One of the most unique experiences in my journey through life thus far is the ongoing coming out "process." Although I don't believe that it should be, it is one of the most important events in any of our (that is, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth) relationships among friends, family, and acquaintances. It is sad, but in many cases whole friendships can change instantly at the sounding of three words. For this reason, those three words are probably the most difficult in the English language for us. (even though they all have only one syllable) And, unless you are a celebrity like Ellen, you will probably have to use them over and over again.
I began the proverbial "coming out process" during my sophomore year of High School. Up until this point, I had only ever discussed my feelings with friends on the internet, to whom I am very indebted for their constant support. *Sophia Voice... Picture it, Franklin High School, March 8, 1998. My high school class was approximately 200 or so, which is (or at least seemed) relatively small. Moreover, I lived in a generally rural area where acceptance of anything different comes very slowly. (Just ask some of the minority families who went there.... Although I am not sure how many there were, I am relatively sure I could count them on my fingers.) Nevertheless, I was stuck there and queer. And I had to tell someone. I couldn't NOT tell someone. My friend Jen and I had many heart to heart conversations late into the night that year, so I figured she would be a perfect guinea pig for my coming out experiment. Now, I hear of other people agonizing over coming out and planning things perfectly. I didn't. The subject came up one night about the fact that I fit so many "gay stereotypes," and I must admit, even as a 10th grader I was well on my way to being a flamer! So, I took the next step.
"Well Jen, what would you say if I told you I really was gay?"
"Well I mean, I fit the stereotypes and all, so, what would you think if I were."
"Well, uh, do you like men?"
"Well cool then!"
Thus was my first coming out experience. Over the next few years, I gradually opened my secret life to more and more people, although not by far all of my friends.
I never had any terrible experiences, although I am sure that I got some comments behind my back. Now, as a 19 year-old college sophomore, I am out to nearly all of my friends and even some of my family. And honestly, I can't imagine keeping it all inside anymore. Once I got past the stigma of high school and found many supportive friends, I have no qualms about standing up and saying "I'm queer... is that a problem?" I've even had some quite funny coming out experiences lately. When I came out to my friend Frank, I just looked at him and said: "I sleep with men now!"
He thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and said he admired me for my honesty! (To which Em said she admired me for my anal sex... which nearly got us kicked out of the restaurant!)
Another time, (just recently) some girls thought they would be funny by asking me if I was gay as I walked down the street one day.
"Hey, hold up, we wanna talk to you"
"Are you gay"
"Yes, of course!"
"You aren't serious are you?"
(other girl) "That's cool, my brother's gay too"
(first girl) "So you like it up the budanghole?"
(me)"Uh, generally speaking..."
(other girl) "At least he's honest"
"I don't know you, why would I have any reason to NOT be honest?"
And with that I walked away!
Now, my point is not to say that those three words get any easier. I have yet to come out to my parents, for several reasons. Primarily, I can't yet handle myself if they totally reject me. More specifically, I can't put myself through college alone.
And it's sad that I should have to think that way.
But that's the way it is in my life right now.
I would LOVE some advice on coming out to parents... I've heard some neat ideas over the years... One boy went into his hall closet and then opened the door and came out. Then he asked his mother what he just did. "You came out of the closet." "Exactly."
The mother came out for him, without even realizing the severity of her words. I've heard others such as emails or leaving the book "My Child Is Gay" on the family coffee table. My own ideas include telling my father over one of those huge bowls of soup at EatnPark, but that's just me!
But, aside from that, the bottom line is that the "coming out experience" is really one of the most fulfilling, exciting experiences we have to put up with as gay youth! But discretion unfortunately is necessary. Don't run through your town singing "It's raining men" clad only in a big rainbow beach towel without first considering the consequences.
Only you will know when you are ready.
By far, the scariest coming out method is when you have no control over it. For example, one of my readers was outed to his parents by an ex-boyfriend! But don't give up if it does happen, look on the bright side, at least YOU don't have to tell them!
In fact, I almost wish someone else would tell my parents for me. I've tried and tried, but the words just will NOT come out. (forgive the pun...) I've never been so afraid of being a disappointment over anything this much. The worst part is that I don't even SEE my parents that much! Its not like their opinions have a WHOLE lot to do with my personal life....
A random rant...
Something I've realized this summer (slightly related to the note about pleasing my parents, and will expand on perhaps next month) is the fact that I cannot go on sacrificing my own happiness and making excuses for the benefit of making others feel better, including parents, friends, and significant others alike. My biggest fear is disappointing those close to me, but is it worse to put up a front to these same people? If these people are REALLY my friends and really care about me, they will be supportive of any way I choose to live, right? But that doesn't mean they won't make me feel guilty...
I wish I knew the answer to this. I want to be real, and whatever I want to be. I don't want expectations any more unless they are my own, and if I want to make changes for better or worse, I don't want to have to answer to anyone for it but myself. (Provided whatever it is is legal.... *l*) And I don't want to have to leave details out about my life just to keep the waters calm.
Be it my sexual preference or my decision to drive to some faraway place in the middle of the night just for fun, it's just that: MY decision. MY life. If only things were so simple...
That was just a random thing going on in my life, by the way... I would love to hear any advice you may have for me, and I would love to go into details but this is getting long enough already... Just email me J
Until Next Month
Rob, 19, is a college sophomore at Clarion University and currently majoring in Music Education. His purpose for writing is to share experiences that will be helpful to queer and questioning youth all over, so he really REALLY loves feedback. You can reach Rob by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on AIM at cuchoirboy. His home on the web is http://www.geocities.com/zekefreke. Ciao.