words caught in my throat. My heart pounded, all the signs of anxiety. Sight and sound dimmed for my furious internal debate: Fight or Flight?
"Come on, you can tell _me_..." she coaxed. I tried to block her out so I could make my decision.
Finally, I said a bit shakily, "Well, actually, those are the only thoughts I've had." I briefly wondered if what I said could be heard outside my room.
Long pause. I breathed a sigh of relief, putting my hand over my heart and pacing nervously around my room with the cordless phone. "Whew. That was a rush!" I said, assuming she'd taken in the full implications of what I'd just revealed. It wasn't the first time someone had come out to her.
To my surprise, she just said, "What?"
"Didn't you get what I just said?" (This question in print looks like I was rebuking her but I asked it genuinely, a bit afraid, _really_ hoping not to have to re-explain myself.)
A short pause. "You're... gay?"
Another sigh of relief on my part. "Yeah."
I can't remember the specifics of the rest of the conversation, but I got a lot of things off my chest for the first time that night. I had, apparently, taken her totally by surprise, but she adjusted quickly. As we continued to talk about various gay-related things I gradually got more and more comfortable revealing more about myself, at least to her. I gave her my impressions of previous events and such that because of some relation to my sexuality I'd kept hidden. We talked about people I'd been attracted to, and, while she didn't need to hear any lectures about gay stereotypes since she'd known quite a few gay people all her life, I got all of that stuff off my chest as well.
So that's how I came out to Marble.
Since then, I've considered myself basically out. While I haven't come out (no pun intended) and said "I'm gay!" to anybody, and though I was only speaking to Marble on the phone, I know how information spreads, and I wouldn't have told her or anyone else if I hadn't been prepared, on some level, for everyone to know. Similarly, I've probably included specific enough information on myself so that anybody who knows me personally and reads this will be able to figure out my identity. If nothing else, they'll know who it is from my parenthesis-heavy style of writing. But I'm prepared for that. So ta. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like to comment/criticize/question, etc. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation. Whee.
If you're wondering, the only real name I've included in here is my own. The rest are pseudonyms that make reference to someone's character or past actions, but nothing that would be able to positively identify them.