So, yesterday was National Coming Out Day.
I had intended to write something about it on the day itself, but found myself collapsed in a heap due to workload and tiredness, crawling into my bed for some respite from the world.
I exaggerate, but you get the picture.
So, one day late, I’m here to share some thoughts on this relevant (to me, anyway) topic.
I know this has been said again and again, but really…coming out isn’t an event. It’s more like a process, or a series of coming out conversations, repeated over and over again. I’m 40 and even now I find myself explaining to people that the ring on my left hand signifies I have a husband, not a wife.
I used to let references to my “wife” slide by, feeling it was inappropriate to correct someone on this. But you know what? No. I got bored of that a long time ago. You’d surely correct me if I assumed you were gay and you weren’t, right? So the roles are reversed. Why should I let you go on with such a misconception about who I am?
Why would I correct someone? What would I want to potentially lead to more awkwardness in a conversation, embarrass someone or just run the risk of over-sharing? Or even being shunned.
Well, I’m damned proud of my relationship with @FrankDJS, so why would I want to hide it. It’s not 1950 and we live in one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities. I have nothing to be ashamed of, so I have no intention of hiding it.
On another level, I’m sure most people would appreciate knowing the truth – especially British people, for whom ‘putting their foot in it’ is a lifelong worry. So clarifying the situation – if it’s raised – is something I now do to get it out of the way and move on.
(And if you don’t appreciate finding out? Well, I don’t think we have a lot more to talk about then. Toodles…)
Another reason is visibility and recognition. I don’t want to hide behind a falsehood and I want to let people know that others all around them are gay, getting on with their lives and contributing to society. It’s not about leaping out of a closet and waving some pom-poms (tempting though that image is), but more about putting it on the same level as “Oh, my mum is from France too” or “I’m a twin” or any of the other multitude of factors that both make us individual and make us part of a collective.
I do this because I can. I do it because so many people can’t because of where they were born, the religion forced upon them by their parents or the bigotry that surrounds them in their community.
In the last year, I’ve had two very different reactions to my clarifying that I have a husband, not a wife. One person (actually a client) simple said “Oh I’m sorry, I simply assumed you had a wife when I saw the ring”. We then moved on with the conversation and it wasn’t mentioned again. Simply because it wasn’t relevant to our discussion and, in my estimation, he processed this like just another piece of information about me.
Another person overreacted to an embarrassing level, telling me all about their gay friends, how they have “terrible gaydar” and how they’d “never have guessed” as if it was a compliment.
Did you expect me to walk through the room like Mr. Humphries from ‘Are you being served’? Do you somehow think it’s a compliment that you “couldn’t tell” my sexual orientation simply by looking at me?
Again, more sighs. It was quite an effort to keep smiling through it all, yet I was also annoyed at myself for feeling so apologetic. Nothing to apologise for here, now move along.
Anyway, when it comes to coming out, brace yourself.
Because it’s not over in flash of fabulousness, it happens every time someone makes an assumption about you that you’d like to clarify.
Sometimes it lands with about as much impact as “I like to drink coffee of a morning”, but sometimes it lands like a fart during a funeral. Not everyone will welcome you with open arms, because simply put, a certain percentage of every population on the planet are arseholes.
Be yourself. Tell who you want. Get better at telling them. Get more comfortable over time. Keep coming out. It definitely gets easier.