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Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Aug 30, 2008
We all know there’s no road map to coming out. As such, nor is there a real timeline. Not only does each one of us have a different coming out story, but we are all at different stages of coming out. Some of us are totally out and others only partially. Regardless of what status we fall under, one thing we all have in common is that initial first step. And as difficult as taking that step was for us, it’s hard to imagine how difficult that leap must’ve been for our friends.
As much as we’d like to believe coming out is all about us (and really, it is), the only reason we have to come out in the first place is because none of us lives in isolation. We are surrounded by people left and right, so in order to live openly we decide to live honestly. Now, that requires no short amount of adjustment on our part. After all, it’s not easy living as an openly gay man. But can you just imagine the kind of stretch that puts on our friendships?
Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter right? I mean, if they were your true friends to begin with, your sexuality wouldn’t matter. But c’mon, even the truest of friends is gonna have some difficulty adjusting to the fact that all of those one on one basketball games you used to play now fall under a completely different light. And who can blame him? Or her, for that matter? Coming out changes all relationships, romantic or not. And relationships, as we all should know, are a two way street.
Recently, one of my close girlfriends learned that another one of her longtime guy friends came out. To her credit, she was somewhat unsurprised. In her own words, she confessed that “he had always dressed that way to begin with anyways,” so it didn’t require a giant leap for any of his friends to believe that he was that way all the way. But in spite of the so-called plausibility of his homosexuality, one thing my friend did call into question was how people can be straight one day and then all of a sudden wake up as gay.
To answer her totally understandable question, I remarked that sometimes what we witness from people on the outside is only a fraction of what’s going on inside. To her, he had always been straight, but the case may not have always been so with him. There must have been some internal identity struggle, which for one reason or another, he didn’t feel comfortable divulging. The resolution to come out may have been a quick and spontaneous one, but going from straight to gay is rarely ever an overnight decision.
A lot of people say that it’s inexcusable to remain ignorant of the complexities and intricacies of coming out and being gay. I agree to a certain extent. For example, gay culture is almost inescapable nowadays. Sure we’d like more mainstream visibility, but we’re not exactly invisible either. But as my friend’s initial disbelief and gradual acceptance illustrates, we can’t expect people who’ve had minimal quality contact with homosexuals to truly understand what goes on when someone says for the first time, “I’m gay.”
It’d be like walking onto a field of landmines, then being asked to locate all of them and take them apart. If it’s not in your vocabulary, you shouldn’t be held responsible for more than cursory knowledge. Simply put, coming out is never an easy time for anyone. The best anyone on the receiving end of a coming out speech can do is not to question sincerity or legitimacy when it comes to claims of homosexual tendencies, no matter how incredulous. So suspend disbelief; cheer and celebrate instead. The world could do with a few more gay friends.
by Philip Wong on Aug 30, 2008