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You’re Neither In Nor Out
Room for Squares
by Philip Wong on Feb 29, 2008
It’s a widely held belief that coming out is absolutely necessary to self acceptance. But to tell you the truth, that’s a misconception. Life is complicated by so many things (family, work, religion just to name a few) that being “out” no longer means only one thing. There are many levels to being out and likewise, many facets to being gay. For example you can be out to your friends but remain “in” for the sake of work or family.
While it’s true that self acceptance is essential to living a homosexual life, nowhere is it written that that self acceptance is predicated solely by widespread, public approval. That just sounds like an excuse to me: “I can’t have a boyfriend because they might fire me at work?” C’mon, get real. Nobody at work needs to know you’re gay unless you’re sleeping with them, and even then it’d be debatable. Seriously though, you can accept your homosexuality and still be willing to accept that not everyone has to know about it, both for their sakes and yours.
The reason is that you can come out to as many people as you like and you still wouldn’t ensure that they’ll invite you over for the holidays. The only thing you’d potentially gain is one more enemy, one more person you have to openly dislike and who’ll openly dislike you. Wouldn’t it just be smarter to come out to those people you choose to come out to? You know, the ones you really want to have as friends, and the ones whose support you definitely want to engender?
Now I realize that not everyone is going to have this choice. There are those of us who can pass as straight, even in gay bars. And then there are those of us whose sexuality you couldn’t conceal even with an invisible cloak and a lunar eclipse. For these people, coming out is less voluntary than it is perfunctory; they can’t do anything that their limp wrists and lisps haven’t already done anyway. But whatever sort of queer creed you exhibit, you do still have to jump that initial coming-out hurdle by first admitting it to yourself. The rest really is just gravy.
Realize though once that gravy starts running, there’s no telling when it’ll stop. Coming out isn’t a hump you can get over in one leap; it’s merely step one. After you separate the need-to-knows from the have-to-knows, you essentially begin a lifelong marathon. You will, after all, eventually have to come out to every single person you meet, and unless you plan on being a hermit, you’d better get your running shoes on.
You might start with a family member or a trusted friend, but along the way, you’ll essentially have to do it again with everyone else in your life and every time you meet someone new. Risking your job for the sake of being out is okay because there are tons of jobs out there. But risking your family is different because you’ll only ever have one. Why throw yourself into an unnecessary code red situation when flying blind has proven to be pretty smooth so far?
If you can see your parents being PFLAG chairmen or your boss throwing you a coming out party, then go for it. But if not, I don’t see the point in jeopardizing the status quo. Even though you may like to define yourself by your sexuality, not all of your relationships need necessarily be defined by it. Besides, when you’re lying in bed with your lover, nobody else really needs to know about it…not unless they’re there with you.
by Philip Wong on Feb 29, 2008