For the last post focusing on coming out, I’m talking about coming out gay. Let’s explore how gay visibility has changed the journey for anyone coming out now. The world is a very different place than it was when I came out in the seventies.
The Impact of Visibility
At least in the West things have changed a lot for queer people in the few decades. Very few straight people don’t know someone in our community. A great many of us are out to our families. That’s dramatically changed the landscape of coming out.
When I came out I didn’t know any gay people. The only time I saw one of us was during protests or on the news. Most depictions were negative. It was easy to feel like I was the only one. Most people dismissed us as nonexistent.
It would be almost impossible not to be aware of gay people now. Our struggle for equal rights, and things like Pride events, are in the public eye. Even with this new acceptance, there are those who are only fine with someone being queer if it’s not their own child. It’s also more likely that people might think you’re gay. Visibility is a two-edged sword.
Being the Only One
One of the hardest things about coming out is the feeling that you’re the only one. How can that be true nowadays? Because, while you may even know other gay people you can still feel alone.
That loneliness is legitimate. You might be the only gay guy at your church, office, or in your family. It is vitally important for you to acknowledge your feelings. They are true for you and so are the concerns they bring up. But, even if you’re the only queer man in a particular context, at least everyone is aware of us. Do your best to let go of your fear. Accept it, but don’t let it prevent you from moving forward.
They Probably Already Know
It’s likely that the people closest to you expect you might be gay. Unless you’re very young, people have likely wondered why you’ve never had a girlfriend or shown any interest in women. Seeing you with that “close friend” may have clued them in. Don’t panic. It can be good that your coming out isn’t a shock.
If you’re a supportive friend, or family member, reading this, resist the temptation to ask your loved one if they’re gay. It may be intended as a show of love and support, but it seldom feels that way. No one wants to share their sexuality before they’re ready to. Wait for them to come to you. Then your supportive reaction will really help them.
It can be very disconcerting to find out you haven’t been hiding that well. But, the people who don’t want to know won’t have a clue until you come out to them. People in your life may even be queer allies waiting for you to share with them. That’s who to start with so that you have support when others are more difficult.
The coming out journey is always deeply personal and should only be undertaken when you’re ready. But, the fact that some people in your close circle likely already know and still accept you should be a comfort that will help you push that closet door open sooner.