Something unique to non-heterosexuals is this idea that we must “come out” and share our sexual orientation in order to eliminate societies default assumption that people are straight. In my personal experience, coming out has proved both useful and necessary in a variety of situations. My immediate family did not suspect that I was gay. Many friends were unsure. People can’t always tell at first glance. Coming out to people clears up the confusion and questions.
I suspect reasons for delaying coming out vary from person to person. The fact of the matter is that coming out is scary and LGBT people weigh many factors each time the decision is made.
- How will coming out affect my relationship with this person?
- Will this change the dynamic of our friendship?
- Will this person still accept me?
- How will they react? Do they already know?
The question of whether or not a person already knows can be particularly unnerving. If you suspect the person has absolutely no idea, then the decision to come out to them becomes even more sensitive. You have no idea what will happen after you tell them. Will coming out make them look at you differently? Sometimes you want to casually remind them that you’re still the same person in hopes of minimizing that impact.
If family and friends express that they have had suspicions, I’ve found this can feel strangely comforting. It is like the person already knew but wanted confirmation. It seems to lighten the blow of the information and reduces tension from the conversation. I’ve found these discussions to be the easiest.
What I haven’t had to deal with until recently is something slightly different. Coming out to people who I know already know that I’m gay.
In case that sounds a little confusing, allow me to explain.
Take my family, for example. When I came out to my parents awhile back, I know my dad turned around and told several of my family members what I had told him. While my extended family knowing is not a problem as far as I’m concerned, the fact that they didn’t hear it from me is. To this day, I still haven’t had this conversation with most of them and as I think about the future, I continue to weigh this frustrating family dynamic in the back of my mind.
If I come out to them and they act surprised, I’ll know they’re pretending. If they ask why I waited so long to tell them, I’m not sure I’ll have an answer. Even if they showed some form of disapproval, I’d probably be more upset by the fact that I know they have felt this way for as long as they have without being able to talk to them about it. As someone who pays a lot of attention to the way people react, this makes me feel very uneasy.
Regarding friends and acquaintances, it can be challenging to remember who you’ve come out to. Many times people will already know and you may not even be aware of it. This uncertainty has forced me to adopt an “everyone already knows” mentality where in many instances, I decide to skip the step of ‘coming out’ altogether and immediately bring up guys I have dated or had relationships with.
They say coming out is a continuous process that never ends.
I agree but only to an extent.
I think the “everyone-already-knows” mentality becomes more acceptable and easier to adopt with time. There will always be situations where it simply won’t work though. Particularly when you meet new people, it can be tricky to bring up. When you consider relationships, it is inevitable that more people will either find out or figure it out on their own- especially in the age of social media where anyone can see that picture of the date you went on last weekend. So to what extent do we need to come out to the people we know already know? It seems there are times when it can be casually brushed over in conversation and other times when the conversation must still happen. It’s a messy and complicated issue.
Why does life have to be so complicated that you actually have to tell people what you are?! This is so crazy that you have to even think–or stress about this. Whatever happened to, “Hi, I’m Rocky.” The end. I had no idea there were so many factors involved and I really can’t stand it. Today’s sports headline–a skier came out as gay. Seriously? Keep skiing, buddy. Makes no difference to me. Love ya, Rocky!
YES haha. I was actually going to slip a line into this post saying something along the lines of, “why we even have to do this at all is a whole entire post on its own” but I decided to leave it out to sustain the flow of my point. But yes. You are absolutely right! Thank you for your support!!! :3
This was a good read. I am also working on coming out. I’m mostly already out but there are still a few family members that I have to tell. I just don’t quite know how.
I was extremely worried when I came out to my guy friends. I kept wanting to tell them I wasn’t any different than I was before I told them. I was just being honest with them.
Yeah, telling male friends does tend to be scarier than telling female friends. It’s strange how that works- but makes sense since men are supposed to be “more similar” to you so it’s more difficult to deviate from that. Good luck with coming out to the rest of the people!
I do know how you feel. Trust me, my mother is a real piece of work. But, once you are out there your perspective does change from “what will people think?” to “who gives a sh*t!”
I like your blog btw.
