Over yonder my friend Ben has an intriguing post up on the nature of Coming Out. His mother-in-law apparently asked him about his “Coming Out Experience,” and at Ben’s behest I get to respond…
I think the conclusion that Ben reached about the Coming Out Experience is similar to mine, although he never explicitly says it. The upshot is that the Coming Out Experience his mother-in-law asked him about doesn’t really exist. I think there’s a misconception that LGBT people go through some sort of month-long metamorphosis where get over that first hump of acknowledging our sexual orientation to a family member (usually The Big Coming Out Dinner With The Parents), then systematically go through all of our friends and family and sit down and have The Talk.
The truth is it doesn’t really work that way. Coming out is a life-long process that starts over every time you meet somebody new. I started when I was about 13 years old, and I had my most recent Coming Out Experience this morning. Every week I come across new people and new situations, and if it’s relevant, then I have to make the decision whether I should acknowledge my sexual orientation, and take the risk of any blowback that might happen.
(WARNING: The next few paragraphs are long, wordy, boring, and largely irrelevant to my point.)
I started with my friend Sean, my first real Internet Friend (because Internet Friends aren’t really real, right Dad?). Back in the oh-so-very-ancient AOL days, I stumbled upon AOL’s Urban Legends site and chatroom, part of their Hub channel, and I was hooked. I was hooked because they had a chatroom full of people who were a) smart, and b) talked to me like an adult even though they knew I was 13. I made a lot of great friends there that I think about to this day, but the best was my friend Sean. Sean and I would sit and talk for hours, and I really did consider him my best friend in the world (even though Internet Friends aren’t really real, right Dad?). One of our other friends was a girl our age who lived out in California with her mom, who was one of the UL chatroom moderators, and we used to banter back and forth and “fight” over the affections of this girl…until one day I just emphatically stated that I wasn’t really all that interested because I was gay. Sean was totally supportive…and several years later I found out he and I actually play for the same team.
I didn’t come out again for nine years. I was a senior in college and my friends Dayna and Amanda were talking about this great new comedian they were fans of, Stephen Lynch. Dayna was showing me some of his music and she made a comment about how funny he was, and I said “And he’s cute, too!” Oops. It…just…kind of came out…so to speak. Fortunately they’re some of the greatest and most supportive allies I know, so it worked out.
Then there’s my biological family. They still don’t know, at least not officially. I never had the opportunity or a reason to tell my mom before she died, and I don’t have a good enough relationship with my dad to tell him, and frankly I don’t have any reason to. It’s not like I’ve ever brought a boy home or ever will. That said, my mom knew. Moms know these things. And my dad knows, or at least I think he does. We used to sit and watch TV, and occasionally he’d make a comment about how some girl was hot, and a few years ago those comments just kind of…stopped. Incidentally, a couple weeks ago I had coffee with my dad’s Ungirlfriend (don’t ask) and another one of our friends we’ve known for years, and the Ungirlfriend decided to get all up in my grill about my emotional attachment (or lack thereof) with my father. We started talking about how I never talk about any emotionally heavy stuff with him because he has no emotions and because I’m scared shitless of him, and somehow then the other friend chimed in with a story about a guy who she used to work with. I still have nightmares about the look in her eyes when she coyly smiled at me and said “And of course he’s gay, too, y’know…” Um…wha huh wha?
My logical family all know, they largely knew up front, and they’re all a) okay with me specifically, and b) LGBT allies in general. If they weren’t I wouldn’t be friends with them. I make most of my friends online these days (Internet Friends aren’t real, right Dad?), and I find them in places where LGBT-friendly folks tend to congregate. I still crack up when I think about standing in Red Cedar Grill a few years ago with a then-stranger who is now my girl CeCe, and we were talking about election canvassing, and she pointed out that I may meet my wife out canvassing. I immediately corrected her and said “Husband.”…and that was the end of it. I had just met her earlier that day, but because of the context in which I had met her, I trusted her from the get-go and knew that it was okay to say that.
That said, there are some contexts in which I still find myself struggling to come out, and I do the best I can. I’m not “officially” out at work, but I am Facebook friends with a lot of my coworkers (dumb idea, that one), and until recently I did have my sexual orientation listed in my profile. (I took it down not because I’m scared to have it there, but because I find it insulting that if you have your orientation listed as gay, naturally Facebook’s advertisers assume you’re interested in nothing but a thousand different permutations of Manhunt). As Ben mentioned in his post, I do look forward to the day I can stand around the proverbial water cooler (we don’t actually have a water cooler) and talk about this great movie I watched with my husband.
Then there’s my gaming life. (The other day I was discussing some past drama and pain caused by some of our former WoW friends with my co-guildmaster, and we both lamented the fact that when we tell non-gamers stories about the struggles (and sometimes joys) of dealing with other gamers, people hear the words “World of Warcraft,” and immediately write us off as nutcases and write off our problems as unimportant. If you’re one of those people, skip the next paragraph.) Yeah. WoW people. Not exactly the most open and accepting bunch of people on the planet. Blizzard Entertainment, the parent company that produces WoW, is legendary for looking the other way at the blatant and disgusting homophobia that comes from much of its player community, but I never expected they’d actually endorse this behavior by adding it into an official part of the game…but they did, and I will forever hate Stonecore because of it. God, I’m rambling again, aren’t I?
The point I was trying to make is that WoW is a whole other area of my life where I’m frequently presented with the choice to either acknowledge my sexual orientation or not, although admittedly at no physical risk. Both of the guilds I’ve been in have been nothing but supportive of the LGBT community…or so I thought. I am out and open about who I am, and the leadership of both guilds has been warm and welcoming of LGBT folks…until last week. We had an incident where a guildie started spewing some hateful stuff, and long story short, my co-guildmasters actually sat there and told me that it wasn’t offensive and it wasn’t a big deal. Then, this morning I was online and listening in on a discussion in Trade Chat (yeah, Ben, I see you rolling your eyes at me) about religion and how churches spend their money, and I stupidly chimed in with my opinion about how churches should spend more money helping the poor and less money to make sure that I can’t get married. And that’s exactly how I phrased it. Facepalm. It was so ugly that I actually logged off.
Point…point…I know there’s one in here somewhere…*rummage rummage rummage* *dig dig dig*…
Yeah. My point is this: feel free to ask me about my Coming Out Experience. I’ll be happy to share the details of how it went…as soon as I’m done. And at this rate, that’ll be the day before I die.