I came out a little over 12 years ago. Yes, there is a direct correlation to my coming out and when I started seeing Will. Before that it wasn’t something I was even discussing with myself, although deep down I know I was gay.
Will and I had what we consider our first date on May 1, 1995, and it was right then, after he asked me out for what would officially be known as a date, that the process began. We kept things quiet about us for a while (even though he was already out). We were in the middle of doing a play at a community theatre and we didn’t want to disrupt anything (although we’d find out later that we didn’t keep things all that quiet simply because of how we behaved around each other). Over the process of several weeks, I started coming out to close friends. It was pretty easy. Will and I were in the same circle of theatre friends and they were happy to embrace us as a couple.
I remember I told my mom one weekend in middle June. That didn’t go so well. I handled it badly, tossing it in at the end of a phone call. I don’t remember exactly how I phrased it, but it wasn’t the best way for me to introduce the concept. She didn’t take it too well (falling into a lot of the stereotypes of her generation… that I was ultimately going to be lonely and unhappy, that it meant no children, etc.). Today we both attribute a lot of her reaction to how I broke the news. For a few months, it was strained between us. She would often take two steps forward and one step back with acceptance. All of that got behind us about a year later when I took Will with me for a visit. Once she met him, things improved and we’ve been ever since.
Over the course of the summer of 1995, I was coming out a lot. I worked to treat it like it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“What did you do this weekend?” someone would ask.
“Will and I went to the movies and hung out in Arcata”
“The guy I’m seeing.”
And that’s how it would go in progressive, liberal Humboldt County California. Even at work it went well. I remember my boss telling me at one point how impressed people were with how I’d come out with such dignity and no drama.
I mentioned that trip to Alabama to introduce Will to my mom. I took him around to several other friends too, and they were all accepting. One guy who was a neighbor for a couple years after college, immediately pulled out all the embarrassing video tapes ever made of snow ball fights and sledding mishaps we chronicled during a couple of blizzards that had hit while we lived in the same apartment complex
Even after 12 years together and outness, I’m still coming out all the time. It started over again recently as I switched jobs. One of the things I had to ask during the interview process was about partner benefits. Every time I start to get to know someone at the office, there are usually questions about my wife, because I wear a wedding band. So there is the adjustment of the pronouns from her to him. Then there’s the picture of Will on my desk (put there on day 2) that, of course, immediately outs me to anyone who sees it who didn’t already know.
Is all this a bad thing? Not inherently. There is always the chance you end up outing yourself to a homophobe who will cause trouble. Luckily I’ve never run into that having lived in liberal areas the entire time I’ve been out. This is good since I’m not someone who is willing to edit this information. If someone is asking who I’m married too, they get to know the truth. And, if everyone was out, it would be safer for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle since more people need to come out for it to be safer but it’s not safe for everyone to come out. Certainly things are more tolerant now than 12 years ago when I started my own coming out journey, and it will surely continue to improve (though sometimes you have to wonder with the lengths the right wingers go to trying to keep LGBT people as second class citizens).
If you’re gay and reading this, try to come out to someone today. The more the merrier… and the better for us all!