Thursday, March 13, 2008

Coming Out

Meeting up with the boys last night really got me thinking today. Both Tom and Monty have come out as adults, in the past couple of years more or less. It has had me thinking about my own journey towards coming out, and about what it would have been like to have come out when I was older rather than when I did.

It sort of freaks me out to think that I come out 28 years ago. That's a whole mature adult person's life ago. (Oy, cue midlife crisis!) I was 15, it was 1979, and I still remember sitting on the floor at a friend's house telling him. Making him aware that there was a larger part of me that he didn't know. 15 years of age! I'm surprised I did it to be honest. It speaks volumes on how supported I felt by my really great friendships.

I still remember the fear of rejection, the thinking that I knew he would take it well but that given that it's such a polarising issue, that there was still that fear that he wouldn't react as well as I hoped. As it turns out he reacted better than I thought, giving me a hug and a (non-sexual) kiss that told me it made no difference at all. In fact it bought us closer together. All my school friends took it well in fact. The distance that time has given it makes me sort of look back at us all and marvel at how mature we were. Oh, we certainly weren't perfect and I remember some friends asking some really dumb questions and some of the other kids at school giving me shit about it, calling me a fairy etc.

But that also triggers memories of finding out that one of the guys on the fringes of our group of friends, a big handsome, quiet young guy called Tim, apparently threatened to hit some kids that were talking crap about me behind my back. A similar situation happened a few years later at a party, when the boyfriends of two of my female friends, two guys I didn't even know that well, stood up for me after some other guys started talking smack about me when I left the room. Sometimes people surprise you in a good way.

I'm so grateful to have gotten much of that process out of the way when I was young. It wasn't all plain sailing by any means, and the maturity of doing it later might have helped ease some of those bumps. Maybe have helped to have not felt every little slight or setback so intensely. However, the flipside of that is that you sort of feel bulletproof when you're young.

The reality is though that you don't really get to come out just once. Ok, that's done, now let's all just move on shall we? It's a process that continues as long as people assume you are straight. I'm very at ease with being gay, and I think I give off lots of signals that I am. A method that cuts through some of the assumptions straight off the bat, and hopefully avoids the need for That Conversation. Still, it's a conversation that sometimes needs to be had.

I think I've gotten better at it. I would certainly hope so, I've had 28 years of practice!

8 comments:

Kris said...

Great, great, story Andrew. I like hearing things that make me think that human beings are nicer than I usually expect them to be.

It also reminded me of when one of my best friends in college came out to me. (Randomly, his name was also Andrew.) It was something that I'd already half-guessed and it obviously wasn't a big deal to me, but I could tell that he was worried about my reaction. I can only hope that the talk and hug we shared is remembered as fondly by him. For me, I remember thinking that it was a real milestone in our relationship, and that I was really honored that he'd chosen to share that with me.

jason said...

15? Wow
I'm in awe.

But you could not be more right.

"Coming Out" happens more than once...it's all the time....and not just about being gay either.

Quatrefoil said...

I've been the recipient of a few comings out over the years - I'm always really honoured, but generally not surprised - I tend not to really speculate about people's sexual orientation unless it's of direct relevance to my own. I suspect that I haven't always realised what it costs people to make it public - your post has made me re-think that - thanks.

OTOH, my mother still doesn't know I'm straight.

Michael said...

I tend not to really speculate about people's sexual orientation unless it's of direct relevance to my own.

Amen!

As one of the "late to the party" guys, I, too, am amazed you did it at 15. Not to age us or anything, but it was a much different time then. I suppose teens today can be thankful for everyone like you who came before them.

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks Kris! I think the first person you tell really stays with you always. Well, pretty much anytime you tell anyone does really! :)

Thanks Jason.

'Trefoil, I think part of it is that it's a big part of yourself to hide. Sometimes people don't take it well in part because they're miffed that you've hidden that part of yourself from them. It takes a lot of lies, omissions and half truths to stay in the closet.

Michael, 1979 was a different time. Pre-AIDS, towards the end of the first big wave of Gay Lib. In many ways it was a more liberal time. Young people certainly seemed to be more open minded.

Tom said...

15... crikey!

Are you still in touch with the friend you told first?

The Other Andrew said...

Yes, we've been friends for 30 years now, and he's my landlord. :) He now lives in Korea with his second wife and young son, and I rent his old home. We're still close.

John C said...

You were very lucky, in my experience; in this part of the world the late 70s were absolutely not a more liberal time, not in my part of the world anyway (I was 15 in 77). Up here being gay was the worst thing you could possibly be and a one way ticket to being terrorised by the entire school, teachers included.

That experience is fascinating psychologically (when you can finally be objective about it) since it shows how you can even be closeted to yourself. I had a crush on a best friend for several years that I didn't admit until I left school. Things are still shitty for kids but there's more support networks now, more gay visibility (god bless JK Rowling) and so on.