Monday, October 10, 2011

Coming Out Month: Coming Out Online

In this age of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, many of us might think coming out to family and friends online is the way to go.  After all, there are some advantages:

* you don't have to look anyone in the eye and do the deed;
* you don't have to deal with unfavorable reactions (not right away);
* everyone (including the entire world) finds out at the same time.

But Steven Petrow, writer of Steven Petrow's Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners For Every Occasion and webmaster of gaymanners.com, and I agree on this point:  Coming out online, particularly if many of your family and friends have no idea you're gay, is bad form and shows a lack of respect for people who are supposedly important to you.

According to some comments on Advocate.com, coming out is all about us and not about those we tell.  They maintain it's already difficult enough admitting to someone you're gay without making it more formal, stuffy, and painful.  Let's just get it out there, they think, favoring a more casual disclosure, a sort of dine and dash approach.

I couldn't disagree more.  Putting the shoe on the opposite foot, if I had a son or daughter, whom I loved very much, I would be insulted and offended big time to learn online that he or she is gay. And I'd ask myself, where do I fit into his or her life, in terms of priorities, if I didn't even rate being told something so personal to my face?    

As much as I'd like coming out to be all about us--because getting to the point of coming out is a long and difficult process on its own--we have to respect that many of those we love may have no idea we're gay and not react favorably to our news, at least not at the outset.  This is one instance where I believe it's in the best interests of all concerned to let the other person's feelings dictate the right course of action.    

So, as Petrow advises, "Instead [of coming out online,] this year's National Coming Out Day could be an opportunity to start the conversation with family and friends.  Email or text them and say, "There's something important I'd like to talk with you about."  Don't make it sound too ominous--you don't want them to think you're ill--but be serious enough that they accept the invitation.  Remember, every time we come out we change the stereotypes straight folks have about LGBT people."

Great advice!

(To read the full article at Advocate.com, please click here.)

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