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?!?!
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?