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.
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…