Coming out: a montage of experiences

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Mr Summit
Chapter Leader
Joined in 2010
October 11, 2010, 00:00

Tomorrow is International Coming Out Day . I’m not ready to come out publicly yet, so I wont be taking advantage of the date but I have come out to a few people over the years and the arrival of this day makes me think of those times when I have come out.

Those conversations when I have told friends that I am gay have been the most emotionally charged times in my life. A while ago I was thinking over all the different reactions and feelings as if they were a montage in my head. I did an ugly brain dump to help me process my thoughts.

As I said, I wont be coming out tomorrow, but I figured I would share that brain dump as my small contribution instead. I would be interested in your own contributions to the montage. What have been the patterns in people’s reactions and your feelings when you have come out? In particular, what questions have people asked?


My hands are shaking

They always shake. This is the only thing that does it.

It’s the weight of lies built up over more than a decade. It’s the stress of not knowing if a friend will still be a friend afterwards, or if they’ll quietly distance themselves.

And I have a headache. And sweat. My heart is beating faster than normal. I’m going to throw up.

I maintain my part in the current conversation. No one really notices what’s happening to me. It’s the only time I like being invisible.

I keep my hands where people can’t see them.

Or maybe I am just exaggerating my condition in my mind.

Nothing comes close to this.

Remember to breathe.

There is a break in the conversation. No one fills it in. Now is the chance to speak up.

Deep breath. That’s a DEEP breath.

Time to stop thinking about other options. It’s just time to do it.

Interrupt the silence.

Use the breath.

Share your secret in the quickest way you can.

Break eye contact. Look at your shoes. Feel vulnerable.

My hands aren’t shaking anymore.

They respond. It is not what they had expected.

Everyone always responds differently. No one has ever responded perfectly.

They don’t scream. They don’t yell. They accept. Or tolerate. I’m not sure I can always tell.

What follows is an hour long Q & A session. And with each question my headache gets better, and my stomach settles down.

The questions reveal more about who I am talking to than they do about me.

Actually, that’s ridiculous. They learn more about me in an hour than they have in the last few years.

But they do reveal the prejudices of the person I talk to.

They reveal the silent fears and the strange ideas and their perceptions.

They are always different.

“How do you know?”

“How do you want to be treated?”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Do you think God made you that way?”

“Do your parents know?”

“Did anything happen to you to make you this way?”

I actually enjoy it.

First anxiety, then the biggest emotional high anyone can ever experience.

Years off my chest.

It’s the best time ever.

I’m happy.

Then the time comes to go our separate ways. Over the next few days, I come down off the high.

I being to wonder what they are beginning to wonder now that they have had room to think properly.

I stalk them on Facebook.

They stalk me on Facebook.

After a few days I feel very lonely compared with the openness of this discussion.

Is this what drugs feel like?

Emotional Hangover. That’s what it is. A hangover.

What a roller-coaster. I don’t know how much I can do this.

I see them again a week later.

They act the same. They don’t bring it up.

Why do they never bring it up?

It’s like an elephant in the room.

Just make a joke or something. Tease me. Mention it in passing.


But it doesn’t come up.

It’s like the conversation never happened. This much is predictable. Everyone acts this way.


So after a few weeks, I bring it up.

It’s like coming out all over again.

Sometimes they have literally forgotten.

How can they forget!?

Awkward. But my hands don’t shake.

We talk a little. Not as much. But they still will never mention it the next few times I see them.

So I train them, slowly. And eventually they get that it is OK to talk about it.

And when they bring it up sometime, that’s great.

I think about it every day of my life. Every hour of every day. I need to talk, but I don’t always have what it takes to talk.

So make me talk.

Then, sooner or later, my hands will start shaking again…

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
October 11, 2010, 08:56

Hi Mr Summit

Wow! There’s an awful lot going on for you there, Mr Summit.

You make me think of the conversations that have gone on for me at work before I came out to those colleagues closest to me.

It’s the social functions that are difficult, usually at the end of the year. I can’t avoid them all. That would be rude and I think it’s good to make an effort for the work Christmas one at least. But I feel a little uneasy knowing the subject will turn to partners and families.

So I go to the party and my colleague again asks what my husband does. There are others waiting expectantly for an answer. I’m not good in a group at the best of times, and especially with the idea of coming out. Better one to one. I prefer to be honest but hate being cornered like this. And I don’t want to come out to a group – too many reactions to deal with and some of these people I don’t trust. So I fumble to answer about the occupation without mentioning the male pronoun. And then more questions about ‘him’. I’m perspiring slightly. I’m making it worse by not disclosing. I don’t know want this person to feel stupid later when I own up. But I don’t feel right outing myself at this time.

Later that evening, I come out to another friend and colleague as she drives us home. I build up to the subject by saying a preamble about how difficult it is to reveal personal info in a group, and to those I hardly know. I then say that I wasn’t honest previously with the other colleague because I felt put on the spot. I’ve got her complete attention now. I’ve sounded her out and there’s a good chance she will be OK. I take a breath and tell her I’m in a relationship with a woman. She quickly says that’s fine and that this makes no difference to her whatsoever. We talk easily about gay culture. I breathe a huge sigh of relief. She affirms how difficult it would have been earlier and how people need to not make assumptions like they do about others.

I later see that earlier colleague (from the group) one to one. She asks again about my husband. This time I take the plunge and answer using the female pronoun. She looks confused. I repeat myself. It’s an awkward moment. By now I don’t care how she reacts – I just want things clear so we can avoid another group discussion. I repeat myself using the female pronoun and throw in my partner’s name. The other person still looks confused. This is not my intention although I think it’s a good lesson for her about making heteronormative assumptions. I tell her plainly that ‘my husband’ is a woman; that I’m with a female partner, not a man. She looks slightly dazed and tries to recover herself. I say that I might have confused her by not coming out with that information when she asked earlier in the group but I didn’t feel comnfortable outing myself then. I say I thought it was important she knew the truth now. And I needed to be open with her although it was difficult for me with others I didn’t know at work. She said something accepting and that was the end of it. Phew – another sigh of relief.

The next one was a Christian colleague although I didn’t know she was such a big church goer until I disclosed my sexuality while at a conference. I said I was with a woman and she disclosed her Christian beliefs. My heart sank. I thought: ‘Oh God!’ I mentioned my previous church experiences and ex communication. She responded compassionately. She said she wasn’t sure about the subject of homosexuality and felt it definitely wasn’t her place to judge. She accepted that there were a lot of different ways to interpret the bible. She’d been taught that homosexuality was wrong but that a lot of other things were too. She again emphasised that it wasn’t her place to judge and that there were other more pressing things to attend to in the world. She asked if I was OK with her response. I actually was and said I didn’t mind her answer because it felt genuine. I said I’d had enough of the ‘love the sinner’ approach of other Christians, which was really about ignorance and hate. I said I didn’t mind a difference of opinion that was still open to learning. I said that this was how I liked to approach life also. We continued to enjoy the conference and share with each other. It felt good. I felt closer to her.

I’ll be interested to hear others’ responses.


Ann Maree

Ann Maree
Joined in 2008
October 17, 2010, 08:45

Hi again

This thread ties in with avb’s one called ‘Coming Out or Not?’

I think it’s interesting to tune into bothparts of the experience. There’s the immediacy of the above experiences and then there’s the outcome which hopefully is about relief, acceptance and greater freedom to be ourselves.


Ann Maree

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