On the pains of coming out

by Jason Keenan

Original editor's note: Coming out is rarely easy. Whether it is the reaction of our family and friends (or those we thought were our friends) or that of our enemies, the path from latency to blatency can be strewn with unexpected obstacles. Jason Keenan is a Glasgow teenager who has just started out on that path.

You know the scene well - you're sitting down on the sofa, having a cosy chat with your mother and on the verge of telling her the most important thing of your life. But you can't quite manage to tell her you're gay. It's been nice just making smalltalk with her, and it has made you feel relaxed enough to drop a few hints about your innermost secret. As soon as you start showing her your 'camp' side by revealing that your favourite colour has always been pink and that you're heavily into ABBA, she looks at you with that You're-not-seriously-trying-to-tell-me-you're-gay look, you just clam up. Here's the perfect opportunity to do the dirty deed, but the thought of her disgust, disappointment or maybe even her anger, cripples you.

There are many more situations when the time is right to spill the beans, but they all end in the same way. For instance, when you're watching one of your favourite comedies on TV, and you get carried away with your loud, girlish laughter, your mother gives you a withering look and says, "You sound like a poof with that laugh." You feel like replying "That's because I am one, mum." But of course you don't. When you eventually do tell her, you want to be subtle about it. It doesn't help, though, when part of you wants to scream it from the rooftops.

So how can you possibly tell her? The gulf, it seems, is too wide between her ideas and your own about sexuality. When a tall, blonde, Pamela Anderson-type babe walks down the street, and you don't give her so much as a second glance, she looks at you again with that look of consternation "If you don't look at her, you won't look at anybody." How you wish you could say, "I'd quite happily look at Ronan from Boyzone, thank you very much."

So you come to the realisation that there's no point in explaining to her your feelings for other guys. There's no way she'd ever be able to understand. You decide that you are just going to tell her the facts, the most important one being that you are gay. So, you don't give it any more thought. You rush into the living room, sit down next to her and say "Mum, I'm gay." You've prepared yourself for the myriad of reactions: you expect anger, disappointment, shock, disgust. What you don't expect is the reaction you actually get, that one of disbelief: "No, you're not," she quite calmly replies. "Yes, I am, mum," you persist. "No, you're not," she repeats unemotionally. The conversation turns into a sinister version of "I'm better than you". You realise that there's no point in continuing the conversation. You need to give her time to sort her feelings out. So you leave the room

The next day, there is an awkward silence between both of you. You actually feel a little embarrassed by the knowledge that your mother knows you're sexually attracted to guys and not girls. It's hard to adjust to the fact that you're secret is now out in the open. The feeling of being "out" isn't at all the liberating experience you had dreamed of. In fact you just feel like having a good cry. Naively, you believed that once you told your mother (who would then tell your father) your problems would end, but really this is just the beginning.

But it's well worth going through the anguish of the following weeks, although it most definitely doesn't feel like it at the time. Not when your mother rifles through your personal belongings and finds the letters your gay friends have written to you, and forbids you to write to them again. Not when she threatens that she'll throw you out if you go out to meet them. It also isn't a very pleasant experience overhearing your own mother worrying about catching something from you if she uses the bath after you. The atmosphere at home becomes unbearable so you make plans to move out. When you tell her this, she's genuinely upset. As you really love her, you tell her that you don't want to leave but must be allowed to live your own life. You can't believe it when she agrees to this. She tells you "At least I'll know you'll be safe whilst you're still at home." You can't believe your luck. You thank her and as you go out to meet your boyfriend you realise that all the pain has been worth it because you finally can have your cake and eat it too.

This article originally appeared in ScotsGay Magazine. Jason does not have e-mail access, but any messages sent to johndunedin@drink.demon.co.uk will be printed out and given to him.
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