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Coming Out Over and Over

People think of coming out as LGBT as a one-shot deal, something like attending a Hollywood premiere.  You dress up, stand up in front of a bunch of people, take a deep breath, and make a big announcement.  Then you deal with the aftermath.  In a comedy or feel-good movie, everyone applauds and gives you champagne.  In a tragedy or tear-jerker, dear family and friends turn their backs and stride rigidly away.  But then the event ends, the curtain comes down, the lights come up.

But like a Hollywood premiere, this is all fiction.

Coming out is a long, drawn-out series of events.  It happens over and over and over.  And over.

In reality, there's no way to let everyone in your life know, nor would you want to.  (When you're straight, do you tell every single person in your life that you're seeing someone?)  People actually find out on a need-to-know basis.  You tell your family in segments, perhaps starting at some family gathering where it's easy to let many people know at once and where it's easy to leave if things get difficult.  Friends find out in dribs and drabs, though the gossip chain may get the news to them before you do.  Everyone's process is different.  Some people want to tell because they feel it's time, others tell when they enter a relationship, and yet others are forced into it because someone in their circle finds out.

Dealing with the reactions is stressful.  It doesn't matter if the reactions are good, bad, or a mixture (An "I don't like that you're gay, but you're family, and I love you anyway" kind of thing); it's still stressful.  The anticipation, the how-will-they-react moment, the steeling yourself for a confrontation.  It gets draining.

I've long gotten past caring what friends or family think about me.  To anyone who wants to drop a relationship over my orientation, I say, "Thank heavens! My life is full enough without keeping up a relationship with someone like you."  But it's still a strain dealing with the intial reaction and some of the angry aftermath.  Good reactions generate eustress and often a great many long conversations, which may or may not be welcome, at least for me.  My years in the classroom have made me amenable to talking about nearly any subject in front of people, but sometimes I just don't want to.  Of course, finding a way to say, "I'd rather talk about something else" is stressful, since you don't want to come off as rude, especially to people who have expressed their support.

Eventually, all that dies down.  It's all sorted out.  You've lost a few friends or even family members, but overall things are good.  You and your spouse are accepted within your social circles.  It's all over, right?

Well, no.  After the Big Announcement to friends family, you have a constant stream of other people who need to be told.  Every time I meet a new friend or co-worker, there's a coming out process.  I mean, you don't offer your hand and say, "Nice to meet you, Fred.  I'm Steven, and I'm gay."  Instead, after you've known Fred for a bit, eventually Fred will say something like, "It drives me crazy when my wife leaves the toilet seat down.  Women, huh?  Are you married, Steven?"  And then you say, "I am.  My husband's name is Darwin."

Often a little pause inserts itself while Fred recovers himself. Finally he says, "Oh. Then I guess you don't worry about the toilet seat, eh?"  Or Fred might flee the conversation.  Or . . . something else.  And now you've just come out again.

Or you're on the phone with the insurance company and the rep says, "If you and your wife want to increase your coverage, we can give you an excellent discount."

"My husband, actually," you gently correct the rep.

Another quick pause while the rep regains her equilibrium.  "Of course--sorry.  We can offer the two of you a nice discount . . . "  And you just came out to your insurance rep.

This happens to me all the time.  A group of us teachers were going out for coffee after work one day, and one of my co-workers turned to me while we were waiting in line and said, "I hear you're getting married!  Congratulations!  What's her name?"

"His name, actually," I said.  "It's Darwin."

Brief pause, then a quick smile.  "Oh!  I had no idea.  That's wonderful.  I hadn't heard!"  And I came out to another co-worker.

And I was on the phone with the Social Security Administration (not something I recommend for a fun afternoon).  "You can call us back," said the rep, "or your wife can."

"My husband," I corrected.

This one caught herself a little more quickly.  "Your husband can call us back, too."  And I came out to the Social Security Administration.

I was talking to my ninth graders after I got back from the four-day weekend I took for the wedding.  "Why were you gone so long, Mr. Piziks?" a student asked while I was logging into my computer.

"It was for my wedding," I said.  "I got married over the weekend."

General noises of approval from the class followed.  "What's her name?" asked one student.

"His name," I said.  By now this was becoming my standard correction.  "It's Darwin."

Long, long pause followed this time.  I was still logging in to my computer, so I wasn't "on stage" or in the middle of class, but I was aware of the class nonetheless.  At last one student said, "Can we see pictures of the wedding?"  And I came out to my fourth hour class.

This goes on and on.  And on.  Today Maksim had a particular friend over for the first time.  Maksim isn't very good at remebering to introduce people yet, so I said, "Hi! I'm Mr. Piziks.  This is my husband Mr. McClary."

The friend said hello and went to the Xbox with Maksim.  And I came out to one of my son's friends.

It's a lifelong process, and will be until we achieve a neutral society.

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
mt_yvr
Nov. 20th, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC)
Yep. This.

And you do it when you're poz as well. So thaaaaat's a fun one. But it's pretty much the same sort of thing for me these days.

jufin
Nov. 22nd, 2015 06:19 am (UTC)
Well :) At least you can tell husband now. Here in Israel I am still far from it
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
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