Your Coming Out & Other People’s Feelings

closet_rainbow

Photo from lifehacker.com via Adam Dachis

When you really think about it, coming out to someone should be painless and stress free. All you are doing is sitting in front of someone and saying, “This is who I am. This is part of my truth. Here is something important about me.” Why is that so monumental? Why is that such a big deal? Why should we be rejected and persecuted for telling someone who we are?

People respond negatively to our news for a wide spectrum of reasons including, but not limited to, religious beliefs, learned hate, bigotry, lack of knowledge on the subject, fear and just plain confusion. The terror of these negative responses is one of the reasons closeted individuals are so filled with anxiety and trepidation about coming out. The possibility of these negative responses keeps many of us in the closet for years upon years. Fear of rejection is a very real and tangible thing.

I would argue that one of the main reasons coming out is so difficult, has to do with our forced focus on the person we are coming out to. The focus becomes, ‘how is he/she going to react? How does this make them feel?’ The person receiving the news becomes the vulnerable one. I ask you, are they the vulnerable one? Are they the one who is scared to death?

Call me crazy, but it seems like the focus should be on the terrified LGBT individual experiencing all of this internal fear and turmoil. But the world can be an irrational place. On top of their own feelings, a person who is coming out, is forced to consider the feelings of the other person who they are coming out to.

I remember reading articles that reminded me to be patient with the person I was telling. Consider how this news is making them feel. One article said that the gay person has been sitting with and dealing with the news that they are gay for some time now, but it will be a sudden shock to the person they are telling, so remember to be sympathetic towards them and prepare to comfort them if needed. Comfort them?!?!

comfort

Photo from elephantjournal.com via Wendy Strgar

Please do not misinterpret me as heartless. I agree that when it comes to telling our loved ones we are gay, we should be kind and loving towards them as we share this news. But when did it become all about the other person? Who is considering the feelings of the person sharing their gigantic news? Who is going to comfort them? Well, hopefully the person who they are telling will comfort them.

The whole situation is set up to feel like the teller is in the wrong and is hoping for forgiveness from the person being told. This current reality is flawed and unfair.

Perhaps, the stress of coming out is magnified by the fact that it is still viewed as such an oddity and a huge ordeal by many sections of society. Is being gay really that big of a deal? Does who I sleep with really affect the lives of the straight couple living next door to me? Does who they sleep with affect my life? No, it doesn’t!

Still, I argue that some of the added stress with coming out is putting so much emphasis on the other person. Perhaps we need a societal shift for the focus to be on the sharer and not the shareé. It is entirely possible that as our society becomes more educated, and being gay becomes less taboo and alien, coming out will become more focused on and supportive of the gay person.

I am very curious as to other people’s thoughts about this. Am I being too one sided? Do I sound too harsh?

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19 thoughts on “Your Coming Out & Other People’s Feelings

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, my friend! I didn’t want this post to sound too negative, but it was an issue that has been on my mind. It’s great to be back at blogging again! I truly appreciate your support!

      • It’s just so refreshing and affirming to hear someone else say these things for a change – I don’t think it was negative at all.

        So much emphasis is placed on US making things work when we are the ones who have suffered, lived in shame and fear.

        I think that as we become more accepting of ourselves and our sexuality we also become more unapologetic for wanting what some others have – freedom and equality. the fact that we have to protect others from their own ignorance is one of the absurdities of our shared experience!

        Anyhow you are very welcome and keep up the good work mate, it is always inspiring and much appreciated!

  1. I totally agree with what you’ve said! Coming out to someone can sometimes feel like you’re apologising to them rather that simply expressing who you are, and apologising for being gay is something that nobody should ever feel as though they have to do. I’ve never seen a straight person seek forgiveness for being straight!

    Being gay shouldn’t be a big deal, and I think that if somebody does have a problem with one of their friends or relatives for being gay, really, they are the one who is in the wrong, not the gay person.

    Love your blog by the way!

    • Absolutely! Obviously, as a gay man, I am faced with coming out over and over. As I get to know new friends, as I speak with co-workers, for instance. I hate that I sometimes feel like I am almost apologizing for it. You are right, no one should have to apologize for being gay. Society should apologize to us for making us feel this way! I thank you for your kind comment and response. Your blog is also fantastic!

  2. Thanks for this. I’m working on coming out letters to my folks as I speak, and it is hardening my resolve to actually express the anger I feel at them for socializing me as a female. Still not sure if I’m going to include a do/don’t list… it feels like I’m lowering myself.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I wish you luck with your coming out letters. I hope you will blog about responses to them, if you are comfortable. I must thank you for your blog. I consider myself to be fairly learned yet when I first visited your blog I was stumped. I thought, “What do we mean by non-binary genders?” You forced me to do some research and thinking on the topic, so I thank you for exposing me to terms I was blind to. There are so many branches and types to sexuality, gender and what makes us all people. This diversity makes us beautiful. Even I have much to learn.

