When I first posted this I was a little early for National Coming Out Day. No I am re-posting it on my blog and I am a little late for National Coming Out Day. But really, your process, your pace.
Original Post Date: October 6, 2017
National Coming Out Day is in a few days (October 11), and in celebration of that I wanted to post something. I don’t really feel like I need to wait until the official day – the Coming Out process never actually stops, no matter how “Out” or “obvious” you think you may be. Times change, societies change, perspectives and expectations vary, and quite honestly our own behaviors may vary depending upon the environment. I’ve openly and freely moved through the world holding my partner’s hand and laughing at her quirky ways in some places, and in other places I have consciously made sure at least a foot stayed between us in order to decrease the likelihood that we will get taunted, pushed, or attacked. It is all situational.
The other day I had a conversation that I have had countless times before. It is the “I’m supportive, but I don’t like how people change when they come out – it’s too much and I don’t support that” conversation. I stood there, I listened, I reflected back. This person was walking a path towards understanding, perhaps they were just starting down the path. As I listened to this person speak, I remembered this documentary I watched about a gay man going to voice coaches to see if he could rid himself of his Sibilant S, this thing that had long identified him as a gay man before he even identified himself as gay. The movie was ultimately one about embracing yourself as who you truly are. We can speak in many registers, we can train ourselves to act, speak, move throughout the world in a number of ways. But which way feels most authentic to us? In which way do we feel truly alive? In which way do we feel we are fulfilling our purpose, contributing to the world in best possible way, accessing and enlivening the transcendent function?
I stood there grateful that this gentleman was willing to have this conversation. We are now at a point in time where people are willing to engage in these conversations… and as James Baldwin so wonderfully said “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Some people “act more gay” (for lack of a better term) after they come out because they finally feel free to step into themselves, to more fully express those parts of themselves, and to develop those parts of themselves that they have actively suppressed for years. Sometimes it isn’t that these parts weren’t expressed before, it is just that *you* didn’t see them before, because they weren’t expressed in front of *you* – they were only expressed in front of those people who were absolutely, positively, without a doubt identified as safe. Sometimes the open expression of “acting more gay” is an expression of trust and love and respect – it is someone saying “I love you, and I trust you with my whole self.” And sometimes it is “I love myself, and I’m ready for this step.” And sometimes it isn’t about you at all – just like your selection of clothing or car or relationship partner isn’t about me. So it is really kind of irrelevant whether you “agree” with it or not… what is relevant is if you respect your fellow human enough to say: you are a person and you have the right to self-determination.
I had a wonderful lunch yesterday with some friends during which I mentioned the fabled “gaydar.” It’s kind of a joke, but also kind of real. Here is the thing: I think that people within the community really can, at least a lot of times, sense who else is a member of the community. It isn’t that we are issued some magic device or have some amazing power – other than the obvious ability to pair the perfect t-shirt with the perfect pair of sneakers – it is that we have a shared emotional or psychological experience and that is what we are picking up on. Time and time again I have seen people I don’t know but feel an instant kinship with – a relaxed kind of sameness. We didn’t grow up in the same place, nor did we have similar lives, or even similar coming out experiences, but there is something, and we both feel it. If the LGBTQI community has a super power, it is just that – our community.
It is no wonder to me that people feel more free and embrace themselves more fully after that initial Coming Out — the joy and power of authenticity is so wonderful that it can’t be put into words. I wish for everyone in this world to have some form of “Coming Out” experience in their life. It doesn’t have to be around sexual orientation or gender identity, but whatever type of Coming Out of whatever Closet they are in — I wish that for everyone. When the Coming Out experience is a positive one, the feeling is amazing. Even when it is negative, the support you can find in the aftermath can be incredible — just keep holding on and trust that it truly does get better.
So, especially for my LGBTQI peeps, happy National Coming Out — a little early but always right on time… your pace, your choice. And for everyone else in the world, may you experience the power and the joy of Coming Out!