Again and again: some things never end!
This ‘coming out’ business really is a bit of a bind.
It never actually ends even though people tend to think of coming out as a single defining moment in a gay person’s life. Or, if they don’t view it as a single event, they think of it as a small series of events that occur within a small space of time.
First there’s the coming out to friends and family, two events that don’t usually happen together. Some come out to their family first but most gays come out to friends first. As it becomes easier for teenagers to come out, coming out to family first may become the norm and the two events will tend to meld into one.
These two events are followed by a wider coming out which mostly relates to coming out in larger social settings such as educational institutions and the workplace. By the time that that occurs, you can assume that the full ‘coming out process’ has happened and that person can no longer be defined as being ‘in the closet’. To this day, with much wider acceptance of gays in all walks of life and with legislation to protect gays from harassment and discrimination, there are still many gays, particularly those working in conservative professions and work environments, who can’t be regarded as ‘fully out’. Because they still feel uncomfortable coming out in such environments, they tend to keep quiet about their sexuality, often using the very valid excuse of ‘I don’t ask to know what they do at home or in bed so what I do there has nothing to do with them.’ That excuse, as valid as it may be, misses the point, somewhat. It also brings me back to my statement above where I say that coming out never really ends.
No one asks or speculates about what straight people get up to in the bedroom because people are assumed to be heterosexuals indulging in heterosexual behaviour. In an environment that makes that assumption, gay people will always need to come out. Unless someone is known of as gay, or is very obviously gay (a rather inexact way of identifying gay people!), a gay person is always going to be met with questions and assumptions about his or her private life based on the assumption that he or she is straight. And unless that person accepts or allows people to believe that false impression, it will be necessary to come out. Yet again!
And again and again and again.
Personally, I can’t ever see this changing. Of course coming out will become much easier with an ever-widening general acceptance of gays as being a permanent presence in all walks of life. But being a minority within a heterosexual world, gays will have to come out repeatedly throughout their lives beyond the first few major coming out episodes.
Are you wondering why I’ve inflicted this rather dry, unoriginal social commentary on you?
Well, sitting in a car with a colleague for close on 3 hours each day tends to produce conversations that delve into the more personal aspects of one’s life. Those aspects can be skirted around or ignored but eventually one has to face them and either tell the truth or lie. At the risk of having my daily 3 hours with him turn into a rather awkward affair or, worse, have my lift brought to an abrupt stop, I told him I’m gay. :-)
So, since I came out again today, I thought I’d tell you about it as a precursor to making the obligatory ‘coming out post’. It may not happen soon, but when it does, you’ll have read this as an introduction.