Haha thank you, JP! I can definitely see that shift in perspective happening with time.
Great piece, thank you.
I came out about 24 years ago at the age of 34, even in those dark ages (joke) it was something that took time to consider but other circumstances over took those thoughts and in the end it was all over in a flash when I was confronted about it and just said YES. But even now I have to deal with the subject with new friends or acquaintances as they come into my circle of life but I deal with it so much differently these days. If the truth be known I don’t really deal with it specifically or with any great fanfare, I just live my life.
I write as you will probably seen and I am a member of a couple of creative writing groups, the difference with my sexuality now is that I don’t feel the need to explain myself in anyway at all. I share my writing with others and the many gay specific pieces are just what they are, most people either nod and hum or just don’t catch on at all.
You seem to be doing very well and more power to you.
I should have made this a complete blog shouldn’t I! D.
Thanks for sharing your story with me, David! Coming out is difficult so props to you for achieving it when you did. Living your life seems to be the best way to live it. Haha thanks again!
Any time, please feel free to ask anything or share, I find it facinating how people cope with things like this D.
I can relate a little bit differently. I wonder if my family figured out on their own that I’m gay, and are waiting for me to come out. My mom has indicated to me that she does not want to assume my sexuality.
It sounds to me like she may have suspicions but wants to hear it from you first. Maybe you should consider telling her!
Do it for you, do it when you are ready but in the comforting knowledge that perhaps there will be at least one person not giving you sideways looks. Be brave and embrace your life.
Exactly. Concise and true on so many levels.
If you do decide to “come out” to people that already know, here’s how to defuse the dramatic irony. Start out by acknowledging the fact that they probably already know. “I think you already know this, but…” Something like that. Then they won’t feel the need to pretend and make it awkward.
Simple and effective- I love it! I think your solution is an excellent way of dealing with this issue. In fact, I think I will start the conversation that way when the time comes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Neal! 🙂
You’re welcome. Let us know how it goes.
It makes sense that telling men would be scarier than women for you and for gay men in general. A lot of homophobia seems to play out in terms of men being scared of gay men making advances on them, whereas with women, telling tham that they’re gay might reassure them that you’re not going to be interested in them, a fear that a lot of women seem to have about men who are friendly with them.
I kind of deal with the “opposite” reaction from women. A lot of women (usually straight women, for some reason bisexual and lesbian women seem less likely to make this assumption) seem to read me as “gay” because I look male but often present more femininely than most men, dressing more femininely and/or exhibiting more feminine body language even when I’m dressed more masculinely.
In my case, I’m nonbinary, and don’t identify as fully male. But…our society often reads femininity in people perceived as men, as being a signal of being “gay”. So some women have reacted with surprise when they find out I’m actually attracted to women.
In my case, I actually have a lot of fear about expressing my attraction to women.
You mention how there’s this expectation for men to be “more similar” to other men, but…in spite of being assigned-male-at-birth, I found I tended to relate to or empathize most with lesbians on this point…they are attracted to women, like me, but they seem to experience and express attraction more similarly to how I do, and have similar fears or insecurities about opening up to women about their attraction or expressing that they are interested in women. For me, this was one of the clues about my gender identity.
I don’t know if this makes sense? I enjoyed reading this post and your comments though and it brought up these thoughts and I wanted to share them!
No, I love this! Love the dialogue. It is so wonderful to share experiences and thoughts. My blog is a snapshot of my life. My experience as an individual. In this case, I found it so amazing to read about your take on it as a non-binary individual. Truly, thank you. Your thoughts challenged my own interpretation and served as a reminder that even people in similar situations can have very different experiences or feelings for one reason or another. I like to feel like my visions are being challenged for sound judgement and your comment did just that. This was, in many ways, eye opening. So don’t apologize- I wish to thank you!
The best thing about coming out is to be free of telling lies, worrying about pronouns, keeping track of what was said before. All that is such a waste of energy, particularly when many people have probably already figured it out for themselves.
Right? Not worth the mental space we allow it to occupy. I’m quick to put things out in the open now. I find it makes things easier on everyone. No guessing, no assumptions, just the truth.