      • Oh! I’m glad you like it, and that you took it upon yourself to do some research. There’s a lot of great resources out there, too. One of my favorite blogs about non-binary things is rainbowgenderpunk. I also like Neutrois Nonsense and janitorqueer. Now that I’m entering the blog world, there’s so many other awesome ones too! Valprehension is one of my favorite new finds. There’s also genderqueeries and nonbinaryid for a lot of basic information. 🙂 Happy reading!

  3. I think it’s a tough one. My brother-in-law is gay and he hasn’t told his grandmother because it just doesn’t seem worth the drama to him. And I can respect that. Another part of me thinks fuck everyone else’s stupid feelings but unfortunately that’s not the reality we live in and to keep relationships with some people I think a level of “sensitivity” helps. Fortunately I can tell you that the response of the rest of David’s family to his coming out was completely relaxed and accepting. There is a shift happening though and I believe that for our children it will be a non-issue. Although I say that living in the UK where we are more inclined to revere our queer celebrities than berate them which makes a huge difference.

    • As always, Abbi, thank you for your thoughtful comment! This whole ‘coming out thing’ has so many different methods and ways of going about it. I feel we all decide, in our own life, who to come out to and who not to come out to. If any of my grandparents were still alive today, I’m sure that would have thrown another huge wrench into my coming out process. I’ve never thought about that until this moment actually. I miss my grandparents, but what a relief that they were not a factor. Things are shifting in the United States. You are right, our children will look back at today and wonder what the fuss was all about. I’m glad your friend David was met with so much acceptance. 🙂

    • Thank you! I’m thrilled that this post has spoke to people and that people relate with its message. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading it. Also, your blog is beautiful and honest. I wish you luck in your journey. I think you will find writing about yourself as therapeutic as I do.

  4. EXACTLY!! My ex and her parents didn’t speak for almost a year when they found out about me. One day I blogged about how it pissed me off that a group of “Christians” could think that coldly abandoning their child was acceptable. I got an email from her sister saying what you talk about. “She’s dealt with this her whole adult life. Think about how we feel?”
    My comment? “If the world were more accepting and tolerant, she wouldn’t have had to ‘deal’ her whole life!”
    Great post!!

    • Ahhh, the never-ending riddle of Christians and how they react to homosexuals. It really does feel like an insolvable riddle, doesn’t it? If God encourages loving your neighbor, then why do so many Christians seem to be expressing hate? It’s so confusing. Do they realize that it should be simple? It sure stumps the hell out of me.

      I wonder, as you did, for your ex’s sister and parents, what exactly did they have to ‘deal’ with? I think her being gay forced them to ‘deal’ with their own fears and insecurities. It forced them to deal with other people’s judgements, opinions and comments of them for having a gay sister and daughter. It forced them to look at something they perhaps knew nothing about, and be faced with the issue of learning about it. I think it really boiled down to them, and not your ex. And, for me, that’s what Christians are not saying about ‘us’ being gay. That it shines a light on how unloving, unaccepting, and afraid of change they are. Three things that God is not. I think ‘us’ being gay forces them to realize how unlike God they really are. And that scares them.

      Just my opinion. I’d be curious of your thoughts. Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to read my blog.

      • I couldn’t agree more! There can’t be anything scarier than to walk through life portraying yourself in one light, only to have a mirror put in front of you, and realizing you don’t like the person in it
        If you “preach” love and acceptance, being forced to admit that love and acceptance is conditional would be scary.

  5. It is exactly for the reasons you wrote about that I’ve stopped coming out to people and just live my like as a gay man. If they accept me they’ll go on being part of my life, if they don’t well, the train leaves the station on regular intervals, have a nice trip.

    • Ray, I love your wit and truth. You are right, for some people there comes a time for coming out and for others, that is never necessary. But for all of us, there comes a time to just get on with it and start living. The prospect of each new day really is exciting, if you take the time to appreciate it. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to write to me!

  6. Adam, I don’t think you’re being too harsh or one-sided at all (the fact that you ask is still a little ironic, considering the subject of this post). I feel like coming out and being wary of other people’s emotions is a balance we all have to reach within ourselves: of course we need to keep our own feelings at the center, but in some ways we should strive to be the “bigger” person and be compassionate toward other people’s reactions. Obviously if someone reacts negatively or unkindly we don’t need to accept that or put up with it, but if someone is confused or has questions, we should still attempt to guide them toward the light. Studies show that people who know just one gay person are way more supportive of gay marriage and gay rights in general, so the more people on our side, the better.

    • Thomas, I loved that you pointed out the irony in my need to ask if I was being too harsh about my thoughts on our focusing too much on ‘the other person’. Excellent point. I also agree with your thoughts on answering questions and thus educating people. The more these ‘other people’ learn about us and our LGBT brothers & sisters, the better off we will all be. Isn’t it amazing that people who are so against gay marriage and gay rights tend to not know a single gay person. So, in other words, they are against something that they know nothing about. How stupid does that sound? Thank you so much for your intelligent comment. I’m thrilled that you have been stopping by.

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