Coming out of the closet—that is, revealing your non-heterosexuality to others—can elicit a variety of reactions from great to horrible. Every time you do it, you’re likely to learn at least one thing you wish you knew beforehand. Save yourself some trouble and learn from my mistakes.
I can definitely identify with a few of his points, not least of which is his point that coming out never ends.
In society, heterosexuality is basically presumed unless there is evidence to the contrary. So every conversation with a new contact, colleague or social acquaintance means the topic may come up. Not sexuality per se, but all of the associated areas in life that give others an insight into someone’s sexuality.
Think about it: it’s pretty hard to talk about your private life without things like this coming up in conversation. Like: dating, marital status, pronouns used to describe your partner…and on and on.
It gets easier with time, but it’s not something that ever goes away. I think I came out to about six people last week alone, while I was at a conference. Not all at once and not at the start of every conversation (!!!) but during long chats about our lives and pastimes. The gender of my partner (still getting used to saying “husband”) was usually the thing that gave it away.
(I’m just assuming it wasn’t my frequent references to show tunes…)
Yes, I wear a wedding ring, and yes I’ll correct you if you ask about my “wife”. Mostly because I’d like to be truthful, open and proud of who I am. Also, because I don’t want to have to later correct your assumptions and then look deceitful or somehow ashamed.
I’m lucky – last week, I was with people who didn’t bat an eyelid. I’d like to think it was because they were fellow psychologists and reasonably well educated and worldly. But that’s not always a good predictor of bigotry. In other circumstances, it could have been a nightmare.
Each time the subject is broached, you really never know how someone is going to react. They might miss it completely, they may get flustered, they may become abusive – or they may find it a superb opportunity to ask you lots of quite personal questions they wouldn’t dream of asking a straight person.
So my plea to you, my straight readers, is this: if someone does come out to you incidentally (as part of a conversation where sexuality isn’t the main topic), do them a favour and don’t make a big deal out of it. In reacting normally, you’re simply helping them come out a little bit more and removing another small worry they have about how you’ll react.
And while I’m making requests of random strangers, how about adding these to your list of things to stop saying to gay guys.